Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Drought imminent

In a couple of hours I'll be going on a much-needed holiday for a few days with my little family, and I cannot tell you how excited my overworked little brain is. As a result, new letters will be sporadic at best over the next week; possibly even non-existent should my withdrawal symptoms be manageable. I briefly considered asking someone to update this website in my absence, but then quickly remembered that I'm looking to go on a relaxing break, not a nervous jaunt filled with bouts of cold-sweat-infused panic as I imagine a stranger mistakenly deleting everything I've worked on for the past two years. I'd come back ruined rather than rested.

Behave while I'm away. I shall return with gusto.

Take care,


I pity you

A highly unflattering Rolling Stone article about Queen's South American tour in 1981 — excerpt here — prompted the following scathing letter; originally written in a fit of rage by the band's drummer, Roger Taylor, on an airline sickness bag. Unfortunately I'm unable to locate a picture of said sick-bag, so this image of the letter as reprinted in Rolling Stone the next month will have to do.


Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Queen Collector. Many thanks to Elle Schneider for the tip.

Queen on 'Rolling Stone'

Stunned, shocked, amazed and asleep upon perusal of your "in-depth" story of Queen in South America ("Queen Holds Court in South America," RS 345). I am a member of said group and extremely fucking proud of its music (not all) and its achievements. I don't even write to my mother, since the written word seems worth less in this day of the telephone and publications such as yours and the National Enquirer.

Your peculiar 1970-time-warp attitude, coupled with an innate, congenital miscomprehension of rock & roll, continues to fascinate and annoy. Thank you, oh thank you, for the pseudopolitical slant and personal dishonesty that you continue to peddle in your outdated, opinionated, down-home rag.

Thanks also for the finely tuned musical assessment of my group from our sound check! Grow up. You invented the bitterness. I pity you. You suck. You are boring and you try to infect us.

Awaiting your charming review of my current album in about eight months!

London, England

This letter was written on an airline motion-sickness bag.—Ed.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The princess has arrested me

In July of 1951, in the historic Russian town of Novgorod, an unusual document — written on a piece of birch bark in a previously unseen form of Old East Slavic language, to be later named Old Novgorodian — was discovered by an excavation team led by archaeologist Artemiy Artsikhovsky. Over a thousand similar "birch bark documents" have since been unearthed.

Below is just one fascinating example. Excavated in 1954 and named N.109, this letter was written in the early 12th century by someone named "Zhiznomir," and addressed to "Mikula." In it, the former reprimands the latter due to his recent purchasing of a female slave; an act for which the writer had subsequently been arrested.

Transcript and translation follow. Image courtesy of; translation from Wikipedia.

грамота отъ жизномира къ микоуле коупилъ еси робоу плъскове а ныне мя въ томъ яла кънягыни а ныне ся дроужина по мя пороучила а ныне ка посъли къ томоу моужеви грамотоу е ли оу него роба а се ти хочоу коне коупивъ и къняжъ моужъ въсадивъ та на съводы а ты атче еси не възялъ коунъ техъ а не емли ничъто же оу него
Letter from Zhiznomir to Mikula. You have bought a female slave in Pskov. And now the princess has arrested me for it. But now my family has guaranteed for me. And now send a letter to that man and ask him whether he has another female slave. And I want to buy a horse and have the magistrate sit on it and initiate a svod. And if you have not taken the money, do not take anything from him.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Jam this morbid drivel up your ass

Letter removed at the request of Hunter S. Thompson's Estate.

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Internet Tidal Wave

May 26th, 1995: Bill Gates sends a memo, entitled "The Internet Tidal Wave," to all executive staff within Microsoft. In it, he makes clear his intention to focus the company's efforts online with immediate effect and "assign the Internet the highest level of importance," going on to call it, "the most important single development to come along since the IBM PC was introduced in 1981."

A few highlights from a long but highly quotable 16-year-old memo include: Gates forewarning, "One scary possibility being discussed by Internet fans is whether they should get together and create something far less expensive than a PC which is powerful enough for Web browsing"; the Microsoft boss later grumbling that after 10 hours of browsing the Internet, he "had not seen a single Word .DOC, AVI file, Windows .EXE (other than content viewers), or other Microsoft file format," then adding, "I did see a great number of Quicktime files"; and his determination to "match or beat" the services offered by Netscape, a "competitor 'born' on the Internet" who then boasted "70% usage share" in the browser market. There are many more choice moments.

Gates even ends the memo with a categorised appendix of external websites, all of which he recommends. Under the heading "Cool, cool, cool," links can be found to Lycos, Yahoo, and RealAudio. It's worth noting that 3 months after the memo was circulated, MSN was launched.

A full transcript follows courtesy of Donelle Gan, but first an image of the memo's first page. The original memo can be seen in its entirety, in PDF format, here.


To: Executive Staff and direct reports
From: Bill Gates
Date: May 26, 1995

The Internet Tidal Wave

Our vision for the last 20 years can be summarized in a succinct way. We saw that exponential improvements in computer capabilities would make great software quite valuable. Our response was to build an organization to deliver the best software products. In the next 20 years the improvement in computer power will be outpaced by the exponential improvements in communications networks. The combination of these elements will have a fundamental impact on work, learning and play. Great software products will be crucial to delivering the benefits of these advances. Both the variety and volume of the software will increase.

Most users of communications have not yet seen the price of communications come down significantly. Cable and phone networks are still depreciating networks built with old technology. Universal service monopolies and other government involvement around the world have kept communications costs high. Private networks and the Internet which are built using state of the art equipment have been the primary beneficiaries of the improved communications technology. The PC is just now starting to create additional demand that will drive a new wave of investment. A combination of expanded access to the Internet, ISDN, new broadband networks justified by video based applications and interconnections between each of these will bring low cost communication to most businesses and homes within the next decade.

The Internet is at the forefront of all of this and developments on the Internet over the next several years will set the course of our industry for a long time to come. Perhaps you have already seen memos from me or others here about the importance of the Internet. I have gone through several stages of increasing my views of its importance. Now I assign the Internet the highest level of importance. In this memo I want to make clear that our focus on the Internet is crucial to every part of our business. The Internet is the most important single development to come along since the IBM PC was introduced in 1981. It is even more important than the arrival of the graphical user interface (GUI). The PC analogy is apt for many reasons. The PC wasn't perfect. Aspects of the PC were arbitrary or even poor. However a phenomena grew up around the IBM PC that made it a key element of everything that would happen for the next 15 years. Companies that tried to fight the PC standard often had good reasons for doing so but they failed because the phenomena overcame any weaknesses that resisters identified.

The Internet Today

The Internet's unique position arises from a number of elements. TCP/IP protocols that define its transport level support distributed computing and scale incredibly well. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has defined an evolutionary path that will avoid running into future problems even as eventually everyone on the planet connects up. The HTTP protocols that define HTML Web browsing are extremely simple and have allowed servers to handle incredible traffic reasonably well. All of the predictions about hypertext - made decades ago by pioneers like Ted Nelson - are coming true on the Web. Although other protocols on the Internet will continue to be used (FTP, Gopher, IRC, Telnet, SMTP, NNTP). HTML with extensions will be the standard that defines how information will be presented. Various extensions to HTML, including content enhancements like tables, and functionality enhancements like secure transactions, will be widely adopted in the near future. There will also be enhanced 3D presentations providing for virtual reality type shopping and socialization.

Another unique aspect of the Internet is that because it buys communications lines on a commodity bid basis and because it is growing so fast, it is the only "public" network whose economics reflect the latest advances in communications technology. The price paid for corporations to connect to the Internet is determined by the size of your "on-ramp" to the Internet and not by how much you actually use your connection. Usage isn't even metered. It doesn't matter if you connect nearby or half way around the globe. This makes the marginal cost of extra usage essentially zero encouraging heavy usage.

Most important is that the Internet has bootstrapped itself as a place to publish content. It has enough users that it is benefiting from the positive feedback loop of the more users it gets, the more content it gets, and the more content it gets, the more users it gets. I encourage everyone on the executive staff and their direct reports to use the Internet. I've attached an appendix, which Brian Flemming helped me pull together that shows some hot sites to try out. You can do this by either using the .HTM enclosure with any Internet browser or, if you have Word set up properly, you can navigate right from within this document. Of particular interest are the sites such as "YAHOO" which provide subject catalogs and searching. Also of interest are the ways our competitors are using their Websites to present their products. I think SUN, Netscape and Lotus do some things very well.

Amazingly it is easier to find information on the Web than it is to find information on the Microsoft Corporate Network. This inversion where a public network solves a problem better than a private network is quite stunning. This inversion points out an opportunity for us in the corporate market. An important goal for the Office and Systems products is to focus on how our customers can create and publish information on their LANs. All work we do here can be leveraged into the HTTP/Web world. The strength of the Office and Windows businesses today gives us a chance to superset the Web. One critical issue is runtime/browser size and performance. Only when our Office - Windows solution has comparable performance to the Web will our extensions be worthwhile. I view this as the most important element of Office 96 and the next major release of Windows.

One technical challenge facing the Internet is how to handle "real-time" content - specifically audio and video. The underlying technology of the Internet is a packet network which does not guarantee that data will move from one point to another at a guaranteed rate. The congestion on the network determines how quickly packets are sent. Audio can be delivered on the Internet today using several approaches. The classic approach is to simply transmit the audio file in its entirety before it is played. A second approach is to send enough of it to be fairly sure that you can keeping playing without having to pause. This is the approach Progressive Networks Real Audio (Rob Glaser's new company) uses. Three companies (Internet Voice Chat, Vocaltec, and Netphone) allow phone conversations across the Internet but the quality is worse than a normal phone call. For video, a protocol called CU-SeeMe from Cornell allows for video conferencing. It simply delivers as many frames per second as it sees the current network congestion can handle, so even at low resolution it is quite jerky. All of these "hacks" to provide video and audio will improve because the Internet will get faster and also because the software will improve. At some point in the next three years, protocol enhancements taking advantage of the ATM backbone being used for most of the Internet will provide "quality of service guarantees". This is a guarantee by every switch between you and your destination that enough bandwidth had been reserved to make sure you get your data as fast as you need it. Extensions to IP have already been proposed. This might be an opportunity for us to take the lead working with UUNET and others. Only with this improvement and an incredible amount of additional bandwidth and local connections will the Internet infrastructure deliver all of the promises of the full blown Information Highway. However, it is in the process of happening and all we can do is get involved and take advantage.

I think that virtually every PC will be used to connect to the Internet and that the Internet will help keep PC purchasing very healthy for many years to come. PCs will connect to the Internet a variety of ways. A normal phone call using a 14.4k or 28.8k baud modem will be the most popular in the near future. An ISDN connection at 128kb will be very attractive as the connection costs from the RBOCs and the modem costs come down. I expect an explosion in ISDN usage for both Internet connection and point-to-point connections. Point-to-point allows for low latency which is very helpful for interactive games. ISDN point-to-point allows for simultaneous voice data which is a very attractive feature for sharing information. Example scenarios include planning a trip, discussing a contract, discussing a financial transaction like a bill or a purchase or taxes or getting support questions about your PC answered. Eventually you will be able to find the name of someone or a service you want to connect to on the Internet and rerouting your call to temporarily be a point-to-point connection will happen automatically. For example when you are browsing travel possibilities if you want to talk to someone with expertise on the area you are considering, you simply click on a button and the request will be sent to a server that keeps a list of available agents who can be working anywhere they like as long as they have a PC with ISDN. You will be reconnected and the agent will get all of the context of what you are looking at and your previous history of travel if the agency has a database. The reconnection approach will not be necessary once the network has quality of service guarantees.

Another way to connect a PC will be to use a cable-modem that uses the coaxial cable normally used for analog TV transmission. Early cable systems will essentially turn the coax into an Ethernet so that everyone in the same neighborhood will share a LAN. The most difficult problem for cable systems is sending data from the PC back up the cable system (the "back channel"). Some cable companies will promote an approach where the cable is used to send data to the PC (the "forward channel") and a phone connection is used for the back channel. The data rate of the forward channel on a cable system should be better than ISDN. Eventually the cable operators will have to do a full upgrade to an ATM-based system using either all fiber or a combination of fiber and Coax - however, when the cable or phone companies will make this huge investment is completely unclear at this point. If these buildouts happen soon, then there will be a loose relationship between the Internet and these broadband systems. If they don't happen for some time, then these broadband systems could be an extension of the Internet with very few new standards to be set. I think the second scenario is very likely.

Three of the biggest developments in the last five years have been the growth in CD titles, the growth in On-line usage, and the growth in the Internet. Each of these had to establish critical mass on their own. Now we see that these three are strongly related to each other and as they come together they will accelerate in popularity. The On-line services business and the Internet have merged. What I mean by this is that every On-line service has to simply be a place on the Internet with extra value added. MSN is not competing with the Internet although we will have to explain to content publishers and users why they should use MSN instead of just setting up their own Web server. We don't have a clear enough answer to this question today. For users who connect to the Internet some way other than paying us for the connection we will have to make MSN very, very inexpensive - perhaps free. The amount of free information available today on the Internet is quite amazing. Although there is room to use brand names and quality to differentiate from free content, this will not be easy and it puts a lot of pressure to figure out how to get advertiser funding. Even the CD-ROM business will be dramatically affected by the Internet. Encyclopedia Brittanica is offering their content on a subscription basis. Cinemania type information for all the latest movies is available for free on the Web including theater information and Quicktime movie trailers.


Our traditional competitors are just getting involved with the Internet. Novell is surprisingly absent given the importance of networking to their position however Frankenberg recognizes its importance and is driving them in that direction. Novell has recognized that a key missing element of the Internet is a good directory service. They are working with AT&T and other phone companies to use the Netware Directory Service to fill this role. This represents a major threat to us. Lotus is already shipping the Internotes Web Publisher which replicates Notes databases into HTML. Notes V4 includes secure Internet browsing in its server and client. IBM includes Internet connection through its network in OS/2 and promotes that as a key feature.

Some competitors have a much deeper involvement in the Internet than Microsoft. All UNIX vendors are benefiting from the Internet since the default server is still a UNIX box and not Windows NT, particularly for high end demands, SUN has exploited this quite effectively. Many Web sites, including Paul Allen's ESPNET, put a SUN logo and link at the bottom of their home page in return for low cost hardware. Several universities have "Sunsites" named because they use donated SUN hardware. SUN's Java project involves turning an Internet client into a programmable framework. SUN is very involved in evolving the Internet to stay away from Microsoft. On the SUN Homepage you can find an interview of Scott McNealy by John Gage where Scott explains that if customers decide to give one product a high market share (Windows) that is not capitalism. SUN is promoting Sun Screen and HotJava with aggressive business ads promising that they will help companies make money.

SGI has also been advertising their leadership on the Internet including servers and authoring tools. Their ads are very business focused. They are backing the 3D image standard, VRML, which will allow the Internet to support virtual reality type shopping, gaming, and socializing.

Browsing the Web, you find almost no Microsoft file formats. After 10 hours of browsing, I had not seen a single Word .DOC, AVI file, Windows .EXE (other than content viewers), or other Microsoft file format. I did see a great number of Quicktime files. All of the movie studios use them to offer film trailers. Apple benefited by having TCP support before we did and is working hard to build a browser built from OpenDoc components. Apple will push for OpenDoc protocols to be used on the Internet, and is already offering good server configurations. Apple's strength in education gives them a much stronger presence on the Internet than their general market share would suggest.

Another popular file format on the Internet is PDF, the short name for Adobe Acrobat files. Even the IRS offers tax forms in PDF format. The limitations of HTML make it impossible to create forms or other documents with rich layout and PDF has become the standard alternative. For now, Acrobat files are really only useful if you print them out, but Adobe is investing heavily in this technology and we may see this change soon.

Acrobat and Quicktime are popular on the network because they are cross platform and the readers are free. Once a format gets established it is extremely difficult for another format to come along and even become equally popular.

A new competitor "born" on the Internet is Netscape. Their browser is dominant, with 70% usage share, allowing them to determine which network extensions will catch on. They are pursuing a multi-platform strategy where they move the key API into the client to commoditize the underlying operating system. They have attracted a number of public network operators to use their platform to offer information and directory services. We have to match and beat their offerings including working with MCI, newspapers, and other who are considering their products.

One scary possibility being discussed by Internet fans is whether they should get together and create something far less expensive than a PC which is powerful enough for Web browsing. This new platform would optimize for the datatypes on the Web. Gordon Bell and others approached Intel on this and decided Intel didn't care about a low cost device so they started suggesting that General Magic or another operating system with a non-Intel chip is the best solution.

Next Steps

In highlighting the importance of the Internet to our future I don't want to suggest that I am alone in seeing this. There is excellent work going on in many product groups. Over the last year, a number of people have championed embracing TCP/IP, hyperlinking, HTML, and building client, tools and servers that compete on the Internet. However, we still have a lot to do. I want every product plan to try and go overboard on Internet features. One element that will be crucial is coordinating our various activities. The challenge/opportunity of the Internet is a key reason behind the recent organization. Paul Maritz will lead the Platform group to define an integrated strategy that makes it clear that Windows machines are the best choice for the Internet. This will protect and grow our Windows asset. Nathan and Pete will lead the Applications and Content group to figure out how to make money providing applications and content for the Internet. This will protect our Office asset and grow our Office, Consumer, and MSN businesses. The work that was done in the Advanced Technology group will be extremely important as it is integrated in with our products.

We must also invest in the Microsoft home page, so it will be clear how to find out about our various products. Today it's quite random what is on the home page and the quality of information is very low. If you look up speeches by me all you find are a few speeches over a year old. I believe the Internet will become our most important promotional vehicle and paying people to include links to our home pages will be a worthwhile way to spend advertising dollars. First we need to make sure that great information is available. One example is the demonstration files (Screencam format) that Lotus includes on all of their products organized by feature. I think a measurable part of our ad budget should focus on the Internet. Any information we create - white papers, data sheets, etc., should all be done on our Internet server.

ITG needs to take a hard look at whether we should drop our leasing arrangements for data lines to some countries and simply rely on the Internet.

The actions required for the Windows platform are quite broad. Pual Maritz is having an Internet retreat in June which will focus on coordinating these activities. Some critical steps are the following:

1. Server. BSD is working on offering the best Internet server as an integrated package. We need to understand how to make NT boxes the highest performance HTTP servers. Perhaps we should have a project with Compaq or someone else to focus on this. Our initial server will have good performance because it uses kernel level code to blast out a file. We need a clear story on whether a high volume Web site can use NT or not becaues SUN is viewed as the primary choice. Our plans for security need to be strengthened. Other Backoffice pieces like SMS and SQL server also need to stay out in front in working with the Internet. We need to figure out how OFS can help perhaps by allowing pages to be stored as objects and having properties added. Perhaps OFS can help with the challenge of maintaining Web structures. We need to establish distributed OLE as the protocol for Internet programming. Our server offerings need to beat what Netscape is doing including billing and security support. There will be substantial demand for high performance transaction servers. We need to make the media server work across the Internet as soon as we can as new protocols are established. A major opportunity/challenge is directory. If the features required for Internet directory are not in Cairo or easily addable without a major release we will miss the window to become the world standard in directory with serious consequences. Lotus, Novell, and AT&T will be working together to try and establish the Internet directory. Actually getting the content for our directory and popularizing it could be done in the MSN group.

2. Client. First we need to offer a decent client (O'Hare) that exploits Windows 95 shortcuts. However this alone won't get people to switch away from Netscape. We need to figure out how to integrate Blackbird, and help browsing into our Internet client. We have made the decision to provide Blackbird capabilities openly rather than tie them to MSN. However, the process of getting the size, speed, and integration good enough for the market needs works and coordination. We need to figure out additional features that will allows us to get ahead with Windows customers. We need to move all of our Internet value added from the Plus pack into Windows 95 itself as soon as we possible can with a major goal to get OEMs shipping our browser preinstalled. This follows directly from the plan to integrate the MSN and Internet clients. Another place for integration is to eliminate today's Help and replace it with the format our browser accepts including exploiting our unique extensions so there is another reason to use our browser. We need to determine how many browsers we promote. Today we have O'Hare, Blackbird, SPAM MediaView, Word, PowerPoint, Symettry, Help and many others. Without unification we will lose to Netscape/HotJava.

Over time the shell and the browser will converge and support hierarchical/list/query viewing as well as document with links viewing. The former is the structured approach and the later allows for richer presentation. We need to establish OLE protocols as the way rich documents are shared on the Internet. I am sure the OpenDoc consortium will try and block this.

3. File sharing/Window sharing/Multi-user. We need to give away client code that encourages Windows specific protocols to be used across the Internet. It should be very easy to set up a server for file sharing across the Internet. Our PictureTel screen sharing client allowing Window sharing should work easily across the Internet. We should also consider whether to do something with the Citrix code that allows you to become a Windows NT user across the Network. It is different from the PictureTel approach because it isn't peer to peer. Instead it allows you to be a remote user on a shared NT system. By giving away the client code to support all of these scenarios, we can start to show that a Windows machine on the Internet is more valuable than an artitrary machine on the net. We have immense leverage because our Client and Server API story is very strong. Using VB or VC to write Internet applications which have their UI remoted is a very powerful advantage for NT servers.

4. Forms/Languages. We need to make it very easy to design a form that presents itself as an HTML page. Today the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) is used on Web servers to give forms 'behavior' but its quite difficult to work with. BSD is defining a somewhat better approach they call BGI. However we need to integrate all of this with our Forms3 strategy and our languages. If we make it easy to associate controls with fields then we get leverage out of all of the work we are doing on data binding controls. Efforts like Frontier software's work and SUN's Java are a major challenge to us. We need to figure out when it makes sense to download control code to the client including a security approach to avoid this being a virus hole.

5. Search engines. This is related to the client/server strategies. Verity has done good work with Notes, Netscape, AT&T and many others to get them to adopt their scalable technology that can deal with large text databases with very large numbers of queries against them. We need to come up with a strategy to bring together Office, Mediaview, Help, Cairo, and MSN. Access and Fox do not support text indexing as part of their queries today which is a major hole. Only when we have an integrated strategy will we be able to determine if our in-house efforts are adequate or to what degree we need to work with outside companies like Verity.

6. Formats. We need to make sure we output information from all of our products in both vanilla HTML form and in the extended forms that we promote. For example, any database reports should be navigable as hypertext documents. We need to decide how we are going to compete with Acrobat and Quicktime since right now we aren't challenging them. It may be worth investing in optimizing our file formats for these scenarios. What is our competitor to Acrobat? It was supposed to be a coordination of extended metafiles and Word but these plans are inadequate. The format issue spans the Platform and Applications groups.

7. Tools. Our disparate tools efforts need to be brought together. Everything needs to focus on a single integrated development environment that is extensible in a object oriented fashion. Tools should be architected as extensions to this framework. This means one common approach to repository/projects/source control. It means one approach to forms design. The environment has to support sophisticated viewing options like timelines and the advanced features SoftImage requires. Our work has been separated by independent focus on on-line versus CD-ROM and structured display versus animated displays. There are difficult technical issues to resolve. If we start by looking at the runtime piece (browser) I think this will guide us towards the right solution with the tools.

The actions required for the Applications and Content group are also quite broad. Some critical steps are the following:

1. Office. Allowing for collaboration across the Internet and allowing people to publish in our file formats for both Mac and Windows with free readers is very important. This won't happen without specific evangelization. DAD has written some good documents about Internet features. Word could lose out to focused Internet tools if it doesn't become faster and more WYSIWYG for HTML. There is a critical strategy issue of whether Word as a container is strict superset of our DataDoc containers allowing our Forms strategy to embrace Word fully.

2. MSN. The merger of the On-line business and Internet business creates a major challenge for MSN. It can't just be the place to find Microsoft information on the Internet. It has to have scale and reputation that it is the best way to take advantage of the Internet because of the value added. A lot of the content we have been attracting to MSN will be available in equal or better form on the Internet so we need to consider focusing on areas where we can provide something that will go beyond what the Internet will offer over the next few years. Our plan to promote Blackbird broadly takes away one element that would have been unique to MSN. We need to strengthen the relationship between MSN and Exchange/Cairo for mail, security and directory. We need to determine a set of services that MSN leads in - money transfer, directory, and search engines. Our high-end server offerings may require a specific relationship with MSN.

3. Consumer. Consumer has done a lot of thinking about the use of on-line for its various titles. On-line is great for annuity revenue and eliminating the problems of limited shelf-space. However, it also lowers the barriers to entry and allows for an immense amount of free information. Unfortunately today an MSN user has to download a huge browser for every CD title making it more of a demo capability than something a lot of people will adopt. The Internet will assure a large audience for a broad range of titles. However the challenge of becoming a leader in any subject area in terms of quality, depth, and price will be far more brutal than today's CD market. For each category we are in we will have to decide if we can be #1 or #2 in that category or get out. A number of competitors will have natural advantages because of their non-electronic activities.

4. Broadband media applications. With the significant time before widescale iTV deployment we need to look hard at which applications can be delivered in an ISDN/Internet environment or in a Satellite PC environment. We need a strategy for big areas like directory, news, and shopping. We need to decide how to persue local information. The Cityscape project has a lot of promise but only with the right partners.

5. Electronic commerce. Key elements of electronic commerce including security and billing need to be integrated into our platform strategy. On-line allows us to take a new approach that should allow us to compete with Intuit and others. We need to think creatively about how to use the Internet/on-line world to enhance Money. Perhaps our Automatic teller machine project should be revived. Perhaps it makes sense to do a tax business that only operates on on-line. Perhaps we can establish the lowest cost way for people to do electronic bill paying. Perhaps we can team up with Quickbook competitors to provide integrated on-line offerings. Intuit has made a lot of progress in overseas markets during the last six months. All the financial institutions will find it very easy to buy the best Internet technology tools from us and others and get into this world without much technical expertise.

The Future

We enter this new era with some considerable strengths. Among them are our people and the broad acceptance of Windows and Office. I believe the work that has been done in Consumer, Cairo, Advanced Technology, MSN, and Research position us very well to lead. Our opportunity to take advantage of these investments is coming faster than I would have predicted. The electronic world requires all of the directory, security, linguistic and other technologies we have worked on. It requires us to do even more in these ares than we planning to. There will be a lot of uncertainty as we first embrace the Internet and then extend it. Since the Internet is changing so rapidly we will have to revise our strategies from time to time and have better inter-group communication than ever before.

Our products will not be the only things changing. The way we distribute information and software as well as the way we communicate with and support customers will be changing. We have an opportunity to do a lot more with our resources. Information will be disseminated efficiently between us and our customers with less chance that the press miscommunicates our plans. Customers will come to our "home page" in unbelievable numbers and find out everything we want them to know.

The next few years are going to be very exciting as we tackle these challenges are opportunities. The Internet is a tidal wave. It changes the rules. It is an incredible opportunity as well as incredible challenge I am looking forward to your input on how we can improve our strategy to continue our track record of incredible success.

HyperLink Appendix

Related reading, double click to open them On-line! (Microsoft LAN only, Internet Assistant is not required for this part):
  • "Gordon Bell on the Internet" email by Gordon Bell
  • "Affordable Computing: advertising subsidized hardware" by Nicholas Negroponie
  • "Brief Lecture Notes on VRML & Hot Java" email by William Barr
  • "Notes from a Lecture by Mark Andresson (Netscape)" email by William Barr
  • "Application Strategies for the World Wide Web" by Peter Pathe (Contains many more links!)
Below is a hotlist of Internet Web sites you might find interesting. I've included it as an embedded .HTM file which should be readable by most Web Browsers. Double click it if you're using a Web Browser like O'Hare or Netscape.


A second copy of these links is below as Word HTML links. To use these links, you must be running the World Internet Assistant, and be connected to the Web.

Cool, Cool, Cool..

The Lycos Home Page
RealAudio Homepage
HotWired - New Thinking for a New Medium


Microsoft Corporation World-Wide-Web Server
Welcome To Oracle
Lotus on the Web
Novell Inc. World Wide Web Home Page
Symantec Corporation Home Page
Borland Online
Disney/Buena Vista
Paramount Pictures
Adobe Systems Incorporated Home Page
Sony Online


ESPNET SportsZone
The Gate Cybersports Page
The Sports Server
Las Vegas Sports Page


Mercury Center Home Page


CDnow The Internet Music Store
Travel & Entertainment Network home page
Virtual Tourist World Map
C(?) Net


Popular Mechanics

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Subject: Toilet Paper

On June 11th of 1942 (not 1943, as the memo's opening typo states), the Commanding Officer of USS Skipjack, Lt. Commander James Wiggins Coe, sent the following sarcastic memo to the Navy's supply department at Mare Island. At this point it had been almost a year since crew aboard the submarine had placed a simple request for 150 rolls of toilet paper with the depot, and only very recently had said requisition been returned, frustratingly bearing the words "cancelled — cannot identify." This memo was Coe's response.

Amusingly, when the submarine next returned to land, Coe and crew were faced with a dock piled high with toilet roll pyramids, countless toilet roll streamers flying from every available post, and a brass band wearing toilet paper neckties. The situation surrounding the toilet paper shortage even made an appearance in the movie Operation Petticoat, with Lt. Cmdr. Coe's equivalent character played by Cary Grant.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of The Navy Department Library.


11 June, 1943

From: The Commanding Officer.
To: Supply Officer, Navy Yard, Mare Island, California.
Via: Commander Submarines, Southwest Pacific.

Subject: Toilet Paper.

Reference: (a) (6048) USS HOLLAND (5184) USS SKIPJACK Reqn. 70-42 of July 30, 1941; (b) SO NYMI cancelled invoice No. 272836.

Enclosure: (A) Copy of cancelled invoice; (B) Sample of material requested.

1. This vessel submitted a requisition for 150 rolls of toilet paper on July 30, 1941, to USS HOLLAND. The material was ordered by HOLLAND from Supply Officer, Navy Yard, Mare Island, for delivery to USS SKIPJACK.

2. The Supply Officer, Navy Yard, Mare Island, on November 26, 1941, cancelled Mare Island Invoice No. 272836 with the stamped notation "cancelled — cannot identify". This cancelled invoice was received by SKIPJACK on June 19, 1942.

3. During the 11-1/2 months elapsing from the time of ordering the toilet paper and the present date the SKIPJACK personnel, despite their best efforts to await delivery of subject material have been unable to wait on numerous occasions, and the situation is now quite acute, especially during depth charge attacks by the "back-stabbers".

4. Enclosure (B) is a sample of the desired material provided for the information of the Supply Officer, Navy Yard, Mare Island. The Commanding Officer, USS SKIPJACK cannot help but wonder what is being used by Mare Island in place of this unidentifiable material, one well known to this command.

5. SKIPJACK personnel during this period has become accustomed to the use of "Ersatz" the vast amount of incoming non-essential paper work, and in so doing felt that the wish of the Bureau of Ships for "reduction of paper work" is being complied with thus effectually "killing two birds with one stone".

6. It is believed by this Command that the stamped notation "cannot identify" was possibly an error, and this is simply a case of shortage of strategic war material, the SKIPJACK probably being low on the priority list.

7. In order to cooperate in war effort at small local sacrifice, the SKIPJACK desires no further action to be taken until the end of current war which has created a situation aptly described as "War is Hell".


Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Long may the Grand Master live

The following birthday message was sent by telegram in 1885 to Victor Hugo, the French writer responsible for, most notably, Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. It was penned on the day of Hugo's 83rd birthday by the father of both dynamite and the Nobel PrizesAlfred Nobel.

Short, but sweet.

Transcript and translation follow. Image courtesy of

Victor Hugo

Vive et vive de longues années le grand Maître pour charmer le monde et propager ses grandes idées de charité universelle.

A. Nobel
Victor Hugo

Long may the Grand Master live, to charm the world and spread his ideas of universal charity.

A. Nobel

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

You are scum

Letter removed at the request of Hunter S. Thompson's Estate.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Cannes is a place of mental humiliation

Below we have two letters from Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, both written in May of 1960, in which he makes clear his apparent hatred of awards ceremonies. The first letter, addressed to the founder of the Cinémathèque FrançaiseLotte Eisner, sees Bergman labelling the Cannes Film Festival as a "place of meat market and mental humiliation"; in the second, sent to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences themselves, he first refuses the Oscar nomination for Wild Strawberries (Original Screenplay) and then goes on to describe the whole institution as "humiliating."

Unfortunately for Bergman, his work continued to attract both nominations and awards.

Transcripts follow. Images courtesy of Dizzy Dent Films.

Ingmar Bergman
AB Svensk Filmindustri

Solna 2/5 1960.

Mise Lotte H.Eisner
Cinematheque Francaise
82, rue de Courcelles
PARIS 8. /France/

Dear Miss Eisner,

I am always happy to hear from you.

On the other hand I am never happy, when anyone talks with me about FESTIVALS and I am especially sorry, that "JUNGFRUKÄLLAN" is going to be shown at the Festival of Cannes. I am afraid and I have a certain feeling about unpleasant surprises as "JUNGFRUKÄLLAN" together with "SOMMARLEK" is that one of my pictures I love most.

I would have liked very much to talk about Mr. Sjöström in connection with the performance of his films, if it hadn't been in Cannes. But I hate that place of flesh meat market and mental humiliation.

At a festival you can really dispair of the motion picture as an art.

I hope soon to hear from you again.

With my warmest personal regards to Mr. Langlois and you.

Yours sincerely

Ingmar Bergman
AB Svensk Filmindustri

Solna 12/5 1960.

of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
9038 Melrose Avenue
HOLLYWOOD 46. /California/

Dear Sirs,

As "SMULTRONSTÄLLET" ("WILD STRAWBERRIES") didn't compete for "OSCAR" I think it is wrong to nominate the picture and therefor I want to return the "CERTIFICATE OF NOMINATION".

I have found, that the "OSCAR"-nomination is one for the motion picture art humiliating institution and ask you to be released from the attention of the jury for the future.


Friday, 15 July 2011

The Sale of Manhattan

The letter below, sent by representative of the States General, Pieter Schaghen, to the directors of the WIC on November 5th, 1626, is the only written evidence of an amazing transaction: the sale of Manhattan. According to Schaghen's letter, written upon return of the Arms of Amsterdam ship in Holland some months later, Dutch settlers — headed by Peter Minuit, governor of New Netherland (17th Century New York) — gave local Native Americans goods worth 60 guilders in exchange for the island. According to Wikipedia, this equates to approximately $1000 in modern currency.

Transcript and translation follow. Image courtesy of Henry Hudson 400, the original of which now resides at the Rijksarchief in The Hague.

Recep. 7 November 1626

Hooghe Moghende Heeren

Hier is ghister t'schip t'wapen van Amsterdam aengekomen ende is den 23en septem: uyt Nieu Nederlant gezeylt uyt de Rivier Mauritius. rapporteren dat ons volck daer kloec is en: vreedigh leven hare vrouwen hebben ooc kinderen aldaer gebaert hebben t'eylant Manhattes van de wilde gekocht, voor de waerde van 60 guld: is groot 11000 morgen. hebbende alle koren half mey gezeyt, ende half augusto gemayd. daer van zeyndende munsterkens van zomerkoren, als taruw, Rogge, garst, haver boucweyt, knarizaet, boontjes en: vlas.

Het Cargasoen van tvsz schip is

7246 bevers vellen
178½ otters vellen
675 otters vellen
48 Mincke vellen
36 Catloes-vellen
33 Mincken
34 Ratte vellekens.
Veel eycken balcken. En: Noten-hout.

Hier mede Hooghe Moghende Heeren, zyt den Almogende en genaden bevolen.

In Amsterdam den 5en Novem: Ao 1626.

Uwe Hoo: Moo: Dienstwillighe

(Signed, 'P. Schaghen')
Recep. 7 November 1626

High and Mighty Lords,

Yesterday the ship the Arms of Amsterdam arrived here. It sailed from New Netherland out of the River Mauritius on the 23d of September. They report that our people are in good spirit and live in peace. The women also have borne some children there. They have purchased the Island of Manhattes from the savages for the value of 60 guilders. It is 11,000 morgens in size. They had all their grain sowed by the middle of May, and reaped by the middle of August They sent samples of these summer grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, canary seed, beans and flax.

The cargo of the aforesaid ship is:

7246 Beaver skins
178½ Otter skins
675 Otter skins
48 Mink skins
36 Lynx skins
33 Minks
34 Muskrat skins
Many oak timbers and nut wood.

Herewith, High and Mighty Lords, be commended to the mercy of the Almighty,

In Amsterdam, the 5th of November anno 1626.

Your High and Mightinesses' obedient

(Signed, 'P. Schaghen')

Thursday, 14 July 2011

I will treasure your letter

In September of 2006, following a desperately sad childhood that saw both drug-addicted parents murdered and the care of her younger siblings left in her hands, 16-year-old Sacia Flowers decided to write to J. K. Rowling and thank her for creating Harry Potter, her "best friend" during the most difficult of times. Her letter can be read below, followed by Rowling's lovely, encouraging response.

(Many thanks to Sacia for allowing this to feature; Image: Belén Muñoz.)

Sept. 2, 2006

Dear Mrs. Rowling,

I have so much I'd like to say, but I know you are a very busy woman so I'll try to keep it short and not take up too much of your time. Primarily, I would like to say I absolutely LOVE your books and have at least one copy of each on my book shelf, in addition to Harry's school books for Comic Relief and several analytical and biographical ones related to Harry and you. With that, I'll just go right into it. I first heard of the Harry Potter series when I was in fourth grade, but at the time I was not much of a reader. In the beginning of my fifth grade year, I went out on a whim and began Sorcerer's Stone; I was hooked by page three and have not been seen without a book on hand since.

I have never enjoyed a series as much as I have every one of your Harry books. I noticed, as I read each of the six books the first time through, I was the same age as Harry, which was quite coincidental. I have cried at least once reading every one of the six so far (several times during a few) and out right bawled at the end of Half-Blood Prince. Losing Dumbledore, empathizing with Harry and his friends, seeing their heartache, and feeling as though I had lost a grandpa myself was utterly overwhelming. The relationship that evolved and grew between Harry and Dumbledore from the end of book five and throughout book six increased the intensity of this for me.

This emotional reaction, I speculate, may perhaps be a result of the strong connection I feel with Harry. Not only do I wear glasses and have green eyes, thus sharing a bit of his physical appearance (I realize I speak of Harry as if he is a real person, but to me he is very real indeed, as I'm sure he is to you), but I'm also an orphan, both parents having been murdered when I was younger. In addition, I was always picked on before I went to my new school, as Harry was by Dudley and his cronies before he went to Hogwarts. So, I also have a strong emotional understanding with Harry and feel the severity of Harry's loss of Sirius (I bawled here as well); for these reasons Harry holds a special place in my heart and he always will.

Being picked on most of my life, I never had many friends due to my own insecurities and fear of loss, but through the most difficult times in my life, Harry was my best friend when I needed him most and he lent me his world in which to escape my own grief and hurt, and for this I thank you from the deepest part of my heart. To me, it's like Harry and I grew up together. I have grown a lot emotionally over the years and am now sixteen (as is Harry). Thank you so very much for lending me your hero and his world. He is my hero, and you are my heroine.

I do not expect a reply, as I know you are a very busy woman, mother, and wife, but I do hope you have a chance to read this letter (I understand you have a plethora of fan mail and there's only so many hours in the day). I do not wish for you to read this or reply so I can brag about making contact with a celebrity or something ridiculous of that nature; in fact, my family will probably not even know that I wrote to you. Mostly I just really wanted to express my deepest gratitude and appreciation to you and Harry. I needed for you to know how important he has been to me.

Thank you, for everything.

Most Sincerely,
Sacia (Say-sha) Flowers


19th September 2006

Dear Sacia (beautiful name, I've never heard it before),

Thank you for your incredible letter; incredible, because you do indeed sound phenomenally like Harry Potter, in your physical resemblance and in your life experience. I cannot tell you how moved I was by what you wrote, nor how sorry I am to hear about your parents. What a terrible loss.

I know what it is like to be picked on, as it happened to me, too, throughout my adolescence. I can only wish that you have the same experience that I did, and become happier and more secure the older you get. Being a teenager can be completely horrible, and many of the most successful people I know felt the same way. I think the problem is that adolescence, though often misrepresented as a time of rebellion and unconventionality, actually requires everybody to conform if they aspire to popularity - or at least to 'rebel' while wearing the 'right' clothes! You're now standing on the threshold of a very different phase in your life, one where you are much more likely to find kindred spirits, and much less likely to be subject to the pressures of your teenage years.

It is an honour to me to know that somebody like you loves Harry as much as you do. Thank you very much for writing to me, I will treasure your letter (which entitles you to boast about this response as much as you like!)

With lots of love


(Jo to you!)


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

I am ashamed to share membership of the same party with you

Rather than congratulate Labor MP John Robertson following his being sworn in as a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council in 2008, famously outspoken former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, incredibly unhappy with Robertson's conduct, chose instead to send him this wonderfully scathing letter. Indeed, Keating's worst fears were realised in March of this year as Robertson was elected Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales. Presumably Keating didn't congratulate him for that either.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of ABC. Huge thanks to the many readers — the first of whom was Bella Counihan — who have suggested this letter after it was made public earlier this year.

Image: ABC



PO BOX 1265

Mr John Robertson
The Legislative Council of New South Wales
Parliament House
Macquarie Street
Sydney 2000

27 October 2008

Dear John

I am writing on the occasion of your swearing in as a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council.

But this is not a letter of congratulations.

You have replaced a man, who despite his idiosyncracies, had much to offer the people of New South Wales and the Labor Party. And indeed, someone who in troubled times, had an economic position and a framework to work in. Like his colleague, the former Premier, Morris Iemma, he sought to deal with the great and unfinished problem of New South Wales electricity and the provision of capital for new base load power.

Your manipulation of the union base in New South Wales with the connivance and support of the Party President, Bernie Riordan, succeeded in destroying the political life of both men, and with them, probably the life of the Labor Government in New South Wales itself.

When I came to see you about the Iemma Government's electricity privatisation proposals in April 2008, you will remember me telling you that reckless indifference by you and Bernie Riordan to the Government's fortunes, may see the Government destroyed and for which, you and Riordan would be held accountable.

This letter is about that accountability.

Notwithstanding the fact that a new and I believe good leader, has been elected to the Premiership, I think he will have an uphill battle in prosecuting the next election against a Liberal Party made resurgent, in the main, by yours and Riordan's behaviour. And, if the Government goes down, the lethal tally of men and women who will have lost their lost seats will be to your account and that of the Party officers who were complicit in the melee; namely Riordan, Bitar and Foley.

But Riordan, Bitar and Foley have not accommodated themselves with a Parliamentary seat at the public expense; you have. And a seat previously occupied by the person you had disparaged and targeted.

When I met you and went through the history of the establishment of the east coast electricity market by the Government I led in the 1990s, and why the privatisation of the New South Wales power stations was consistent with the benefits of that market, you never offered one serious point in rebuttal. Not one cogent economic argument to thwart the logic. You batted the argument to one side, implying it would somehow be sorted out before the rupture arose.

But instead, like a banshee on a rampage, you tore at the Government's entrails until its viability was effectively compromised.

Now I understand, you are thinking about a transition to the Legislative Assembly from the comfort stop you are currently occupying. And that that transition, in the medium term, is about the Party leadership and the Premiership.

Let me tell you, if the Labor Party's stocks ever get so low as to require your services in its Parliamentary leadership, it will itself, have no future. Not a skerrick of principle or restraint have you shown. You have behaved with reckless indifference to the longevity of the current Government and to the reasonable prospects of its re-election.

It may be a novel concept for you, let me say that conscientious business of governance can never be founded in a soul so blackened by opportunism.

The people of New South Wales may have their problems, but they would be way better rattling through than turning to someone like you in some hope of redemption.

I am ashamed to share membership of the same party with you.


PJ Keating


Bernie Riordan
Karl Bitar
Luke Foley
Mark Arbib
Morris Iemma
Michael Costa
John Faulkner

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

I need a monkey

Early-1983: Steven Spielberg writes a short note to Forrest Ackerman — editor of film magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland — and speaks briefly of the "insane" casting process on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Dear Forry,

Thank you for your kind and very amusing note the other day.

Things are going very well over here in Burbank — the next RAIDERS movie is in full prep. and casting is insane — I need a monkey, a great kid and hundreds of fruit bats!!

And they said filmmaking was easy in college!!

Please start another movie mag. I grew up with you - now I want to grow old with you!

Best of everything,

(Signed, 'Steven')


Monday, 11 July 2011

Our total love for you is everlasting

Following a routine mammogram on September 26th of 1974, just a month after becoming First Lady of the United StatesBetty Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer. Below is a loving letter of support from Betty's husband — then-U.S. President Gerald Ford — and her children, written shortly after the diagnosis.

Betty Ford's decision to be entirely open about her illness and subsequent mastectomy was embraced by the general public, and helped enormously to raise awareness of the disease. In 1982, after battling alcoholism, she also co-founded the Betty Ford Center for drug and alcohol rehabilitation in California.

Betty Ford passed away on July 8th, 2011, of natural causes. She was 93.

Transcript follows.

(Source: The Gerald R. Ford Library; Image of Betty Ford, via.)


Dearest Mom

No written words can adequately express our deep, deep love. We know how great you are and we, the children and Dad, will try to be as strong as you.

Our Faith in you and God will sustain us. Our total love for you is everlasting.

We will be at your side with our love for a wonderful Mom.



Friday, 8 July 2011

We get a kick outa being flattered!

Back in 1986, some years after first becoming a fan of the character as a child, Dale Lund wrote a letter of thanks to Hank Ketcham, the cartoonist responsible for originally creating, drawing, and writing the Dennis the Menace cartoon strip. This charming, illustrated note was Dennis' reply.

Transcript follows. Image courtest of Dale Lund.

Image: Dale Lund


Dear Uncle Dale-

My Dad can't believe all those nice things you said about him. Me neither...but we both send along our thanks. We get a kick outa being flattered!

xxx Dennis

...and Hank Ketcham

Thursday, 7 July 2011

You are the greatest film-maker at work today

Stanley Kubrick wrote the following gushing letter of praise in 1960 to the man he considered to be "the greatest film-maker at work today," and who he later cited as a major influence on his work: Ingmar Bergman. Bear in mind also that Kubrick was only 31 years of age at the time and yet to produce the masterpieces he is now widely remembered for; Bergman was ten years his senior. Altogether a wonderful snapshot.

The letter is currently held at Berlin's Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Max Eichel; Image: Kubrick & Bergman, via here & here.)


February 9, 1960

Dear Mr. Bergman,

You have most certainly received enough acclaim and success throughout the world to make this note quite unnecessary. But for whatever it's worth, I should like to add my praise and gratitude as a fellow director for the unearthly and brilliant contribution you have made to the world by your films (I have never been in Sweden and have therefore never had the pleasure of seeing your theater work). Your vision of life has moved me deeply, much more deeply than I have ever been moved by any films. I believe you are the greatest film-maker at work today. Beyond that, allow me to say you are unsurpassed by anyone in the creation of mood and atmosphere, the subtlety of performance, the avoidance of the obvious, the truthfullness and completeness of characterization. To this one must also add everything else that goes into the making of a film. I believe you are blessed with wonderfull actors. Max von Sydow and Ingrid Thulin live vividly in my memory, and there are many others in your acting company whose names escape me. I wish you and all of them the very best of luck, and I shall look forward with eagerness to each of your films.

Best Regards,

(Signed, 'Stanley Kubrick')

Stanley Kubrick

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

I have just written you a long letter

The late, great Lt. Col. Alfred D. Wintle was opinionated, brave, comical, intelligent, and, most importantly, hugely entertaining. A true "character." He once attempted to escape a hospital dressed as a female nurse in order to rejoin the war effort, but his monocle gave him away; as a prisoner of war in France during World War II, he went on hunger strike for a fortnight to protest his prison guards' "slovenly" appearance; years later, post-war, he actually took control of a train when he realised there weren't enough first-class seats, refusing to leave the driver's cab until the situation was rectified. In 1958, he made history by winning, without a lawyer, a three year legal battle against a dishonest solicitor that ended in the House of Lords. The stories are endless, and his autobiography is highly recommended.

He wrote the following brief letter to the offices of The Times in 1946, where it has quite rightly been preserved ever since.

Transcript follows. Huge thanks to Nigel Brachi.

(Source: Past. Present. Future. To celebrate Two Hundred Years of Publication; Image: Alfred Wintle in 1945, via LIFE.)

From Lt. Col. A.D. Wintle.
The Royal Dragoons
Cavalry Club
127 Piccadilly W.1.

To the Editor of The Times.


I have just written you a long letter.

On reading it over, I have thrown it into the waste paper basket.

Hoping this will meet with your approval,

I am
Your obedient Servant

(Signed, 'ADWintle')

6 Feb '46

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

I was sickeningly awful

December 1984: During the run-up to the release of A Passage to India, one of its supporting cast, Alec Guinness, writes an embarrassed letter of congratulations to director David Lean.

Even before the movie's initial reviews — many of which quickly questioned the strange casting choice of Guinness as the Indian professor Godbole — Guinness had felt uncomfortable in the role, and to some extent it showed on screen. Judging by his letter to Lean, his early critics had only amplified his regret at taking on the role.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the British Film Institute, who have a lovely collection of materials relating to David Lean at their website.

Image: BFI

16 XII 84

My dear David

I tried telephoning you yesterday evening but you had not yet arrived and as you are probably dead tired I shall leave you in peace. Hence this note.

I think the film is marvellously good and do congratulate you most heartily. It is expansive, handsome, gripping and yet somehow intimate. And the story — which we all know is somewhat complicated — comes over with simplicity. It didn't seem a minute too long.

Also I think it is beautifully acted — with one excruciating exception. Peggy, for my money, gives a truly superb performance and should get a whopping big Oscar. And I thought Victor pulled it off charmingly and splendidly. As did the others. For my own part I'm afraid I thought I was sickeningly awful. I thought it was poor at the time we were doing it but I hadn't realised how wide of the mark I was. I don't in the least blame you, as you were helpful, but I do wish — when I asked Richard, very calmly and unfunnily, in the first week, if you'd all like to get rid of me he had taken me up on it. John Brabourne was right in his original objection. Well, there it is and some of the press have rightly pointed it out. One thing I am now grateful for is the disappearance of the song and dance — at least the agony isn't protracted.

Anyway, that's all fairly minor stuff. The film itself is outstanding and I think it combines, happily, your best work from the Dickens films to Lawrence of Arabia. Clearly it is going to be a huge success.

With love,


Monday, 4 July 2011


In May of this year, Pixar animator Austin Madison kindly hand-wrote the following open letter to aspiring artists, in a bid to inspire them through times of creative drought. It's a lovely, eloquent letter, and in fact contains advice valuable to people in many a creative field. It was written as a contribution to the Animator Letters Project, an admirable effort by aspiring animator Willie Downs — mentioned on Letters of Note previously — to collate letters of advice for fellow would-be animators, penned by those who have managed to break into the industry. Although only a few letters strong at present, it's a fantastic idea with great potential.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Willie Downs' Animator Letters Project.

Image: Willie Downs


May 17, 2011

To Whom it May Inspire,

I, like many of you artists out there, constantly shift between two states. The first (and far more preferable of the two) is white-hot, "in the zone" seat-of-the-pants, firing on all cylinders creative mode. This is when you lay your pen down and the ideas pour out like wine from a royal chalice! This happens about 3% of the time.

The other 97% of the time I am in the frustrated, struggling, office-corner-full-of-crumpled-up-paper mode. The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair. Put on some audio commentary and listen to the stories of professionals who have been making films for decades going through the same slings and arrows of outrageous production problems.

In a word: PERSIST.

PERSIST on telling your story. PERSIST on reaching your audience. PERSIST on staying true to your vision. Remember what Peter Jackson said, "Pain is temporary. Film is forever." And he of all people should know.

So next time you hit writer's block, or your computer crashes and you lose an entire night's work because you didn't hit save (always hit save), just remember: you're never far from that next burst of divine creativity. Work through that 97% of murky abyssmal mediocrity to get to that 3% which everyone will remember you for!

I guarantee you, the art will be well worth the work!

Your friend and mine,

Austin Madison


Friday, 1 July 2011

Try again, won't you?

In the mid-1940s, before breaking through to become the successful novelist and prolific short-story writer many now remember, the late-John D. MacDonald was the recipient of countless dreaded rejection letters. Undeterred, he ploughed on. Some years later — at which point his services were very much in demand and he was selling his short stories to publications at an incredible rate, and under various pseudonyms — the roles reversed somewhat, and he apparently sent the following sarcastic form letter to unsuccessful editors.

Transcript follows. Image supplied very kindly by D. Barrow.

Image: D. Barrow


Dear Editor:

Don't be upset about receiving this form letter!

We would like to write a personal letter to each and every one of you, but the great mass of stories submitted from this office makes such a procedure impractical. Surely you can understand that!

If by any chance we have been unable to use your magazine, don't be discouraged. It may not be due to any particular deficiency in the magazine, but instead to the fact that we haven't recently been writing the type of THING that you use.

Try again, won't you?

And, we beg of you - DON'T BE DISCOURAGED!


John D. MacDonald

Fiction published by:

Also many minor publications such as Esquire, Story, The Elks and the Congressional Record.