The Demystified story [in Jason's own words]

Back in 1993, Macromedia Director (version 3.0) had just finished nudging out SuperCard as the dominant development platform for the then-burgeoning CD-ROM industry. Expertise in Director and Lingo (its proprietary language) was in demand, and many people were eager to learn them. There was just one big hurdle: the documentation.

Although friendly and accurate, the official manuals just didn't go far enough beyond the basics of this powerful program. Yet suprisingly, no third-party books on the subject had been written (a single book on an earlier version of Director was briefly in print).

Actually, it wasn't all that surprising--most Director experts were too busy working to take the necessary time out to write a book, and most professional computer book writers were gravitating to more general-interest topics. I got singled out because I had one foot in both camps.

I was a principal in Panmedia, a multimedia studio then based in Manhattan (in the heart of what's now called "Silicon Alley"). But before setting up shop I'd been a freelance writer and had published two books, The Macintosh Hard Disk Companion (1992) and the forbiddingly-titled Understanding Hard Disk Management on the Macintosh (1989). So when I got a call from an editor at Addison-Wesley suggesting I tackle a Director book, I gave it serious consideration. I could definitely see the need, and I thought it was something I could crank out in about three months.

Funny how naive one person can be, isn't it?

I programmed an interactive proposal for the book--a mildly-flashy Director movie that fit on a floppy. This got me a few compliments...but the idea behind it was promptly rejected by higher-ups at Addison-Wesley.

So I filed it away and promptly forgot about it...until several months later, when I got a phone call from Ted Nace, the publisher of Peachpit Press. He'd gotten a copy of the proposal, and was intrigued. Peachpit eventually offered a contract to produce a 350-page book and CD-ROM, with a deadline of six months. I accepted.

Eight months later, the manuscript had swollen to well over twice that size, and the end was nowhere near in sight. I realized that to do justice to the subject we were going to have to go deeper. With Peachpit's blessing (and the forebearance of my business partners and employees), the deadline was extended. Mind you, the contract was not just to write the book: I had to design and lay out the pages and program the CD-ROM, delivering everything but the cover in final form.

Somehow it all managed to happen, eventually. In 1995 the 776-page first edition of Director Demystified was published to positive reviews and brisk sales from the start. Perhaps it's ironic that by then Peachpit Press had been acquired by Addison-Wesley, the company that originally passed on the proposal.

D5D & D6D: from project to cottage industry
The "three-month project" soon threatened to become a second full-time job. Development began almost immediately on a second Windows edition (the first was Macintosh only), eventually consolidated into a single cross-platform volume covering version 5 of Director. That edition was on the shelves less than four months before production began on the next edition. Although by now we had assigned Panmedia staff to work on the production of the pages and the disc, I still insisted on writing it myself.

By 1996 numerous books on Director began to crowd the bookshelves, but we were paid a solid complement when Macromedia proposed that our book become the "official" volume, published under the Macromedia Press imprimatur. The result: Director 6 Demystified, 1,000+ pages long with expanded coverage of Shockwave and new net-savvy Lingo. It's also been fun to see that book in various translations: to date, editions in Italian, Chinese, Spanish and German have been published. I'm told a Korean one is in the works.

D7D: the torch passes
Despite the success of Demystified, the latest edition almost didn't happen. In 1998 Panmedia had grown to the point that it demanded all of my time (we've now transformed into, Inc.), and it looked as though I'd have to pass on the opportunity of future updates. Fortunately, the fine folks at Peachpit Press introduced me to another Peachpit author: Phil Gross, who was then in the process of writing Director 7 and Lingo Authorized. We hit it off, and he did an admirable job of infusing fresh content and a fresh perspective into the project.

D8D: Phil continues the revisions
Besides keeping up with the changes that Macromedia has implemented in Director 8, this new version of Demystified continues making improvements in instructional design. What with the increased sophistication of computer users, much that was deemed necessary background in earlier versions is considered obvious by current standards. So we removed it and replaced it with more usefull information. We also got the Lingo Lexicon into a single alphabetized unit. In the early days, categorizing by function, property, etc., was useful. Now, with half of the function keywords being a property keyword also, it makes more sense to have a single, coherent Lexicon. For you that need a second version of the Lingo Dictionary, this is a great addition. I suggest, after reading the book, that you take it down to your local copy shop and have them cut off the spine, drill holes in it and put it in a three-ring binder. There's a lot of information in that Lexicon.



Director 8 Demystified is published by Macromedia Press,
in association with
Peachpit Press. a division of Addison Wesley Longman.
Site contents copyright (c) 1999-2000, Jason Roberts & Phil Gross