To most people working in publishing today, the name Quark is synonymous with the publishing process itself. The Denver-based company’s flagship product, QuarkXPress, set the standard for DTP and anyone looking for a job in the industry had to have at least a basic knowledge of the program. In recent years, increased competition from Adobe’s InDesign application coupled with high prices and a poor customer service record to erode QuarkXPress’s near-monopoly. A delayed appearance on Mac OS X and comments in 2002 by CEO Fred Ebrahimi served to further alienate Quark’s core user base (ever met someone in publishing who doesn’t use a Mac as their primary platform? Yeah, me either.)
So after years of losing market and mindshare, today’s announcement that Quark has been sold to a mergers & acquisitions company intent on selling off Quark’s IP portfolio should come as no surprise.
Those of us who have been playing around with computers for a bit longer than the average user probably remember Quark for more than just a powerful desktop publishing application. Here’s a quick look at some of the stuff they produced for my favorite 8-bit home computer, the Apple II (and III!). Don’t worry, the list is short.
Quark was an early proponent of DRM and implemented draconian copy protection schemes in their products. Catalyst was designed as a program selector to assist users in loading their expensive business products from diskette onto their new, even more expensive hard disk systems while retaining their copy protection. They were going for the best of both worlds here, and didn’t really attain either.
A user would first install Catalyst onto their shiny new $5,000 Apple ProFile 10 MB drive and then, through a series of convoluted steps, load various pieces of software into Catalyst. During the install, the user’s original diskettes would be disabled and permanently tied to the Catalyst diskette so that the originals would no longer boot and could only be reinstalled to the hard drive through the specific copy of Quark’s program to which they were tied. Quark whimsically called these disks, “Catalyzed”.
Additionally, if your newly enslaved applications required access to your printer, Catalyst had to be manually configured through a quick, 30-step process… Okay, maybe not so quick.
Catalyst itself was also copy protected and featured a serial number so that once “Catalyzed” your applications couldn’t be loaded by a copy with a different serial number.
A version of Catalyst creatively called “Catalyst IIe” was eventually introduced for the Apple IIe and IIc.
Quark’s word processor for the Apple II line was known for its ease of use, extensive feature set and simple learning curve and matched up well against AppleWriter, which served as Word Juggler’s main competition until the AppleWorks suite was released by Apple in 1984. On the Apple III, Word Juggler was the first, and for years only, commercially available word processor.
Word Juggler wasn’t immune to Quark’s copy protection schemes and customers had to install a hardware dongle in their Apple II to get the software to boot up at all.
And that pretty much wraps it up for Quark’s 8-bit Apple software offerings. They also sold a number of minor applications, most designed to enhance Word Juggler. Lexicheck was an 8,000-word spelling checker; Terminus provided telecommunications functionality; Mail List Manager Interface also integrated with Word Juggler as did TypeFace, giving you access to typesetting equipment, should you have it.
And so we bid a not-so-fond farewell to the corporate entity known as Quark, Inc.