Evolutionary Man

Specialized developer

As any student of zoology knows, chance and adaptation play equal roles in evolutionary change. For Bill Tschumy, chance brought him out of the academic world and into NEXTSTEP programming, while adaptation guided him to make training, documentation, and interactive demonstration programs the focus of his one-year-old software company, Otherwise.

Tschumy was writing his Ph.D. thesis in zoology when the first dual-floppy-drive PCs were brought to market in the early '80s. After finding, though, that those PC tools were seriously lacking in software applications, Tschumy and two other grad students decided to remedy the situation and ventured into the software business.

Tschumy never did finish that thesis. While writing a spelling checker designed for use in academics, Tschumy and his colleagues were commissioned by another university friend to begin work on a new project. That friend was Bud Tribble, and the company commissioning the work was Apple Computer, which needed a word processor for the first Macintosh then being designed. "We'd had absolutely no experience in writing a word processor," he explains, "but we said, 'Sure. Give us eight months.' "

Three-and-a-half years and 120,000 lines of Motorola assembler code later, WriteNow was born.

But Apple went with MacWrite as its word processor. In a continuation of the curious combination of chance and opportunity, the authors of WriteNow found themselves being courted by Steve Jobs. Stranded with a nearly complete WriteNow and no resources to market it on their own, Tschumy and his colleagues adapted to the emerging situation by selling the marketing rights on their software. And Tschumy became employee number 18 at NeXT.

During the years that followed, Tschumy ported WriteNow to NEXT-STEP and became an integral part of the of the system-software team at NeXT. He adapted his roots in education by writing programs that explored training, alternative demoing concepts, remote displays, and journaling. From system-level AppKit design to programs like Show&Tell, the Guided Tour, and the NEXTSTEP 3.0 on-line help system, Tschumy's work meshed well with NeXT's credo of "enhanced productivity."

Now, at the head of his own software company again, Tschumy's concentration on education and training is paying off. Otherwise's first two products, aimed at integrating the training and administration of NeXT's large-scale corporate sites, are the culmination of his work towards en-hanced communications.

ScreenCast, Otherwise's first released product, allows corporate users to broadcast their active screen over the network, complete with all typing and mouse actions. Remote users can view or interact with the broadcasted screen, allowing enhanced user support, training, and computer conferencing. Moreover, it can be used by system administrators to monitor and troubleshoot the network.

Another upcoming product, WatchMe, provides a similarly unique function. WatchMe will synchronously record screen actions along with a voice overlay, allowing you to create instant multimedia demonstrations that can be e-mailed to coworkers for training or discussion. With electronic communications and efficient training at the forefront of corporate-management strategy more than ever before, Otherwise's products are destined to fill a key niche in NeXT's emerging business environments.

"To me, the word 'otherwise' means alternatives, other perspectives," Tschumy says. "As a company, Otherwise is creating alternative ways to communicate, educate, and inform. That's what we're all about." The quiet enthusiasm in Tschumy's voice is echoed by the background chatter of bird song. A rare flock of marbled murrelets come inland to nest? "No," he says, "Parakeets. I'm training them."

by Leann Coulter