Greg Long walked into our small office near the end of the summer of 1994 and pitched "Life Log" with the same passion he pitched it to Delrina, a local company that made it big with faxmodem software.
We'd worked with Greg before on a project, and he was a fan of Mackerel. Delrina wanted it built and designed by a screensaver company they had recently acquired in Kirkland, Washington, the suburb of Seattle right next to Redmond.
Greg wanted Mackerel to design the front end. He had a pretty cool idea that revolved around some spreadsheets, a scrapbook and a tree ring menu.
"So, what you kinda want us to do here is to cross Quark Xpress with Myst?"
"That sounds about right."When we signed on it was clear that we were doing the project for the experience and for Mackerel's reputation. We were not expecting a smooth ride. We had to build a demo over the weekend to get the job. Karl and Jeramy and I dove into it right then.
The Team: Karl Borst, Jeramy Cooke,
Sandra Borne, Mike Kordistch
Then we had to build another demo in two weeks to really get the job.
And then we started to really design it. Greg was like a crazy movie producer, always getting ideas and trying to get more out of us. I worked as the director trying to maintain a coherent vision. Karl and Jeramy were my main collaborators, every step of the way. Jeramy operated the 3D software and created the wide views. I was the main hands on the desktop interface. Mike joined the team to focus on details like category icons. Sandra was there to grind all of the rest of the pixels.
We were buried in this project through the second half of 1994. By the time we were done it was the spring of 1995 and we had moved the studio to seemingly huge new digs on King Street, and hired a load of talent.
These were officially the 'good times' at Mackerel. Echo Lake was going to get noticed and we were going to get noticed along with it. We were also building a very cool interactive diskette for Toyota. The future of interactive media was looking up. The hurricane that would be the world wide web had not quite yet appeared on our radar.
Everything happened differently than we expected of course.
Echo Lake was out of our hands and being built in Kirkland. As ship date approached and we saw later builds we saw that many features were not really as hoped and some things just were not being implemented. A trip out to meet with that team helped me accept what was going on but did not make it better.
And that was when we discovered that Echo Lake was going to be shipping without Mackerel being named anywhere. Delrina viewed us as a proprietary secret rather than talent to be promoted. They made a sad attempt to purchase Mackerel (which kept the credit issue sidelined) while we continued to do more experimental interfaces with them for a while.
The fax software beach house: one of the experiments that Jeramy and Karl did with Delrina shortly after Echo Lake.
The hype engine was primed and Echo Lake was released. There was a pretty good buzz. But other products of the time like the sad Microsoft Bob stole some thunder, and people's attention soon turned to the World Wide Web and Quake.
Meanwhile, at Mackerel we were kind of bitter because we were not able to publicize our involvement while it mattered. Delrina was eventually swallowed by Symantec. Echo Lake was sold to Creative Wonders who released an updated version as Family Album Creator in 1997. And now Echo Lake is just a memory.
Post Mackerel: I have no idea who created this UK version for Creative Wonders, but it was one of the more interesting variations that Greg Long emailed to me after we were done with the project.
Some of this is © 2001 Kevin Steele.
I'm not even sure who controls Echo lake / Family Album Creator now...
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