a different view from Alan Dix

what is MagiSoft

MagiSoft began at the HCI96 conference at Imperial College, London. I was giving a talk on risk and undo. The talk involved sawing my assistant's arm off, with the help of MagiSoft Wand versions 5 and 6 (which as any magician knows have slightly different magical properties). It was such a nice image that I also used it on my change of address cards. Of course, it was only those who came to my talk who knew why!

Since then it has been the place I put the occasional oddity and comment that doesn't really belong anywhere else.

I hope you find things here to inspire and intrigue you.


If you think about it, the world of computing is rather like the world of magic. You even get UNIX wizards! Some systems try to bring it all down to earth - desktop metaphors and virtual reality. But if you want reality, the real thing is infinitely better. What you get from computers is strange and unreal - you click on a link and you could end up anywhere. Not like the real world at all. In fact a bit magic.

Undo is certainly rather like that. We've all had times in life when we wish we could turn the clock back, just step back a moment and unsay what we've just said, or undo what we've just done. You can't do it in real life, but you can with computers. Now that's magic!

lies, damned lies and higher education

At the HCI'96 conference where MagiSoft was born, I also gave a tutorial on "Understanding Statistics" where I asked if anyone knew the origin of "lies , damn lies and statistics".

Many thanks to Cecilia Finnerty who looked it up in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations which says that it was said by Benjamin Disraeli but attributed to Mark Twain.

My Penguin Dictionary of Quotations doesn't have this in for either Benjamin Disraeli or Mark Twain, but does give their two contrasting viewpoints on higher education:

Benjamin Disraeli:
A University should be a place of light, of liberty, and of learning
Mark Twain:
Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education

things to read

"As the first rays of sunlight hit the shimmering waters there was strange rippling on the surface of the lake and then he saw, sitting on a small rock not far from the shore, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen."
A tale of sorrow and joy, magic and the harsh realities of a Welsh hill farm, a retelling of the legend of the Lady of Llyn-y-Fan and the origins of the Physicians of Myddfai

The net is changing, find out about PopuNET - the net, everywhere, everywhen for everyone
Design methods have to change as well, we need to understand the ecology of information

If computers are strange and magical, then quantum mechanics certainly is! Inspired by Schrödinger's cat I have devised an experiment in which Charm the Quantum Dog is locked in a room with cyanide yet survives.

Ever wondered why scrollbars are on the right-hand side? In fact, it is likely that the left-hand side is better, but in every interface siince the Xerox Star the scroll bar has been on the right. Why? I think people are worried about virtual hands across the screen.

play zone

watch the rain fall in Gheisra.

run two-horse races with virtual coins and more coin tossing experiments (needs Netscape 3 or higher).

try out the amazing dancing histograms (needs Java).

not to be confused with a software consulting firm in Southern California

magisoft spol. s r. o. a software company in Slovakia ... you know who Alan Dix 6/8/1998