Both of these writings help explain the die-hard DNA that sits at the core of Panic's genetic code -- a true passion for what we do. The first essay, written by Steve, holds up remarkably well as an ode to a great, imaginative company. The second essay, mine, is a bit dated (did I say "Performa"?), but really helps explain why we love Apple so much.

Put simply, Stephen King's work in these two pieces is so spine-chillingly twisted that you'll be sleeping with the lights on. And with a stick. For the monsters.

Oh wait, wrong preface. Er.. we hope you enjoy our early writing! -Cabel

Beagle Bros. of the 90's?
by , Panic co-founder


It's nostalgia time!

I was about eleven years old during my Apple II+ heyday. Somewhere in this time frame I was thumbing through the latest issue of inCider magazine when I noted with excitement the latest advertisement from Beagle Bros. Micro Software.

I don't generally get a rush from print ads, but there was just something about them. Standing amidst the promotional copy were these old-fashioned, Victorian style, wood-cut looking figures who mysteriously carried around placards or signs with short BASIC programs on them.

The beauty of it was, if you typed these programs into your Apple II and ran them, they actually did something cool.

Talk about successful targeting, not only did I stop to read their ads, I propped them up beside my computer and typed in the listings quickly because I couldn't wait to see what happened. You never knew exactly what you were going to get. I remember one program listing printed on the side of a bird that, when run, produced a series of wild chirping noises from the Apple's speaker. And this was from a program that was only five to ten lines long. As a neophyte BASIC programmer myself, I was stunned and amazed. How could you make something this cool with this small amount of code?

I picked the programs to pieces, trying to figure out how they did their magic. Usually it involved a lot of POKE statements, shoving values into little-known hardware control registers, creating tiny machine language subroutines out of thin air. Even with the program listing right there in front of me, I still couldn't figure out how it all worked. It drove me crazy. These guys must be geniuses.

Beagle Bros. did the impossible, even down to the tiniest details -- How'd they switch back and forth between text and graphics mode WITHOUT the screen getting erased? You're not supposed to be able to DO that!


I wrote a fan letter to Beagle Bros., proclaiming them demi-gods of all things Apple. It's a testament to them that they actually took the time to respond to a raving eleven year old. In my letter I also begged and pleaded for a free or cheap copy of their "Shape Mechanic" graphics editing program. I didn't get that, but a Beagle Bros. representative did point out there was a sale on the older "Apple Mechanic" package. You can't blame them for wanting to make a little money, and you can't blame me for trying, since it would have required about half a year's allowance to buy "Shape Mechanic" at the time. I did eventually get together the money to buy it at a later date.

Beagle Bros' tools were fantastic. They literally let you do the (allegedly) impossible, like change the names of operating system commands. And they always packed the disks full with extra stuff. Demos of their other products, and strange graphics hacks that existed for no reason other than the fact that they were cool, and because there was spare room on the disk. Beagle Bros. had a lot to do with why I ever wanted to learn programming in the first place.

And then they released the book!


I'll never forget the book. A short time after I wrote my letter, Beagle Bros released their book. The book was a huge compilation of all around interesting stuff. Weird Apple II tricks that were pointless, but endlessly fascinating. Like the fact that there were extra offscreen pixels of lo-res graphics memory that you could write to, that never got displayed. Or how to put "impossible" inverted or flashing characters into your disk directory listing. Or how to modify system error messages. Not very useful, but really fun to know and really, really cool to mess with. My dad was convinced I was going to somehow break the computer with all this hacking, but a simple reboot always fixed everything.

The book also reprinted the program listings from their ads in one handy volume. And it had pages and pages of useful tips: how to execute DOS commands from BASIC, how to prevent people from LISTing your BASIC programs, how to make disk directory listings pause after each page, and so on.

I was in geek nirvana. It was an incredible book. I don't know what happened to it, but it disappeared somewhere around the time that we sold our faithful but aging Apple II+. I wish I still had it.


I'd be stunned if I opened a general purpose computer magazine today and saw a BASIC program listing. I'd probably pass out if that listing was occupying real estate in some software company's advertisement.

What happened here? When the personal computer evolved beyond hobbyist toy to business tool, there was suddenly a new audience... the non-technical computer user. Unheard of!

With all the advances that have been made in human interface and software design, something had to go, and one of the things that went was an interest in how it all works behind the scenes. Only the most hardcore of geeks still want to know what makes it all tick. I guess that's not really a bad thing. (It means more customers for developers like us, for one thing!) But sometimes I miss the "good ol' days" when your computer booted straight into BASIC and was ready to go as soon as you hit the power switch. Most computers don't even ship with a built-in programming language! I mean, what are you supposed to DO with these things anyway?

Another thing that seems to have disappeared is the cool software company. Is there a Beagle Bros. of the 90's? Most seem really straight-laced and are obsessed with "biz". There are a few with a sense of humor, of course, but they are seldom seen and often overlooked in favor of the "serious" companies. With the software industry being so huge now, compared to the days of the II+, is it possible for a software company to be as personal as Beagle Bros.? Is it still possible to build a software company that will capture the imagination of the next generation of computer users? I don't know. But I'd really like to find out.

As for Beagle Bros., the company itself no longer exists, to my knowledge. However, according to Mark Simonsen, who purchased the company from Bert Kersey (one of its founders), Beagle Bros. products are still available for purchase from a company named Quality Computers.

I'd love to hear where Bert Kersey, Jack Cassidy, and the rest of the crew are now, and what they're doing. (Please do send in an email if you know!) I hope they are out there somewhere and read this, so they know that they were someone's unlikely childhood heroes, and are in, a very indirect way, partially responsible for the formation of Panic, Inc.

(Note: Since writing this article, I have tracked down some information about the current whereabouts of former Beagles. If you are interested, check out the Beagle Bros Museum!)

Why? A Developer's Rant
by , Panic co-founder


As developers, there was never really any question. Sitting in a cafe and discussing our new company and business plan (really more of a business "napkin" at the time), we made the decision that our first product was going to be Macintosh only, and that was that. End of discussion, case closed. We then got terribly frightened and ran around trying to justify our decision, like a vegan giving into a little bite of Extra Tasty Crispy. We knew it was the right thing. We didn't know why it was the right thing. But we were excited about the right thing.

To make a potentially blah-blah story short, it took us three months -- with no prior Macintosh development experience -- to make the first beta of Verso. (Ease of development.) We received over 1,000 downloads the first day we put up beta one. (Attention in the marketplace, not over-saturated.) Our beta-testers were first rate and suggested a lot of neat ideas (More attentive, eager users.) Of course, that didn't help us sell the program to any publishers (Tarn-sarnit.) But we've got another program coming out soon, and we think Mac people will be just as excited and responsive as they were with Verso.


As a company, we're die hard Mac-heads. When we go to CompUSA (the world's brightest computer store) and the display Performas are demoing that exciting, Gouraud shaded, 3D-graphics filled multi-media application called "Sorry, a system error has occured", we gently coax the machine into something more exciting like Marathon 2. And crank the volume. If we overhear a platform-decision conversation, we're not afraid to butt in and "Appleappleapple" like we're talking in bizarre (but persuasive!) religious tongues. Yes, some of us even have Apple static stickers in the back of our cars, no matter how postively 1985 that may be. I did similar things when I had an Amiga, way back when having an Amiga was like having a Mac. And stepping back, I realize that I have to own and believe in my computer. My computer should give me something to fight for. My computer has to have a culture.


I have a Wintel box and a Macintosh box on my desk. I built the Wintel box myself, the result of frequent trips to Fry's Electronics. I bought the (stylish, let me tell you) case and the motherboard and the disk drive and the SIMMs and the graphics card and the sound card and a few cases of Coke (and a toothbrush because it was right there by the cash register and I couldn't resist). I spent the next few days cursing like a drunken, legless French sailor as I struggled with the always-classic IRQ's and DMA's. And jumpers. And little tiny screws that caused my hands to bleed from hundreds of annoying microscopic cuts. And when I was done, I had a Pentium 100. Honestly, I enjoyed putting the machine together, and fighting with technical support, and downloading drivers. And honestly, I've enjoyed watching the machine gather dust and do nothing. Seriously, it just sits there. I install new apps, and it still sits there. I install games (and I return them) and it still sits there. I keep using my Macintosh, and relishing my Macintosh, and appreciating it even more.

I've come to the conclusion that Windows and PC fanatics are suffering from the "Ewwww!" effect. Let me elaborate: remember in science class? Someone would invariably wind up making this god-awful, nasty concoction that utterly destroyed their sense of smell because they forgot to "woft" instead of sniff. And what would they do the second after they created pure stanky and singed the interior of their schnoz? "Hey, man, smell this!". And you'd smell it, wouldn't you? And you'd go "Ewwww!" and not smell again for a week. Didn't matter that you knew it stunk. You had to experience the stink for yourself. And the stink became a bond between you and the stinkee. You shared a common experience, like rambling war veterans, a common hell that you'd laugh about in 6th period, and write in the yearbook next to "Have a great summer!".

Wintel users appear to have never grown out of the "Ewwww!"-bonding phase. Wintel users share this Windosian hell, and relate to each other through this hell. One Wintel fanatic friend of mine -- a consumate graphics professional -- refuses to purchase a Macintosh machine. Instead, he purchased a Sony "It's purple, okay?" Vaio, because he likes tinkering with his PC. He said he'd miss DOS and IRQ's and DMA's. It's his car, his piston and valve and whateverthehellelse is in a car. This is why Wintel fanatics love Wintel. Sadomasochism.


It's not to say that Panic, as a company, will shy away from making a Windows application. Hey, if it rakes in the big bucks, we'll do it! But we'll always be Macintosh first, and Macintosh at heart. The users are consistently more supportive, intelligent, less likely to use ALL CAPS in beta reports, and excited about products. I mean, our next product is an FTP program, for gods sake. Not exactly pure applicationary sex, but because our product is the best FTP program the Macintosh has ever seen (hey, it's my job to plug) and takes a fresh approach, loads of people have expressed interest with little press. That's what we love, and that's why we're glad we went with our intuition.

The Mac, truly, rules. Any developer that says otherwise has forgotten what it means to love computers.