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Informational Interview

A Student Paper by Anonymous

December 10, 1998

I met Tay Vaughan several years ago, after taking my first multimedia class and using his book to learn the basic concepts. When I learned he was a local resident, I got his number from information, called him up and introduced myself. We had lunch together several times, went to a few trade shows, and had long phone conversations on a regular basis. I was impressed with his extensive knowledge, and still find his book a useful resource when creating multimedia. We'd been out of touch for over a year when I tried calling him, only to discover that he had moved.

"I can do my work wherever I can get four phone lines," Tay told me from his new home in the backwoods of Maine. The author of Multimedia: Making it Work, now in its 4th edition, gave up his Oakland hills home some months ago, and moved his wife and 11-year-old daughter Elizabeth to a quiet, rural community.

"People actually know each other here," he told me. "There's actually a community where folks help each other out, without anyone even thinking of asking for money." Tay is originally from the East coast, and decided to trade earthquakes, floods and fires for long, cold winters. With the proceeds from the sale of his average-sized hillside home, Vaughan was able to buy 26 acres of land in Maine, with a grove of trees, and a meadow that slopes down to the St. George River. He was barely unpacked before applying his well-honed skills as a carpenter to the job of renovation . One of three barns will become a spacious office, with the above-mentioned four phone lines already installed. He will complete the repairs to the roof of the main house before settling in for the winter and going back to work.

The first edition of Multimedia: Making It Work came out just as the multimedia craze was beginning to take off, and Vaughan says the timing couldn't have been better. Sales of the book were good, although not spectacular, which he attributes to the fact that multimedia hadn't even been in the vernacular long enough for schools to have organized classes, dev~loped curricula and hired teachers with sufficient skills to teach it. It was, however, one of the very few books on the market, and with each revision and new edition, more and more instructors are using it as a textbook.

Tay was hired at Apple Computer just two weeks after HyperCard was shipped. They gave him his first Apple computer - a Mac Plus. He primarily taught himself the application and was instantly hooked on multimedia. Before long he was teaching other Apple employees how to use HyperCard and thinking of ways the program could be used. Writing the book was a natural extension of his enthusiasm, and now covers using popular software for graphics, text, sound, animations, and authoring, as well as including increasingly expanded sections on the Internet. Tay has used all the software he references, and is often asked to beta-test new programs before they are released to the public.

"Being a published author means software and hardware companies just send me stuff to check out, hoping that I'll like it and include it in the book," he chuckles, his eyes wandering over several floor-to-ceiling bookshelves packed with software, manuals, and all kinds of reference books. "It's an embarrassment of riches," he says. The book has also meant that he has kept up with all the latest developments in hardware as well, but in accordance with Vaughan 's Law of Minimums ("Why do I need a G3?") he still works on a Mac 7500/166 along with a Pentium PC. The book, which retails for under $50, comes with a Macromedia Showcase CD, although Vaughan has also created a more extensive multimedia CD-ROM, which illustrates the key chapters of the book in a well-designed, cross-platform Director format, and sells separately for about $12.

Tay is a chain-smoking night-owl, who gets started late in the morning and often works into the wee hours of the next day. He has met many of the software developers who created the various applications he discusses in the book, and even brags that he has not only met Bill Gates (big deal!), but also worked with him on the rollout of the multimedia PC (big deal again!). What he loves about his work is that he has an enormous amount of independence and freedom, and he has lost none of his original interest in computers and multimedia. He generally works alone, although he hires people on an as-needed basis to proof-read the book, perform research tasks, and test the CD-ROM. He loves using Director and is well known at Macromedia, where they've helped to custom-write some of the programming code for his CD-ROM. Working at home allows him to spend more time with his daughter, and in Oakland he was very popular with the kids when it was his turn to do the before-and-after-school carpool. The downside of his work, he says, is that the advances he gets for the book often don't go as far as he needs them to, and he still isn't making the kind of money he'd like to. The Internet looms large in his plans for the future, and he is very interested in where e-commerce will go in the next ten years.

Tay Vaughan believes that computers and the Internet will dominate the marketplace in the future, and that as far as careers go, anyone with the skills and the drive can reach for the stars. The demand for people with good design skills as well as an understanding of the programming concepts, will only increase. "So, you're still into that school thing," he says when I tell him that I have graduated and am now working towards a Master's Degree in Instructional Technology. He admires my consistently high grades and respects the self-discipline he knows I have from my work as a professional photographer, but he doesn't believe I need all this education. "You have what you need," he keeps telling me. "You're smart, you have superior visual skills, and you work hard. You could probably get a great job right now and no one would give a - what degree you've earned." My reply is always the same: SO? If I'm so wonderful, how come you haven't offered me six figures to work for YOU? He chuckles, and says, "Hey - you're at the top of my list! If I could, I would!"

Maybe someday he will.