Please consider a donation to the Higher Intellect project. See https://preterhuman.net/donate.php or the Donate to Higher Intellect page for more info.

Dogcow

From Higher Intellect Vintage Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Dogcow2.GIF

By Mark ("The Red") Harlan

How It All Began

The dogcow was originally a character in the Cairo font that used to ship with the Macintosh; it was designed by Susan Kare. I had always been interested in this critter ever since I first saw it in the LaserWriter Page Setup Options dialog, sometime during my stint in Apple's Developer Technical Support (DTS) group in 1987. To me it showed perfection in human interface design. With one picture it was very easy to explain concepts like an inverted image or larger print area that otherwise would be nearly impossible to communicate.

Interest became an obsession when one day I was talking to Scott ("Zz") Zimmerman about the dialog and suddenly thought, "Just what is that animal supposed to be, anyway?" Since Zz was the Printing Guy in DTS (now in the Newton group), and my favorite pastime was to bother him endlessly anyway, I started pressing him on whether the animal was a dog or a cow.

In an act of desperation he said, "It's both, OK? It's called a 'dogcow.' Now will you get out of my office?" The date was October 15, 1987, and I consider this to be the first use of the term. It should be noted that since then a few people (including Ginger herself) have told me that actually the phrase was coined by Ginger Jernigan (ex-DTS, now ROM software) at a meeting of Apple's Print Shop sometime shortly before that, which very well could be the case. Nevertheless it was Zz who pressed it into common usage, and he certainly was the first person I ever heard use the term.

Zz's ploy to get me out of his office was futile, however, because then I stood around and postulated that the dogcow's genes would have a radical effect on its behavior, and it must not bark or moo, but rather utter a combination like "Boo-woo!" or "Moof!"

We both thought it was funny enough that we decided to press it into everyday usage, and I started circulating the dogcow with "Moof!" on internal memos. The idea caught on, and at the 1988 Worldwide Developers Conference we gave away dogcow buttons in the debugging lab. Louella Pizzuti (ex-DTS, ex-develop editor, now citizen of the world) came up with the great idea of making the background Mountain Dew green. Response to the buttons was huge, and no one was smiling more than the DTS folks when John Sculley wore one for his keynote speech. It was a major-league coup.

The Origin of Tech Note #31

Then things started to spin out of control. Various groups internally started picking up the dogcow logo and doing things that didn't seem, well, DTS-like. The final straw was when the dogcow pin appeared in a Microsoft advertisement. Mark Johnson (ex-DTS, now in Apple Europe) approached me and suggested that we throw down the gauntlet and write a Technical Note on the subject. I balked out of nothing more than sheer laziness.

Some time passed and we were getting ready to go with the April 1989 batch of Tech Notes when Mark approached me again, saying that he thought having an April Fool's edition describing the dogcow would be perfect. I said yes but then stalled and stalled, missing two deadlines, and I thought the Tech Note wasn't going to happen.

Mark marched in my office one day in March of 1989 at 11:30 a.m. announcing that Tech Notes were shipping at noon and implied that my manliness was in question if I didn't get that Note in the batch. My macho instincts just couldn't allow that to happen, so Tech Note #31, "The Dogcow," was written in literally 40 minutes in one pass. I'd been thinking about it for quite some time, so I knew pretty much how it would go; I just sat down and typed it out. Given more time I definitely would have churned out something a bit more polished, and part of its quirkiness, I'm sure, is due to the time pressure I was under.

One thing was certain: it had to be something original in concept. I've always had a deep disdain for people who rip off comedic stuff. You know, the same people who used to have to tell all their jokes with an English accent because of Monty Python are now those who say "Not!" behind phrases. Once is funny, but after a while it gets really old. I definitely wanted it out of the mainstream.

For numbering I wanted to use e, but Mark pointed out that there had been confusion early on in the Tech Note numbering scheme and that a few numbers had been left out for various reasons. He showed me some conversations from the net that went on and on about Tech Note #31 and people's guesses as to why it was missing. (People were really, really out there with their guessing; anyone who's a believer in conspiracy theories would have enjoyed this blatant gibberish.) The number 31 had the right feel; it would blend into the regular batch better than e, and I've always had a soft spot for prime numbers, so we picked it.

Sports Illustrated had run a great fake story about a Zen baseball pitcher sometime earlier and we borrowed the idea of having the words "April Fool's" spelled out within the article from them - in our case using the first letter of every line of the poem at the closing. No one has ever mentioned this to me, so few people must have caught it. There's a picture of the wrong way to draw the dogcow that several people thought was a scanned image of Zz. Actually, completely independently of the Tech Note, I'd been using a program called Mac-a-Mug, designed to make mug shots, and came across a set of hair that looked frighteningly like Zz's. After fiddling around with the program a bit I was able to come up with a good rendition of Zz's head, and I shoved it into the Tech Note without his ever knowing about it. The expression (and color) of his face when he learned about the picture is a memory I'll always cherish.

The Note also contains the expression "Aanal, Enacku Naiimadu, Kaanali!" People came up with very unusual anagrams or unusual explanations for what it meant, the best being that it was an obscure reference to a clip of The Day the Earth Stood Still that had been cut from the film. But the truth is that it's phoneticized Tamil that was supplied by Sriram Subramanian (Networking Guy, ex-DTS, ex-Taligent, now in Apple Japan) meaning "But I can't see the dogcow!"

Ironically, there's also a mistake in that the "correct" way to draw the dogcow is actually wrong. We ended up being so pressured for time in getting the Note out the door that we just jammed it into a weird PostScript file that ended up mutating the shape. Shortly after the release of that Note, Chris Derossi (ex-DTS, now at General Magic) convinced me that a better solution was to have the correct way to draw the dogcow be pixelated, to avoid these idiosyncracies in the future - which is what's now done.

Distribution of Tech Note #31

We left off at the point where the former Macintosh Technical Note #31, "The Dogcow," had been created. The question then was how to distribute it. Mark Johnson and I both thought that since it was an April Fool's joke anyway, the best thing would be to just include it in the April monthly mailing to Apple Partners and Associates; we'd drop it from the subsequent batches, with the direct intent of making it a curio. The idea was that the people who were currently in the Macintosh community would get it and everyone else wouldn't. We very intentionally were trying to build an aura around it. The April 1989 mailing is the only time this Tech Note was ever in print under the official auspices of Apple.

There was a bit of a lag time between the writing of the Note and the actual release; by the time it went out, I actually had forgotten about it. The response was immediate and intense. Internally I received a couple of vaguely threatening calls from people claiming false ownership, but the overwhelming majority of people thought it was great. One gentleman in the developer community took offense saying that "dogcow" was too close to "Dachau" and showed how the note had underpinnings of anti-Semitism. (I showed this one to my Jewish father-in-law, who had to be resuscitated, he was laughing so hard.)

Aside from that, it really struck a chord with the developer community like nothing I've seen before or since. I received about 40 pieces of fan mail that month. Developer Technical Support (DTS) must have gone for a year before there was a batch of e-mail that didn't have a dogcow reference in it. In fact, to this day people say to me, "Mark Harlan? I know your name from Tech Notes" - but it's the only one I ever wrote.

Then came the concept of a Developer CD as a vehicle for distributing Tech Notes electronically (along with sample code and more). I was overseeing that project, and immediately we had an interesting conundrum: We wanted all information in electronic format, yet what were we going to do with Tech Note #31? Merely slipping it into the Tech Notes stack seemed like disaster, but then it didn't really feel right to omit it.

Again, it was Mark Johnson who came to the rescue with the excellent idea of burying the Tech Note. So on the early CD, "Phil and Dave's Excellent CD," you have to go through a bizarre sequence of commands to bring it up. Even now, tradition requires that I not give the details, but it involves Shift-Option-clicking and typing "grazing off a cliff," and it emits "Moof!" and "Foom!" sounds. (For the "Moof!" sound we took a real cow and then Zz said "fff" into a MacRecorder; the "Foom!" is just the same sound played backwards.) It took a while for anyone to find the Note using any technique, and I've never heard of anyone doing it except through ResEdit.

The Note stayed on the first few Developer CDs. The access technique changed from disc to disc, and not even I knew how to do it after the original "Phil and Dave." Somewhere along the line the Note was dropped from the CD altogether.

Other Dogcow Paraphernalia

Bootleg T-shirts started appearing. There was an apartment near Apple headquarters that started flying a dogcow flag. The stack version of the Note had a watermarked background that someone removed pixel by pixel before posting it to the Internet. Several developers were nearly thrown out of a movie theater at MacHack for "Moofing" before a movie.

In addition to the Tech Note there are three pins: green background, the most common; red background with Kanji (the word on the pin actually is pronounced "Moo-aann!" because Japanese dogs don't woof, they say something like "aann-aann"); and the super-rare red background with "Moof!", which are misprints of the Kanji batch. Also, there's a dogcow window sticker. All of these were given away in DTS labs, and all but the window sticker have been collected up a long time ago.

If you think of the dogcow fathers as being Zz Zimmerman, Mark Johnson, and me, there's only one dogcow shirt that received our supervision and approval: the black DTS sweatshirt with the small dogcow on the chest (designed by Toni Trujillo). I also designed the graphic for a DTS gift that was a shoulder bag with all incarnations of the dogcow on it (flipped, rotated, and inverted). Unfortunately the bag was incredibly cheap and most of them have self-destructed.

Chris Derossi and Mary Burke designed a dogcow mousepad and even went so far as to call Pepsi-Cola to get the exact color of Mountain Dew green for the background. They made 500 of these and I wrote an insert that went into the packaging. Aside from the original Tech Note, it's the only thing I've ever written about dogcattle - until these develop columns.

Dogcow Trivia

Somewhere along the line I baptized the dogcow "Clarus." Of course she's a female, as are all cows; males would be referred to as dogbulls, but none exist because there are already bulldogs, and God doesn't like to have naming problems.

Now things are much bigger than they were then - both in number of developers and number of Apple employees. The dogcow regularly appears on documents that are no longer connected to DTS, or in some cases (such as Scott Knaster's books) not even from Apple. In a sense, the dogcow has become mainstream; people are copying it - and that's exactly what I was fighting against in the first place (not to mention that she, and her "Moof!" cry, are bona fide trademarks of Apple Computer).

To put a stop to all this, I'm threatening to kill her off, but develop's editor has become such a fan that she's not sure she'll accept a "Dogcow is Dead" column. Stay tuned!

See Also