The Story

Part 1 - 1993

I am reporting from Needham, where noise about a little control panel for the Macintosh has grown so much in recent months that it is drawing attention to the sleepy Boston suburb from around the world.

"I can't believe I ever lived without it," exclaims Pauly Mann as she restarts her mac for the third time. " The excitement I get from seeing an unexpected color pop up makes the frequent crashing of my web browser almost enjoyable!" We watch intently together as the Macintosh OS bar crawls across the dull gray screen until flash! - the new color temporarily blinds us. "It gives me goose bumps every time," croons Pauly. Her earrings jingle and her hair stands up just a little bit more.

"People are often surprised by this," mumbles Dave McGuinn, the stony faced button down tie librarian, "but I actually like variety. Nothing too wild mind you, but variety nonetheless." I press him for a little more information. He continues in a low drone, "I've tried those horrible patterns, but they make me dizzy. Before 7.5 I could get in and create my own colors, but this! This is a revolution, a new way to live, a totally appealing aesthetic."

Here in Needham the fever is growing over this little control panel that changes the color of your desktop every time your restart your Mac. It seems like such a simple and obvious thing, but like all great art, the art is in making it look simple. I am hunting down the real story as I try to track down Bill Mead, one of the masterminds behind this phenomenon. I find him lying on the floor behind a table tugging at a bunch of cables. Mead, a frumpy overweight guy who has forgotten all about shaving tells me the intricate story of Desktop Repainter. He prefaces his comments with information about his background as an artist and his admiration of color field painters like Rothco and Ellsworth Kelly. It all starts to make sense.

"I was setting up new computers for a teacher training session a few summers ago, and I was manually changing the desktop colors so they would all look different, when Paul Messias said 'hey, why don't we make a program that does that?' and Desktop Repainter was conceived." Just then Mr. Messias, the man who made Desktop Repainter a reality walked up and handed Mead an Apple IIGS keyboard with a repair slip on it dated April 2nd, 1992. They chuckled about that for a moment, and Messias added, "yes, but there was an instructor who wanted all the screens to be blue! I added a control panel to the original version allowing the dull spineless user to select a basic constant boring blue instead of enjoying the plethora - a virtual rainbow of possible colors." Messias explained the various additions and developments that has brought Desktop Repainter to its current state: a fully networkable control panel, with many options that allow users to set their computers' desktops to match or or be unique on a network. "You can set your own set of colors, and even save sets based on themes of your choice," he explains. Messias and Mead, obsessed with this product, seem almost power hungry as they discuss a future where they will be able to control users' desktops color remotely and create a Desktop Repainter web site that displays "the color of the day."

Part 2 - 2004

Chet Edwards reporting. I have here with me today two people who are going to help follow up on a fascinating story I reported over ten years ago. Before I introduce my guests, let me take you back to 1994 when I went to Needham, a sleepy Boston suburb, to catch up with the masterminds behind an exciting revolution in desktop chromatic technologies. At that time, programmer Paul Messias and his coconspirator, William Mead had world domination in mind. The excitement I saw around this technology astounded me. As I recall, people were restarting their Macintosh computers left and right just to see which color came up on their screen. Some people were even convinced that it magically matched their outfits. Well, we all know desktop technology has come a long way in the last ten years, so I have Messias and Mead here in the studio with me today to tell us how the revolution is going. Welcome to the show.

Mead: Thanks. Great to be here.

Messias: Thanks.

Chet: So tell me guys, has everything gone as planned so far? Can you bring us up to speed?

Messias: Well Chet, many things have changed over ten years.

Mead: And many things have not.

Messias: That is true, but we have far more powerful computers today, and a Mac OS that crashes far less than in the old days.

Mead: On the other hand, ugly desktop pictures and patterns are just as pervasive today as they were ten years ago. And Windows still sucks.

Chet: So I presume your mission has not changed.

Messias: No, not at all Chet. The need for Desktop Repainter is as desperate as ever. One of the biggest changes is that now you do not need to restart your computer to get a new color. Here let me show you.

Chet: Ah yes, I see. For our non-viewing audience, my Powerbook's screen just went from a deep green to a soft yellow instantly! That is truly phenomenal!

Mead: And look, you can set it to gradually go from color to color automatically while you work!

Chet: That is amazing, you mean my screen will transition from yellow to red all by itself?

Messias: Yes Chet. Not only that but Desktop Repainter comes with several pre-configured themes, designed to keep certain less desirable colors off your desktop.

Mead: You mean like that yellow in the original set?

Messias: Ah, yes, well… Some of these themes, like “in the forest” or “on the beach” will even help convince you that you are no longer in your boring windowless office or cubical while you work!"

Chet: That is astounding. But tell me, why colors and not pictures or patterns?

Mead: This comes out of years of studying color theory and artists such as Mark Rothco and Ellsworth Kelley. These colors have been tuned to provide the user with a subtle artistic experience while they work.

Messias: And not to hit them over the head.

Chet: It appears we have a caller with a question on the line. Hello, tell us your name and your question.

Caller: Hi, my name is Deloris, and I want to know what happens if I just want blue? Mead: Ah, blue. I see. Blue is not a problem. Any particular shade of blue?

Caller: No, just blue.

Messias: Always blue?

Caller: Yes. It should be blue.

Mead: Well it just so happens that we have a theme just for you called BBCD Blue. Basically, Desktop Repainter sets itself to blue and transitions very slowly over time to the exact same blue.

Caller: I see. I have another question. I need some more memory. My hard drive is almost full.

Chet: Ah, look at that. We seem to have lost our caller. How did that happen? Well back to our guests. Now tell me about world domination. I can see by the devious looks in your eyes and the way you are wringing your hands that you have some thoughts on this topic.

Messias: Well Chet, We are not a liberty to say much on the topic, only that we have evidence that color can have a very strong effect on people.

Chet: Are you planning a version that will run on your standard PC then? I see by the horrible look on your faces that I have offended you. I apologize.

Mead: We have no such plans at this point.

Chet: Can you explain how you plan to achieve world domination if you ignore the thousands of PC's out there?

Messias: We try not to think about it really. There is just no point in trying to dominate those poor souls.

Mead: Yeah, we are mainly interested in a better class of computer user. If Paul here would only finish the damn thing.

Messias: You should talk. Where is my cardboard cow?

Chet: Cow?

Messias: Yes, he promised me a cardboard cow years ago.

Mead: I don't know what you are talking about.

Messias: Yes you do. I gave you those boxes, and you were going to make me a cow. Life size.

Mead: I gave it to you already.

Messias: No you didn't.

Chet: Now gentlemen, lets not get out of hand here. Hey wait a minute. Where did all this styrofoam come from. You can't just throw that stuff around here. No. I don't want a necklace! Well, I have had it with these two guests.

Part 3 - 2013

Chet Edwards Reporting. There is an important time in every man's life. A time when he is older than he once was, and now he can afford the things in life that he could not afford when he was younger. Perhaps more of this man's life is behind him than in front of him, and perhaps he feels a bit of panic about that. Yes, we are talking about a mid-life crisis.

For some men, a mid-life crisis leads to purchasing a fast and expensive car, while for others it leads to divorce and a younger wife. But not for the two men I have here before me today. No, for these men, it leads to World Domination. Let's take a closer look at this particular expression of the phenomenon commonly referred to as, “The Mid-Life Crisis.”

Let me reintroduce my two guests, Paul Messias and Bill Mead. I interviewed the two of you almost ten years ago, and I have to say that the years have not been kind. This renewed interest in World Domination sure does smack of bitterness and desperation. What do the two of you have to say about that, and how does it relate to your software, Desktop Repainter?

Messias: I think you have it all wrong Chet. We are just out to change the world for the better. Now that technology has finally caught up with our vision, the time is right to strike.

Mead: I agree with Paul. Besides, I have WordPress scheduled to publish blog entries well into the 22nd century, so I am not too worried about my mortality these days.

Chet: So you claim that it's the technology that has been holding you back.

Messias: Oh for sure. Our recent tests have indicated that users will be required to have a computer with 64bit architecture to handle the most up-to-date and cutting edge features. You would be surprised at how much power it takes to set a color and send 140 characters of text over the Internet.

Mead: There is that, plus the fact that Paul never finishes anything.

Messias: I never finish anything? Where's my cardboard cow?

Chet: Let's not start this again. How about if we stick to the technology. Can you tell us about some of these new features.

Mead: Gladly Chet. You know Twitter was used to affect revolution in the Middle East, we figure we can leverage that technology to dominate the world. It should be simple, really.

Messias: Yes, the removal of the old network code made room for a more modern approach to color synchronicity. The color on your desktop is essentially a social decision.

Mead: People share pictures, people share updates - color is going to be the new thing! We don't want to give away too much, but Twitter and social networking are a key ingredient for our up and coming version.

Chet: It sounds exciting, but you really think color has those kinds of legs?

Mead: Absolutely. A Mark Rothko painting sold for $75 million just last year. People are nuts for color. Color affects our mood and the way we think.

Messias: Just pay attention to how much time you spend looking at your screen. Surely, there is an opportunity lying in the background, just waiting for someone to tap in and take control!

Mead: And that is not all Chet. There is a revolutionary new feature that we have not yet discussed. Something that will change the nature of your desktop forever, but I hesitate to say too much about it in this open forum.

Messias: I don't know. Don't you think we should be more transparent?

Mead: HA HA

Chet: I don't get the joke.

Mead and Messias: No, you wouldn't.

Messias: Just take a look at the new version and you will see what we mean.

Mead: If only Paul would finish it.

Messias: If only Bill would stop adding features!

Chet: Ok guys, let's not get crazy. That is about all the time we have. We will be sure to check in with these two in the future!

Desktop Repainter