Telegraphix Update File by Telegraphix
Telegraphix Update File by Telegraphix
telegrafix
ripscrip development
a division of fire productions
Imagine how communications pioneer Guglielmo Marconi felt when radio
came along to render his wireless telegraph obsolete.
Thats about where Patrick Clawson and his colleagues at TeleGrafix
Communications Inc. found themselves several years ago when the World
Wide Web burst onto the scene.
At the time, TeleGrafixs RIPscrip software was favored by thousands
of computer bulletin board operators across the country as a fast,
easy method for dressing up subscribers computer screens with
artwork, logos and other adornments.
Then came the Web explosion of 1994, offering a sexy new way to
transmit not only text--but also video, sounds and point-and-click
commands--over the Internet. Suddenly, anything that wasnt on the
Web and created with its unique software technology seemed passe.
Bulletin board operators began attaching themselves to the Web and
RIPscrip salves withered.
It was a tidal wave, said Clawson, a broadcasting industry veteran
who had purchased a large stake in TeleGrafix in 1994 and became its
president and chief executive, just as the wave struck.
Now TeleGrafix is trying for a comeback. Now joined with Fire
Productions, the world-wide leader in ANSI text-based graphics
creation, the Winchester, Va., firm released a product on which
its hopes are pinned, a test version of a RIPscrip package that
lets Internet users tap into university and government databases
using simple, eye-catching Web-like graphics and commands.
Many of these big computer systems have been linked to the Internet
for years. But they have not been easily reached via the Web because
of the high cost of converting the systems to the Web format, Clawson
said. Moreover, even if there are connections, the Web merely takes
users to the doorway of these older data storehouses. Many of
todays new Web aficionados would be lost inside, because difficult
telnet computer technology commands must be typed to search for
files, copy information and carry out other tasks.
Telegrafixs new product, RIPtel Visual Telnet, is meant to correct
that problem. You dont need to know the commands everything is
reduced to point-and-click simplicity.
The 9.95 RIPtel browser version goes on the users machines. The
institution maintaining the database also needs special software,
called RIPaint, which costs 49.95. Copies can be ordered over
TeleGrafixs Web site at http://www.telegrafix.com. A commercial
version of RIPtel should be ready in February, he added.
This is an extrodinary leap for the ANSI Scene, said Jesse Kates,
President of Fire Productions and full-time undergraduate at
Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. For the first time ANSI
artists will be able to make a career out of drawing ANSI.
Making a viable business out of this will be an uphill struggle
because of the Webs burgeoning popularity, some experts said.
Theyve been overtaken, said Kristina Kowitz, software manager at
CompUSAs computer store in Vienna. Most newcomers to the Internet
are learning the basics, not digging into sophisticated databases,
she said.
RIP software might make sense for older systems on the Internet,
said Marc S. Usem, and industry analyst with Salomon Brothers Inc.,
who has yet to review TeleGrafixs products. But thats not where
the future lies. Its the Web.
But the small division, seniored by Clawson and two founders, chugs on.
Launched in Hutington Beach, Calif., the division has moved to
Winchester, near Clawsons Berryville, Va., home.
Clawson has been financing some expenses with his personal funds
and credit card accounts. The pressures can be horrendous. A few
hours before the Christmas launch of the new product, Diners Club
telephoned Clawson to yank his card.
The new softwares speed and efficiency will help it catch on, said
Jeff Reeder, who left computer maker AST Research Inc. in California
to become one of TeleGrafixs founders in 1992 and remains a key
technical guru.
Current technology on the Web transmits certain types of images as
may thousands of colored dots, one by one. This means lengthy waits
for the Web user while all those dots arrive. RIPscrip instead
transmits formulas for drawing images. The formulas are translated
by the users computer into colored geometric shapes on the screen.
Rather than, say, sending every dot that makes up the border in a
companys logo, a Web site would transmit a formula saying, in
effect, draw a rectangle of such-and-such size and color and put in
such-and-such place on the screen.
Its not a good way to ship detailed photos over the Net, but its
fine for graphics and text, Reeder said, and much faster. An image
that requires 80,000 bits to reproduce in a Web format can be drawn
with just 4,000 bits using RIPscrip, Clawson said.
The new RIP software offers a full palette of colors, multiple text
windows, mouse-clickable buttons and accommodates photos in its
windows.
Despite RIPscrips advantages, Clawson said, he has had a terrible
time finding outside funding. Weve had, to date, over 100
companies slam the door in our face, he said. A dozen media and
computer company executives he counted as friends turned him down,
he added. Myopia, he calls it.
But he has found support in two widely separated places. Japans
Ministry of International Trade and Industry has put 700,000 into
creating a Japanese version of RIPscrip, to open further the Internet
to Japanese speakers.
And Winchester has selected TeleGrafix as the first official tenant
in its CyberStreet Technology Zone, a part of the citys historic
downtown equipped with advanced telecommunications facilities and
earmarked for infotech firms. Once approved as tenants in the zone,
companies are eligible for tax abatement and reduced utility charges.
Were paying half as much as in Huntington Beach, for twice the
space, Clawson said.
Now, Clawson said, he needs sales, not just support. The challenge
is to find a niche of users who want to tap the specialized
information inside the university and government databases and who
are eager to have an appealing, graphical alternative to the old
Telnet commands, he acknowledged. Then these users need to persuade
system operators to adopt RIP commands.
Otherwise, they may just have to built a better buggy whip.
--- the washington post, 1/6/97
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  • 1997-02-02
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