A sidebar to the article “Just like magic?,”
published in Byte, February 1994, pp. 23.
Telescript, General Magic’s communications-oriented programming language, lets
developers write tools that permit casual users who know nothing about
programming to create intelligent applications that seek out and retrieve
important information. What kinds of applications does Telescript enable?
Think how PostScript made it easy for nonprogrammers to enrich documents with new
data types – such as graphics, color, fonts, and photos – and then
reproduce those documents on a wide variety of output devices without
writing – or even seeing – any PostScript code. Telescript hopes
to do the same thing for communications. Users could send E-mail enriched with
graphics, photos, video clips, voice annotation, encryption, and scheduling
information while avoiding the chaotic details of file formats, network protocols,
service gateways, and other technical exotica.
The key breakthrough: Telescript messages are smart objects that know what to do and
where to go. Unlike today’s E-mail messages, which are merely files of ASCII
text and binary attachments that flow through a pipe, Telescript agents are
self-contained units. They navigate WANs (wide-area networks) on their own, correctly
present themselves when they arrive at their destinations, and support flexible
capabilities such as automatic forwarding or return receipts, regardless of the platform.
For example, businesspeople could create or buy custom news-clipping
agents (“Fetch me every AP story on oil exploration”) and stock-market
agents (“Send a buy order to my broker if Intel’s stock dips below 100”).
Newspapers could sell on-line classified ads and then freely distribute agents
to help consumers find what they want.
The open specifications for Telescript may enable a cottage industry of freeware
and shareware agents customized to perform a limitless number of specialized tasks.