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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.

Tom R. Halfhill and Andy Reinhardt

Page added on 25th August 2005.

Copyright © 2002-2006 Marcin Wichary, unless stated otherwise.