Lighthouse Design

The Lighthouse Gang at "World Headquarters"
Chevy Chase, MD May 1992
 


Photo taken a few weeks before Lighthouse moved from Chevy Chase, Maryland to San Mateo, California. From left to right: Rob Kedoin, Jonathan Schwartz, Ruth Ann Kirby (neé Mackie), Alan Chung, Ray Ryan, The Author, Tim Steele, Kevin Steele

What the heck was Lighthouse Design?


For people who used NeXT computers or the NeXTSTEP operating system, Lighthouse was pretty close to a household name. We produced all of the leading productivity software for the platform, including a business graphics tool (Diagram!), a presentation program (Concurrence), a project management program (TaskMaster), a multi-dimensional spreadsheet (Quantrix), a traditional spreadsheet (ParaSheet), a word processor (OpenWrite), and a database program (VarioData). I'm probably leaving something out.

The company was absorbed into Sun Microsystems in the mid to late '90s, after being acquired in 1996. NeXTSTEP ceased to be a commercially-viable desktop platform at around that time, as NeXT was heavily focusing on Web applications and its WebObjects application server. In late 1996 NeXT was acquired by Apple for over $430 million and in 1998 Apple "end of lifed" NeXTSTEP.

The legacy of NeXT clearly lives on today at Apple, particularly in Mac OS X which is largely based on NeXTSTEP.

Some remnants of the Lighthouse legacy live on—most notably in Kevin Steele's excellent Graffle program for Mac OS X, which is strikingly similar to Kevin's Diagram! for NeXTSTEP. I highly recommend this program for anyone who needs to produce diagrams or other structured graphics. It remains one of my favorite pieces of software to this day.

Some remnants of the Lighthouse legacy live on— notably in Kevin Steele's excellent Graffle program for Mac OS X, which is strikingly similar to Kevin's Diagram! for NeXTSTEP, and in Pete Murray's Quantrix which is a brilliant spreadsheet-style modeling tool similar to the product of the same name from Lighthouse, and inspired by Lotus' late, lamented Improv. I highly recommend OmniGraffle for anyone who needs to produce diagrams or other structured graphics. It remains one of my favorite pieces of software to this day. And I wish all spreadsheets were like Quantrix.

I arrived at Lighthouse in October, 1991 and had a good time. It was a young, chaotic company that built really good products on a shoestring. Perhaps because of the effects of time and nostalgia, I remember the place as being a hell of a lot of fun.

  


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