The AppleMasters program was launched in 1996 and I was fortunate to be asked to be one pretty much right at the start - many were US based but regional Apple groups (eg in Europe) nominated folk and curiously I got nominated from both Europe and America.

My chair as a professor of New Learning Environments had been sponsored by Apple from 1989 and my lab had produced a lot of cool stuff; the stacks that shipped in Europe and elsewhere with HyperCard II were ours, with all their clever multi-language support and so on. So Apple had already created a kind of "masters of apple technology" concept and we met together in workshops to explore how to use the "next great thing", and we got good use of loan stock at a time when computers cost about the same as a small family car!

The original full Masters idea was to find 52 people (one a week? I have no idea!) well known in their fields who were enthusiastic users of, and could do "pretty cool" things with, Apple technology. The idea was that Apple would help us and we would in turn help them to see what new things their technology might do. plus of course a bit of celebrity from some of the "star" names all helped the brand I guess. In the US they tied it into the Think Different campaign of course.


Here's a list from Wikipedia - the page gets edited a fair bit, I have no idea why, but this list is pretty accurate and in Europe the active ones were David Puttnam, Peter Cochrane, Douglas Adams, Damien Hirst, Richard Seymour and Dick Powell, and myself.We were in and out of Apple's bases in London and Paris a lot - I had a staff pass!. But others on the list made very specific contributions too: Chris Bonnington, Tracy Ullman, Bryan Adams, Richard Dawkins, Terry Gilliam... the European masters list was very short of women, but the workshops and activities were always well balanced, so not quite sure what was going on at the nomination end of all that!

Anyway, by way of illustration of the fun we had (and we had a LOT of fun), we were brought together into the Royal College of Art in 2000 to explore what could be done creatively with the new format for digital video - QuickTime. There were, I think, 12 of us - not all Masters - and each had a young school student allocated to them. We had two days together to film, edit and then present our little films. You have to remember that noone had been able to do anything like this before, so Apple watched with interest.

The sight of Ken Russell with his little 11 year old (he could frame a shot, of course, but she was the one who understood how to work the digital camera!) was unforgetable! Maybe Apple learned there and then to trust kids a bit more...

Anyway, our movie (I was working with little Annica from Ireland) was about how tough it was to be a mouse in the city - we were looking for good excuses to see lots of London - from the Tube to the Zoo because Annica had not been there before. We had advantages - sitting behind us was John Hurt, so when Annica asked if he could say "HALT" in a firm and police-like way, he gave her several versions! And then she turned to interview Hugh Lawrie who had just finished a (not yet released) film about a mouse (Stuart Little), he gave us a wonderful little interview which confirms just how smart and talented he is!

Anyway, here is our movie. Looking back it is hard to remember just how tricky edits, music tracks, voice and text were to combine into a single entity - and on a desktop computer too! Now of course every person and their kitten can do this with ease.

hugh lawrie being wonderful!

Apologies to the artists for the music tracks - in 1998 you could do this legally as a media project in an art college, so it was all legal and fine then, we were told.

The Show at the end was amazing because each of the Masters and stars were ensconced with their school student, each discussing avidly the merits (or otherwise!) of the "competition". A mass of celebs arrived for the party - Emma Bunton was there for most of the event and other Spice Girls arrived for the show n tell, as did many other folk. It was a lovely moment that showed just how creative and exciting these new technologies could be. Arghuably, we have lost some of that glamour now...


this page created by professor stephen heppell, august 2010
latest update / tweek, 5-apr-19