The Annotated Script

    Book cover2

(The following annotated script is taken from the book, Tog on Software Design, which covers in depth many of the emerging technologies and ideas that the film only touches upon. For a description, reviews, or to order a copy, visit the Tog on Software Design page at To view the Starfire video, click Starfire.)

We set the Starfire story at a Fortune 100 automobile manufacturing company primarily because such companies are the bread and butter of Sun Microsystems, who underwrote the film. However, we took pains to make the story and the software design it drove as universal as possible. The tale involves Julie Moran, first-time product manager of a new sports car, in her battle against an older, more experienced, and generally slimy opponent, Mike O’Connor, as he attempts to knock her car off track so he can advance his own.

Much of the discipline of the project arose from our building extremely tight time deadlines into the story. Any user can do anything on a computer, given sufficient time. We wanted to make sure that our new designs would result in nimble, responsive software that would let people hit tight deadlines. We don’t all have a Michael O’Connor breathing down our necks, but we all could use responsive computers that would spend more time facilitating our work, instead of getting in the way.

The purpose of Starfire was not to predict where the world might be in 100 years, or 30 years, or even 20 years. It was to predict where it might be on November 16, 2004. As a result, we based it on technologies that we can either build today or that are well launched in laboratories around the world.

Cast of Characters

Adrian St. John

Adrian, a proper Englishman in his 50s, is chief engineer on a new sports car project, as well as mentor to the project lead, Julie Moran, below.

Julie Moran

Julie is heading up the sports car project. This is the first time she has been project lead on a car, and she is scared but, as it turns out, well prepared to overcome adversity.


Molly, though young, is talented enough to have become lead designer on the project. She has been involved in a relationship with FRED that has, for some time, been going nowhere.

A. J.

A. J. produces corporate videos and also provides raw shots for executives assembling their own presentations.


Natalie is Julie’s best friend and confidant.


Fred, Molly’s boyfriend, works in the construction industry. Last night, he and MOLLY had a fight. It seems he has had a wee bit of trouble making a commitment. Most unusual.


Bill is julie’s husband. He can do a fair imitation of HAL, the computer in 2001. He has a sense of humor, and is quite capable of being both a mature, almost father-figure to Julie and in the next moment become one of her kids.

Sam & Betsy

Julie’s kids.

MIKE O’Connor

The bad guy. He wants to knock Julie’s car off schedule so he can bring his car out first.

Reg, the CEO

Non-political, even-handed, fair, and impartial, Reg is a fictional character.


Annotated Starfire Script




• Cyberspace came into being in 1837, with the invention of the telegraph. Boys who became trained in Morse’s esoteric coding scheme could communicate with their peers hundreds of miles away. The pure abstraction of the keyed communication offered little sensation of a cyberspace experience, but the thing worked on electricity, and the boys were quite excited.


That all changed in 1876, with Bell’s invention of the telephone. Regular people were suddenly able to directly sense other people in and through Cyberspace using their ears. By the early 1960s, video conferencing was born and, although limited to business people with deep pockets, it began a new era of even greater sensory connection.


Finally came the Internet, a throwback to all the emotional connection of the telegraph, using ASCII code, instead of Morse.


Even today, so-called electronic chats consist of nothing more than two or more people typing at each other. The paucity of the link was exposed a few years ago when someone studied the evening romantic encounters taking place over the French Minitel teletext system. It appears that close to 50% of the participants were claiming to be of a gender other than their own. Only telegraphy could sustain such an illusion without any effort on the part of the perpetrators.


If Cyberspace is to truly tie people together, it must have certain properties:


• People must be able to communicate visually, vocally, and verbally.

• People must be able to connect emotionally, as well as intellectually.

• People must collaborate–work in concert–not just communicate.



A jet sequence showing jet against the sunset sky.

Pilot (voice-over.)

Good afternoon, and I would like to thank you for flying Air Ukrania’s Flight 554, providing service from Kiev to London...



ADRIAN ST. JOHN bursts from the jetway. Clearly in a hurry. Strides through the Stanstead concourse, passing beneath a banner that reads "Welcome to London, InterCHI '04!." He continues walking.

P. A. System (VOICE-OVER.)

Princess Di has been re-appointed to the House of Lords. For additional information, please pick up a copy of the Evening Sun from the newsstand or your personal Information Space.

Your personal desktop is just a few steps away at a Sun Video Collaboration Booth.

For the high-speed train to Paris, please proceed to Terminal D.

Interior. AIRPORT TERMINAL baggage area - DAY

Adrian approaches an electronic sign suggesting, "Your office is just around the corner." He pauses to read the sign, glances at his watch, then veers off in search of the SunBooth.

He pauses to read the sign, glances at his watch, then veers off in search of the SunBooth.


• When Adrian enters the SunBooth and holds his watch (chronometer, memory, and authentication device) close to a reader, that booth becomes his office. His workspace is just as he left it. When he looks at the screen, he sees a picture of Julie, his co-worker, representing his direct connection to her no matter where she might be (if she wants to be found).


He need only touch her picture to place a collaboration call half-way around the world. When she answers, they will see each other, hear each other, and will be able to touch any and all documents they want to share. With an advanced sensitive surface (see Sensitive Surface Displays ***[in The Shape of Tomorrow’s Computers chapter], they might even be able to actually touch and feel each other’s hands as they work.


Cyberspace must have one other property if it is to fulfill its real promise:


• Cyberspace must be continuous: it must be with you everywhere and at all times.


Adrian can access his cyberspace wherever he is through a variety of means. On the airplane, he can jack into the seat back in front of him. In his car, his watch authorizes his connection, via radio. Even on a desert island, his solar-powered laptop or pocket computer/phone can connect him to the world via low-orbit satellites. Adrian has chosen the SunBooth over of his pocket computer only because of its large screen and greater communication facility.




The visual centerpiece is Julie’s workstation, where Julie is seated. It is an extended surface, curved in 3 dimensions. Adrian's corporate PR photo occupies the first viewport. In Molly’s and NATALIE's viewports, we SEE them at work from behind.

On the left side we see:

1) What appears to be a picture of Julie’s husband and kids. This is actually a private viewport to her family.

2) Julie’s calendar and a notepad, where friends and co-workers can leave her notes.

3) Her mailbox. As the day progresses, we SEE the contents change as she reads what’s there and new letters arrive.

In the center is her information space, represented as a highly-detailed 3D image. If she wants information on medicine, she can visit the hospital, if she wants to research religious history, she can drop by the church. The local car dealership is her entranceway into a vast database on cars.

in the viewport area on the right side, we SEE:

1) A Geochron clock, showing world time, displayed as a map.

2) A "photo" of ADRIAN with a brightly-lit garden scene outside his window London office window.

3) NATALIE, soon replaced by a sign in her viewport saying, "Away from my desk."

4) MOLLY working in her office.

Before Julie are two documents: a report she will be working with throughout the film, and the dreaded memo from Mike O’Connor which turned this from a peaceful day into a nightmare.


• It is not by accident that Julie has a hardwood floor and shelves filled with books. This film is only ten years in the future. We will not be living in Plexiglas pods and heating our houses with the contents of our public libraries, or at least not all the contents.


You probably noticed immediately that her computer was kind of large. I chose to make her computer so large to get the attention of the many who think that screens will only grow smaller. As discussed in The Shape of Tomorrow’s Computers chapter, they will grow in both directions.


Starfire envisions a world where people can assemble all sorts of objects for their computers, with all fitting nicely together. When the Chiat/Day employees lost their private offices, they also lost their bulletin board for family photos and that little shelf that held their teddy bear or trophy. Personal items in the future will exist in cyberspace, so they are with you wherever you go.


People will want to display memorabilia. They will also want to add personal touches to their cyberspace environment. For example, Natalie was able to go out to her favorite card store and pick up a packet of electronic Jetsons cards that show up in her viewport when she is out or busy. She could have as easily picked up Snoopy cards, or pretty scenes of New England.


We hear Julie’s "phone" begin to ring. Julie says, "Close information space." Then WE SEE Julie flick her hand and a memo from Mike O’Connor smoothly slides up the vertical wall of the workspace and sticks.


• Most of the clutter of our screens and much of the complexity of our designs are there because the communication from users to their machines is so limited. In Starfire, we made use of a wide range of input techniques, so that we could get rid of the galloping clutter of today’s displays. One techniques was gesture. For example, when we first enter Julie’s office, we see her slide a memo up to the top of her display. She accomplishes this by splaying her fingertips across the document and sweeping upwards. The computer recognizes the configuration and direction of the movement and sends the document on its way.


(We made an error in the filming by directing the actress to sweep her hand too far up the screen. An artifact of the special effects process ended up causing the document to appear to flutter in response, as though her hand were a magnet. Although some research in interpreting exactly these kinds of "free-floating" gestures is underway, we do not expect fruition by 2004. Julie "threw" the document with enough intensity that it would travel to the top on its own. )




Julie’s eyes follow the viewport as it moves toward center screen.



Good morning, Julie. I’ve been trying to reach you. How are things in Detroit?


• Today’s postage-stamp images can create the strong impression that someone in the next office is actually on the moon. Adrian’s picture is not some tiny black and white image being updated 5 or 10 times a second. It is a full motion, full color, life-size, high resolution image. It helps fuel the illusion that he is there in the office with Julie, not half a world away. Is all this bandwidth necessary for them just to communicate? Probably not, but it is vital for building and maintaining the emotional bonds necessary for effective teamwork.



Oh, Adrian, we’ve got trouble.


Oh? What’s wrong?


O’Connor. He sent a memo to the Executive Committee saying that our car is going to be late, so his should ship first...


Getting a bit anxious for his bonus, I see.


...and Reg called a special meeting this afternoon!


What?! I thought he was in L.A.


He is. So you’ll get to whisper in his ear why you’ve slipped the our production schedule three weeks.


More than a few people have found this line confusing. Adrian is in London; Reg is in Los Angeles. So why does Julie say that Adrian will, "get to whisper in his ear why you’ve slipped the our production schedule three weeks"? Because Julie knows they will be seated next to each other in Cyberspace during the big meeting that will follow. Because of the design of the conference system, they can lean toward each other’s images and whisper, just as they could if they were in physical proximity.



Look, Julie. I didn't slip anything... Kiev had to enlarge the fuel cell.


I'm sorry. I'm just so...


And anyway, the production problem is solved!



Julie sneezes.


Bless you!


No, bless you, Adrian. That’s great news!


I’ve pasted in the solution on...


Well, that’s the way it appears in the final film. Originally, before time and budget constraints kicked in, it went like this:



And anyway, the production problem is solved!

I’ve just flown back from the plant in Kiev. We conferenced with Lansing...

Montage - car design and manufacturing showing Adrian working with the underbody team at the Kiev plant.

The image of the Kiev Team is diagonally wiped with the image of the suspension team at the Lansing plant.


(continuing voice over)

...and worked out a solution.




We linked the new Lansing power system model to the Kiev frame model in a simulation. We found a way to slide it right into place with no change to the frame! We’re ready to set up for production tomorrow!

I’ve pasted in the solution on...


• The scene, echoing the factory floor scenario presented earlier, illustrates how intimate and cooperative ties between software products can facilitate equally intimate and cooperative ties between people as their work on their projects. Two teams on different continents were able to link their factory-floor equipment together and carry out a simulation; Adrian was able to capture it with his pocket computer while in Kiev, then, while on board the airplane over Europe, transfer it to Julie’s document in Detroit, all without having to reenter data or write custom code. Such integration is at the heart of the Starfire philosophy and will be vital in fulfilling the promise of the coming computer revolution.


• And now, back to the film:


We HEAR PAGES TURNING on Adrian’s and Julie’s desks.


• We HEAR a lot of things in Starfire. If we had SEEN everything we HEAR, we’d still be working on the film.




I’ve pasted in the solution on page 26 of your report...but, you know, now that I come to look at it, you may want it over here instead.

Adrian’s fingerprint APPEARS on Julie’s screen as he slides the chart onto opposite page. We SEE construction lines guide him to an alternate position.


• Most collaboration systems offer you some symbolic feedback, such as an arrow, to show where your partner or partners are working or pointing. We wanted to make the feedback more direct. Displaying Adrian’s fingertip where it touches their screens carries an emotional connection that even the most finely-formed arrow cannot. We had originally intended that the fingerprint would be a reproduction of the user’s (something within the proposed capability of the workspace surface to capture). We changed our minds after someone pointed out that routinely transmitting high-definition reproductions of people’s fingerprints just might be a sight security risk, so the fingerprint whorls are to be simulated, but the actually contact area from moment to moment is to be faithfully transmitted.



Good. I’ll tear off a new control panel.

Even as Adrian finishes the drag, Julie touches the control panel beside a simulation on the opposite page and drags a copy of the panel out.


• Julie doesn’t make a copy by clicking on the old control panel object, then selecting "copy" from a menu, then "paste" to make a duplicate, followed by her dragging the new copy into place. She places her thumb and forefinger on the original and then slides her forefinger away. Had she used only her forefinger, the computer would have known to simply move the existing control panel. The thumb as anchor said, "hold it where it is and also move it away." The only way the computer could logically comply was to make a copy. This kind of gesturing is fast, efficient, and all the screen clutter devoted to making copies goes away.


Adrian’s fingerprint appears on the edge of the new control panel, and he swiftly moves it down the page, touches the new simulation with it, and pulls it away. Wire tags, momentarily glow red, showing the connection between the panel and the simulation. Then they fade away. WE SEE Adrian’s finger press on the play button and the simulation runs.


• The screen layout agent that "lives" in their computers and offers them aesthetic guidance as they move elements around their documents we adopted from Vellum, the wonderfully inventive CAD system from Ashlar. Such agents ease the job of masters, help educate apprentices, and save the rest of us from having to become masterful at all. I have tested Vellum and have found that 8 year old children, with no training, using Vellum can outperform professionals who have used the leading CAD system for years.


ADRIAN (off-screen.)

You see, Austin can drop the new fuel cell right into place.


This is wonderful, Adrian!

Julie's eyes flick slightly to the left, where AJ's viewport appears on her screen.


Here’s AJ!

We HEAR Adrian's viewport SWOOSH to the left as Julie's eyes follow.



I got the poor guy up at the crack of dawn.

An image of AJ has appeared on the left side of Julie’s screen. He’s looking around as though he can’t see her. Julie touches AJ’s image, and suddenly he sees.




Hi, AJ.

Then she connects the two images by sweeping her hand between them, creating a conference.



• The 3D "keystone" view helps make it look to Julie like the other two participants really can see each other, providing feedback that the conference connection was made.



Oh, hi, Julie. Adrian.


Hi, AJ. Do you have our new retro roadster.


Sure do, and it's running smooth as silk.

Julie sneezes again.




Bless you. O. K. I’ll let you two go. And Julie, take care of that cold.




See you.

Julie watches Adrian’s image SLIDE OFF SCREEN RIGHT. AJ’s image is enlarged as it slides to the center of her workspace, where Julie returns her gaze.


Here's the uphill shot for the chart.

We SEE the "Chart Clip," appear over AJ’s image.


Hmmm...the car's a bit far away.

The clip continues to emerge, REVEALING the shape of the hillside.



But I can take care of that with an Auto-Pan. That should work.


• People somehow feel the role of software design is to simplify computers to such a degree that anyone will be able to use them without learning anything. This is not realistic. The best software design can do is to enable the user to concentrate on learning the task, instead of the tool. Julie does desktop video just as comfortably as we do word processing today. We know all about fonts and formatting; she knows about Auto-Panning. (You will too, later on in the film.)




Now I’ll need an ending shot... Maybe we could... Ah, will you link the camera to me?



His hand reaches out to touch his screen.

Julie snatches up her electronic SunPad. She stands, and holds the SunPad out in front of her face...

She looks at the SunPad display, which now has the camera controls slaved to it. It's as if the SunPad were a large camera viewfinder. She presses the button which turns on the pad, then zooms out using the zoom buttons as she begins to move the pad (and boom).


• Everything connects to everything. Julie doesn’t have to close her eyes, dream up a possible shot, then try to talk the solution through a phone line. Instead, she can actually take control of AJ’s camera rig out in San Francisco, using the same familiar tool, her SunPad, that she uses many times a day for a wide variety of activities.



Let’s have the car...

Julie moves the SunPad downward until the camera is centered just above the roof of the car and appears around 10 feet in front.


...sweep into view...

The boom camera swoops down to the wheels.


(continuing OFF-SCREEN.)

...and as it comes to a rest... push in on the wheel....

The camera moves in toward the hubcap. Finished with her task, Julie releases the SunPad activation button and returns to her desk.


Can do!


Bye, AJ.

After AJ's image fades away, Julie looks down at the report on her workspace as we TILT/PAN TO VIEWPORT, showing a viewport into MOLLY’S office, just below NATALIE’s "At Lunch" sign. A gentleman from McNealy Floral is just delivering a dozen red roses.

JULIE (to herself)

Humm. Molly got flowers?

Molly, after assuming they must be for someone else, accepts them.



It's about 2:30 PM in Detroit as Julie enters carrying a sandwich on a plate and a cold drink. She reaches her workstation, and in the viewport area, we SEE:

1) The Geochron clock, with the sunlight now having moved Westward.

2) The same "photo" of Adrian as in the beginning, but now the garden is not so bright: it is twilight in London and Adrian’s office computer has corrected the electronic photo to match the outside conditions.

3) Natalie, as she first touches her screen to get a close-up view of Julie, then grabs a newspaper and strides out of her office.

4) Molly, her office now nearly overflowing with flowers as two more flower deliveries are made.

JULIE (to herself)

Look at all those flowers! Can’t be Fred.


• If all this peering into Molly’s office is making you just a little uncomfortable, we want you to be. Privacy will be a major issue in the next few years. We need to start facing it, talking about it, now.


As the scene in the viewport catches Julie’s eye, Natalie bursts into her office, and starts speaking immediately.


Honey, have you seen McCormick’s column?

She thrusts the latest edition of the afternoon news at Julie. Julie takes the paper, and reads to herself as Natalie sits down.


This is great! Let me scan it.

She lays the paper on the workspace and quickly rubs the area of interest. When she lifts the newspaper away, we SEE just McCormick’s column, perfectly justified and properly reversed on her workspace.


• In the United States, we have an intellectual property law called the Fair Use Doctrine. Julie’s extracting a brief quote from McCormick’s column is likely legal under that doctrine. (You never really know until the trial is over.) When we showed Starfire in Australia, however, the lawyers in the audience almost had a coronary.


In the absence of a Fair Use Doctrine, this scene could still work: instead of the computer actually taking in the contents of the document, it could be scanning it for keywords, then going out on the network to find a match. Since the paper has its name and date just above McCormick’s column, making a match would be simple. The electronic version, bought and paid for, could then pop up in place on her workspace, just as we see in the film.


She turns to her report, FLICKS A FEW PAGES to the PR section, which contains the 3D car image with call-outs and indicates an insertion point with the stylus...


(to Computer)

Open report. Insert. "As Mike McCormick wrote in his column today..." End insert.

Her hand slides across the workspace as she drags the quote, "The finest PR campaign I’ve seen come out of this town in a long time," out of the clipping and into her report.


• Julie’s speech recognizer is aware of context. The system knows whether you are on the phone or have a visitor in your office. If so, it will not attempt speech recognition unless it detects specific command words, surrounded by pauses, command words such as, "Open," and "Insert." In this instance, when the computer detected, "Open report," it opened up the report that has been taking up all of Julie’s time today–another example of context awareness. When she touched a point on the report and said, "Insert," it knew to accept dictation and place her words at her chosen insertion point. When she then dragged the quote into place, it knew to surround it with quotation marks and to footnote the source. These are the kinds of tasks that agents will soon be able to accomplish, freeing us from much of the drudgery we face today.


Julie leans back to look Natalie in the eye.


You know, I’m still struggling with this 3D model.


What’s the problem?


It just looks


It looks like an engineer did it!


Well, Darlin’, let’s dress it up a little! Move it up where we can work on it. I came across an old TV ad in the corporate library...Where is he? There he is!

Both women look down. Julie flicks the 3D sports car model to her vertical display area, while the car commercial clip opens just to its right.


Hide callouts. Vellum: Mannequin.

A female mannequin has appeared appears next to the sports car in the 3D model. Julie and Natalie glance at one another, exclaiming in unison...



The mannequin becomes male.


• In this scene, the two women select the moving image of a man out of an old TV ad and "pour" it over a pre-assembled 3D mannequin, ending up with a fully-articulated man they can move into place. It is again based on integration: Two different commercial applications (called "tool sets" in the Starfire world), from different vendors, work together with the system to enable the women to carry out tasks that today would be extremely difficult for even professionals to accomplish.







Texture map.

Vellum types: "Source?"


Adobe: Wand.

Julie selects the male model from the old TV ad.


• When you see the film, you will immediately notice a difference in the selection process. The selection is made not by color and shape on a still image, but by jogging the film back and forth, so that the computer can find the moving object against its background.


The way of representing the selection is different, too. The familiar "crawling ants" surround the selected object, but the man is also full-color, while the background has turned into shades of gray. The color-against-monochrome representation is for Julie; the crawling ants are for the film’s audience. When I tested the original animation, lacking the crawling ants, people didn’t connect the color change with selection. Once they knew, they loved it, but I still had to add the ants for the film.




Man is "poured" onto model.


O. K. Let me move him over...Ahhh, there.

Julie moves model into position.


Link me to the model, will you?

Julie hands Natalie the SunPad.


I want to nudge the viewpoint just a little...

Natalie presses the button, and begins to move the SunPad around. Julie stares intently at the same image on her screen as we SEE the "camera" move around the car to a new angle.


• This is the same SunPad that Julie used earlier to move AJ’s camera rig out in San Francisco. Now Natalie is using it to move a virtual camera in cyberspace. Same tool, same activity, just an alternate reality.



That's perfect!




• If you’ve seen the film already, you know that here (in the interest of making a film shorter than Heavens Gate), we ended the scene. Its too bad, because what Julie and Natalie did next would have been pretty interesting...


Material from the original script not used in the film:



Now do you think you could...

She reaches out to flip a few pages of her report.


(continuing) me with this sales projection?


Sure, what’s the trouble?


O’Connor. He’s poisoned the waters so much that Reg might not believe our numbers for the Spring sales.


Well, someone else must have had strong spring sales before.


Of course!


(to computer)

Show me...information space.

The upper part of the workspace turns into a miniature city scene.


• The simple shot of the information space that made it into the final film (seen on Julie’s workspace when we first enter her room, and later shown full-screen in "The Making of Starfire" piece) is actually the small city of Maduradam, The Netherlands. And I do mean small: the tallest high-rise is less than six feet in height. The city is spread over five acres, with "streets" wide enough that people can wander about at will. It is complete in every detail, right down to the freighter in the harbor that periodically develops a small fire on the deck, requiring a miniature fireboat to pull along side and put it out.


We will be able to "build" cities of Maduradam’s complexity in cyberspace in 10 years. They will be strong candidates for a way of organizing large bastions of information, such as the United States Library of Congress. We will also have developed more abstract arrangements that may make older people feel less comfortable, but could result in faster, more efficient retrieval for those motivated to learn.




Give me Showroom...sports cars.


Great buildings!

The camera begins to swooping down into the city...


(to Natalie)

Yeah, Bill gave them to me. I always hated the cyberspace look. It’s been done.


• Julie was able to choose her own information space appearance. Offering workers this kind of power goes a long way toward making people feel comfortable with their environment, without causing problems for the people who must maintain the system.


...flashing through the doorway into the ultramodern showroom, where images of 90s sports car APPEAR.




Show top five.

The number of images is reduced to five.


Chart by initial sales.

A chart APPEARS in USA Today style, with "hydraulic lifts" used to represent the histogram bars. The chart is titled "Sports Car Sales – First Six Months."


Aha! The Intruder!

Julie reaches for her mouse and clicks on the Intruder logo, adding its data as a second line on her Starfire sales chart. .


The idea of her adding a second line on her chart eventually ended up incorporated into the boardroom scene at the end of the film, in a much more dramatic fashion.


And now back to the film....



It's now about 3:30 PM in Detroit. In the intervening period, Julie has eaten most of the sandwich.

In her viewport array we SEE:

1) The Geochron, showing it is now nighttime in England.

2) The same image of Adrian, now set against the background of his living room to show he is at home.

3) Natalie’s "Away from my desk" sign.

4) Molly arguing with FRED.

JULIE (to herself)

It is Fred! I wonder...

As Molly continues to argue, Fred, looking somewhat abashed, reaches into his jacket pocket, extracting a ring box. He opens the box, revealing a diamond engagement ring.

JULIE (to herself)

Oh, wow! He finally proposed!

As Molly smiles, a tear runs down her cheek and she embraces Fred. As they wheel around, she suddenly realizes that the camera outside her door is transmitting their tender moment to all the members of her extended work group. She reaches for the door and closes it. At first we SEE the backside of her door. Then, the door is replaced by a sign announcing, "In a Meeting."


• We wanted to raise the privacy issue forcefully in this film. Our error was in adding too much sugar coating. Many viewers have assumed we did not take privacy seriously. We do.


The "In a Meeting" sign was triggered by a multi-button switch on the wall beside Molly’s door. She could have chosen "Out to Lunch" or some other notice. She did not have to return to her desk, boot her computer, start a special application, then plug in her modem. Molly’s cyberspace is always up and running, distributed not only around the world, but around the interior of her office.


Julie lifts up the remnants of the sandwich to put it aside so she can use her mouse. We SEE a perfect reproduction of the remnant where it lay. She brushes the reproduction away, like crumbs.


• Who would believe Starfire was a real computer if didn’t have at least one bug? And anyway, we’re going to fix the bug in the next release.


Then, grabbing her mouse, she moves toward the Chart Clip AJ gave her earlier ....


Auto-Pan target...


• Ah, the legendary Auto-Pan mentioned in the first act. Here’s the theory: Julie is going to end up creating a object consisting of her sales chart superimposed on the film clip AJ sent her earlier of the car going up the hill. When the car first starts up the hill, there will be no sales line on the chart. Instead, the car will progressively reveal the sales line as it climbs the hill.


Julie first points out the car as the object she will want the computer to use by selecting the car, then saying, "Auto-Pan target."


A. J. shot the car going up the hill in high resolution using a wide-angle, unmoving depth camera that not only records a visual image, but also records a model of the scene in true 3D. Once Julie has called out the target for the autopan, the computer blows up AJ’s clip to poster-size, much larger than the window that will look onto it. The car now appears much larger, and the computer can pan and scan around the poster to place the car anywhere it wants in the window without hitting any edges.


At the end of this scene, she will ask the computer to combine the chart and film, then synchronize the chart line and the car, finally tying the line of the sales chart to the rear end of the moving car.


Some might think this process impossible. They are wrong. I know, because I followed it in creating the animation in the film. The final animation, which Julie shows in the boardroom, took me just over 150 hours to produce and lasts just over three and a half seconds on screen. That’s what I meant earlier about anybody being able to do anything on a computer given enough time. The next generation of software must reverse today’s trend toward slower and slower response. Julie doesn’t have 150 hours; she doesn’t have 150 seconds. With good design, she should need hardly any time at all.


Julie sneezes once again, but this time, her computer apparently responds in a HAL-like (from 2001) voice.


Bless you, Julie. It’s 3:30. Have you taken your cold medicine?


Cut it out.


I’m sorry Julie, I can’t do that.

Julie turns to address the family photo and, through it, her husband, the source of the mysterious HAL voice.


• This was our little way of poking fun at some other video prototypes that have featured anthropomorphic agents that were so perfect that you would have sworn they were some actor dressed up in funny clothes, on account of they were some actor dressed up in funny clothes. Agents are currently as dumb as posts and likely to remain so for a long, long time.



The family photo sparkles into a real image of Julie’s husband, Bill with their kids. They are calling from a retro-style soda fountain.


• What appeared to be a simple family photo actually turns out to be a specialized viewport that connects Julie with her husband or kids wherever they are. I took my inspiration from the old "George Burns and Gracie Allen Show." George had a TV set in his den that would show him Gracie, no matter where she was and no matter what she was up to. I always liked the idea.






Oh, I’m sorry, Hon. Betsy put me up to it.


What? No way, Mom. It was Sam!


It was not!


• The actors are my kids. Very talented. They actually make you believe they like burgers, shakes and fries.



(talking over kids)

Oh, listen, Hon, The bank just sent these papers. The loan was approved, but they need your signature on the Truth in Lending form...right there.


• Most of us have gone through a scene like, this, except when we did it, we had to take a couple hours off work and rendezvous at the bank or title company. Electronic signatures and employers’ willingness to allow us to overlap our personal and professional lives will result in everybody coming out a winner.


Julie leafs through the papers, then applies her digital signature.


There you go.


Thank you. Bye, bye


Bye, Mom.

As Betsy leans into the camera, Sam shoves her away, causing her to retaliate by throwing French fries at him.


• Did you see the way she hurled that fry? That girl’s got an arm on her....




Oh, hey, guys, calm down now, all right?...

For a second, Julie gazes toward the photo. Then she turns her attention back to the sales chart.


Combine chart and film. Sync... and... Posterize.

The chart posterizes.


(starting hesitantly)

Mmm, ah, we conclusion, we are poised to offer...

A message shows up on her display, stating: VERBAL COMMAND NOT RECOGNIZED. It fades. We ZOOM IN to the chart.


Julie’s speech-recognizer knows Julie is alone. It therefore attempts to recognize her speech. In this case, there is no open text field to which she is dictating, so it scans for known command words. When it fails to come up with a match, it lets her know by placing a message right where she is looking on the screen.


Because of eye-tracking, the computer can place the message right in her field of view, eliminating the need for warning bells or sirens. The computer, knowing she is looking, doesn’t have to require her to acknowledge receipt by pressing an OK button. It simply displays the message and removes it. (In real life, the message would be a good deal smaller; we had to ensure that the film viewers could see it, too.)



the, high-performance sports car in history. The last hydr...The last hydrogen, the...plant...


• Judith Borne, who played the part of "Julie," had her mother visiting her during part of the shoot. Mom listened to Judith rehearsing this scene for a couple of hours one evening, silently becoming more horrified as Judith continued to apparently stumble. She finally took her aside and said, "you know, Sweetheart, you’re really going to have to learn these lines better." Judith has spent years working on The Bold and Beautiful, All My Children, Kate and Allie, and numerous other shows, learning gobs of new lines every day; she memorizes real good.


Interior. BOARD ROOM - DAY

With the chart filling the screen, we PULL BACK AND ZOOM OUT

REVEALING the new location. Julie is standing in front of a projector screen, wielding a laser pointer. She is giving her presentation to the EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE.


...the last solar-powered fuel plant went on-stream this week, the delivery infrastructure is in place, and, as our Austin/Kiev simulation shows...

Near the back of the conference table, a man, who turns out to be O’CONNOR, is scribbling on the top page of a thick sheaf of paper.

At the back of the table is a tinted transparent plastic screen, with the images of Adrian, REG the CEO, and the VP OF PRODUCTION in South Korea.


• Adrian, as Julie predicted, is now sitting next to Reg, and is quite able to whisper in his ear. He only need lean toward the image of Reg, as it appears on his screen in his home office to ensure that no one else can hear what he is saying.




...we have passed our last production hurdle. Our first cars hit the showrooms March 26...

As the push ends, Julie clicks her pointer and the sports car takes off, tearing up the hillside.


• This is my 150 hour animation effort. (Sigh.)



...and we project shipment of more than 5000 cars per month by the end of spring.

We SEE O’Connor listening to the sales figures. He smiles and makes a note of it.


(continuing OFF-SCREEN.)

Our numbers suggest that total domestic sales volume for the first full model year will exceed 80,000 automobiles.

Julie shows AJ’ second clip of the sports car rolling gently toward the CAMERA...


• This is the clip AJ shot after Julie had shown him what she wanted during the SunPad scene back in her office.



In short, we are ready to build a car that will make this company a lot of money...

...where it slides to a stop.



The CEO turns to O’Connor. In the foreground, one of the physical attendees slides on a pair of VR "shutter glasses," and scopes out the car.


• Real, immersive virtual reality is going to be a big thing, no doubt, but there will still be lots of situations where immersion will be just plain inappropriate. A boardroom meeting will be one of them. The attendee using the sunglasses is using what some call second-person VR. The virtual reality lies in the hand-held screen, not in a pair of wrap-around goggles. The shutter glasses let the hand-held pad know where the user’s eyes are and act like the old 3D movie glasses, directing the correct image to the correct eye. As the virtual attendee moves the screen around, he is able to look around the sides of the 3D image. The SunPad is also a second-person VR device, albeit not projecting a 3D image.


From the original script:



Hiroshi, how do Julie’s numbers jibe with yours?


They’re using our old model.

(to Julie)

Didn’t Molly update you this afternoon?


I’m afraid Molly’s been...mmm... otherwise engaged. But if you have the new numbers I’ll drop them in.

Hiroshi pops up the display on his notebook and "pinches" his workspace, shrinking it by 20% to REVEAL an abstract map of the room with an icon for each system in it.

He then slides the icon representing the new data onto Julie’s computer. Meanwhile, Julie, who has just reached her portable, watches the document icon pixilate onto her workspace, then slides it onto the chart, which automatically redraws itself. It’s slope becomes even steeper. Julie moves back to the front of the room.


• Today, materials presented at meetings, and therefore meetings themselves, have become static. We wanted to explore software designs that would result in a flexible system that could increase the immediacy of a meeting.




Even better.


And now back to the film....



What do you say now, Mike?

O’Connor stands, slapping the Auto Week copy against his thigh.


Very impressive presentation, Julie. However, I have to seriously question these sales figures, Reg.

The wall display FADES TO GRAY as O'Connor strides to the front of the room. Julie steps away from him.


• Jonathan Fuller, who plays Mike O’Connor, first came in to try out for the part of Bill, Julie’s husband. After the formal part of his reading, he started flashing from one character to the next while talking with us. He was an angry guy from Brooklyn, then a slow-talking cowboy from Santa Fe, then a close, personal friend of Hamlet. He was so good, we had him read the part of O’Connor on the spot, even though we’d always seen our original O’Connor, "Francis," as being a older, overweight, overbearing used-car salesman type. That night, I flew home and re-wrote the part.


O’Connor holds up the Auto Week headline:





Just look at the DX9 launch in April of ‘99. It was an unmitigated disaster! And why?

(beat; continues triumphantly)

Because you cannot launch a sports car in spring!


Julie is stricken. She returns to her place at the corner of the conference table.

O'Connor glances at Julie, as if lecturing her, as she begins typing on her portable.


• Actually, she is "chording." Her keyboard has only eight keys, but by pressing two or more in combination, she can generate all characters. Chording keyboards have never gained much favor. It’s likely that in 2004, Julie will still be using a familiar QWERTY keyboard, but Alison Armstrong’s design was so light and airy, it seemed criminal to weigh it down with 90+ keys.




All you have to do is look at the percentage of exotic cars that end up in California.

O’CONNOR looks toward Julie.


We’ve all seen the figures. Californians buy 85 percent of the exotic cars in this country!

REG (the CEO)

What’s that got to do with...

No, Reg, just a minute. Let me run with this.

Julie types in the following query:


? Show Auto Week DX9 sales 99 spring


Meanwhile, O'Connor is continuing in the background.


Now, by the time their marketing ramps up, it’ll be fall. And that's a best case scenario! It rains in California in the fall, and when it rains, you can’t sell sports cars!

The relevant article APPEARS on Julie's screen. The most important areas have been highlighted.

• This highlighting is not magic. To read how it might be done, see the section, "Organizers" on page ***[in chapter, "Information"].

We then SEE the following sequence of messages on Julie’s screen:


• This is the original sequence, as seen in the Making of Starfire. For the film, we had to shorten it; I didn’t have O’Connor speak long enough.


"Searching Further..."

Follow-up Found! (Later issue of Auto Week appears)

Finding key reference


• Agent has found highlighted reference in follow-up article and is looking for the original.


Linking to Chicago


• Agent has left the company and gone onto the Internet (or its successor.)


Linking to Los Angeles


L. A. Chronicle News Service


• Agent has tracked down the original article and is agreeing to pay for it.


Reference Found!


• Agent has recovered the headline that will enable Julie to defeat O’Connor



(continuing OFF-SCREEN.)

My luxury car, on the other hand, is a year-round car, and we are ready to start production and promotion.

A column of icons materializes on the projection screen behind O’Connor as he speaks.


• Julie is now finalizing her presentation. Total elapsed time? Less than 40 seconds in the film. In real life? Maybe a slight bit longer, but that time would not be spent waiting for the documents to arrive, which would be almost instantaneous. (I only stretched it out so film viewers could watch the sequence.) Julie would just need a certain amount of time to understand what her agents have found for her and prepare her plan of attack.


Today, people can, given sufficient time, prepare beautiful presentations, but once those presentation are finished, so are the speakers. Any questions and answers instantly revert to palaver and gesticulation.


In Japan, business is not conducted at meetings. Instead, people make formal presentations and new proposals. Then everyone goes off to think about it. American meetings have been more productive, because people actually thrash things out. Color slides and MultiMedia have to date been adding to a meeting’s formality and inflexibility, often lowering productivity.


The ability to continue one’s research and present relevant documents in real time during a meeting represents a real departure from this trend. Coupled with the ability of anyone at the table to throw up their own graphics on the big board, it will result in a lot less standing at the projection board reciting, and a lot more rough and tumble give and take, restoring real fire and interaction, while at the same time cutting down on false claims and wild speculation.



I want to launch now! We can bring out Julie’s car in the Fall when she’s had time to reassess...

Julie bursts out of her seat, strides up to the front of the room.


(to CEO)

Reg! May I interrupt?!

(to O’Connor)

First, our PR is in full swing, all over the world.

She slaps the first icon, and the photo of the magazines appears.


Mike McCormick, who is not exactly loose with the compliments, just today...

She slaps the second icon, showing the Detroit newspaper quote: "The finest PR campaign I’ve seen come out of this town in a long time."


• This is the quote she scanned in earlier from the newspaper Natalie brought her.



" called it one of the finest PR campaigns to come out of this town in a long time."

As for the DX9 launch: it was hurt, not by season, but by...

Slapping the third icon, she splashes this headline from the LA Times onto the screen, and right across O’Connor’s forehead:



• Remember: she didn’t even know about this car’s connection with the California earthquake 1 minute ago. In a business situation today, O’Connor would have won this round, and everyone would have had to assemble for another $10,000 meeting after Julie had discovered the truth.



Earthquake. The "Big One of ‘99’" was the real cause of Mr. O’Connor’s sluggish sales...

Julie touches the fourth and final icon. The headline disappears, and is replaced with her sales chart, and the page from Auto Week with the chart of the DX9’s post-quake sales APPEARS, just slightly overlapping it.


...but when the people calmed down and the highways were re-opened, sales soared. In fact, if I slide their line onto our chart...

The DX9 chart pops into the back as its numbers are incorporated into Julie’s chart.

• Adrian’s sliding the DX9 sales line onto Julie’s chart is actually one of the most important statements of the film. This is a far more complex act than Hiroshi’s, earlier. Consider what is necessary for this to be able to happen:

1) Adrian has to be able to collaborate with Julie’s computer (with her prior assent, of course), so he can be in a position to move the line in the first place. This implies not only the hardware and software to support such collaboration, but security and privacy systems that will make Julie feel comfortable in allowing it.

2) The chart in this on-line magazine cannot just be an image, as it would be in today’s CD-ROM products. The computer has to be able to access the underlying math.

3) The industry has to develop a set of uniform standards for how information is stored and transferred. In today’s "babbelized" world, when Julie’s computer tried to make sense of the chart, it would have found the chart was in Excel for the Macintosh format, while the computer only understood 1, 2, 3.

The kind of cooperation and coordination that must occur in the industry to make this seemingly simple shot come true will be unprecedented, but it must occur if we are ever to enjoy the real promise of next generation computing.


...(aside) Thank you, Adrian. (to group) You can see that their run rate at year-end is identical to ours. So unless Mr. O’Connor has some early notice of another earthquake...

O’Connor slinks back to his seat.


...I think we can safely look for sales to explode!

Most board members are grinning and nodding their heads in agreement.


Thanks, Julie, I think we’ve heard enough. You and your team ...

(nods toward Adrian)

...have done a superlative job. Let’s build it!


Julie gathers up her portable and begins walking toward the door, exchanging angry glares with O'Connor.


Now (sigh)...Mike’s car.

O’Connor’s head whips around to the CEO...


We’ll go back to the original production schedule, although Hiroshi, I believe you had some concerns about Mike’s projections of cost setting up the production line...

The CEO's VOICE TRAILS OFF as Julie exits the conference room and Adrian fades from the screen.



Julie APPROACHES CAMERA with still-serious steps. Stops, sniffs, and breaks into a huge smile as she hugs the computer, exclaiming "Yes!" in a stage whisper.

We zoom in on the Sun logo on the back of the portable, which spins out towards us, with the words, "Sun Microsystems" appearing beside it.


Sun Microsystems. The Power of the Future.


Julie sneezes as we fade to black.


To view the Starfire video, click Starfire.

If you would like to sample more of the Starfire project book, click The Coming Decade. For a description, reviews, or to order a copy, visit the Tog on Software Design page at

Click Ask Tog to continue exploring.

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