Aug 14, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Codename "Gravy"?

Blackbird. Pismo. Lombard. Columbus. Cold Fusion. These are just a few of the cool-sounding code names Apple would use to refer to products it was developing. In most cases, these code names were only used internally, but sometimes they would actually be used to market the finished products. With Mac OS X, Apple's big cat code names ultimately became the actual product names. Here at Accordance, we were never so big or clandestine that we felt it necessary to assign code names to new versions of the software, but when we were developing Accordance 5, I joked that we should start using the code name "Gravy."

In previous Throwback Thursday posts, I've detailed the development of Accordance from a specialized Greek and Hebrew language tool (version 1.0) to a more well-rounded Bible program offering a variety of study aids (version 2.0) to a full-featured Bible program which included Bible texts with Strong's numbers (version 4.0). Until Accordance 4.0 was released, we were working hard to add must-have features that the average Bible software user had come to expect (along with many groundbreaking new features no one had ever attempted before). When we began planning the feature set for Accordance 5.0, we were really in uncharted territory: rather than adding "must-have" features our users had been asking for, we were primarily adding extra features and interface enhancements which went beyond what anyone was expecting. Hence my suggestion of the code name "Gravy."

I look back now and realize how naive I was. Accordance 5.0 turned out to be a huge upgrade that added lots of “gravy” type features, but it happened to be released at a time when everything was changing, and we soon found ourselves chasing a new set of “must-have” enhancements. Such is the nature of software development.

Shortly after we began the development of Accordance 5, Apple unveiled its strategy for getting classic Mac OS developers to make their software compatible with Mac OS X. We weren’t thrilled at the prospect of having to rewrite portions of our software to support a new operating system that was still very much in flux, but we committed one of our programmers to making Accordance OS X-compatible (a process known as “Carbonization”). Meanwhile, our lead programmer continued to add the new features and interface changes we had planned for Accordance 5.

Panes

Accordance 5.0 was released in July of 2001, a few months after the very first version of Mac OS X (Cheetah). Our efforts to Carbonize Accordance were not yet finished at that point, so we still only supported the older Mac OS. We weren’t alone, however. Very few classic Mac apps had been Carbonized at that time, and Mac OS X was still so new that very few Mac users had transitioned to it. Those few OS X early adopters knew they would have to wait for their favorite apps to become Carbonized, and since Mac OS X provided a way to run classic Mac apps, they were able to get along just fine in the interim.

A year later, the situation was very different. In that year Apple had released OS X 10.1 (Puma), which added much-needed stability, and 10.2 (Jaguar), which was the first version usable enough to encourage widespread adoption. Calls for an OS X version of Accordance got louder and more frequent as soon as Jaguar was released. Accordance 5.6 Carbon was released in October of 2002, just two months later. This meant that Accordance was the first Bible program released for Mac OS X.

Our relatively early support for Apple’s next-generation operating system proved to be a huge competitive advantage, which led many users to switch from older Mac Bible programs that appeared to be languishing. However, the transition to a new (and changing) operating system meant more than just making sure Accordance ran natively. It meant adjusting to new interface conventions, adopting new technologies, supporting new features of the operating system, etc. In other words, there would be no more “gravy” releases.

In my next Throwback Thursday post, I’ll talk about how some of the very improvements we made to Accordance 5 actually became liabilities under OS X, forcing us to make major changes to the interface of Accordance 6.


 

Jul 17, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Striking Out on Our Own

Way back when Accordance was first being conceived, we established a partnership with The GRAMCORD Institute (TGI), a scholarly non-profit organization which had pioneered the development of a grammatically searchable Greek New Testament. TGI had developed software for mainframe computers back in the 1970s and for DOS PCs in the '80s, but by the early '90s, they needed to add support for the Macintosh and Windows platforms. They did that by establishing partnerships with independent Macintosh and Windows software developers.

The basic nature of our partnership with TGI was this: We would develop and retain ownership of the Accordance program, which would offer, among other things, a Macintosh interface for reading and searching the GRAMCORD Greek New Testament. TGI would also license other Bible texts and resources from various publishers for use with Accordance. TGI would sell Accordance to its established customer base, while we would provide all technical support.

This arrangement had a number of advantages. TGI had a solid reputation among scholars and an established presence at the high end of the Bible software market. They were already equipped to handle sales and distribution of the software, which freed us to focus on development. They also had established licensing agreements with various book publishers, which meant that we didn't have to start building a library of materials from scratch. On the other hand, TGI would benefit by being able to sell a product to Mac users without having to develop that software themselves.

Of course, when businesses form partnerships, they're like the intersecting circles of a Venn diagram. Where the intersection occurs, each partner benefits from the other. However, the areas where the circles do not overlap represent differences in focus, market, and expertise among the partners, and those differences can actually work to pull the circles farther apart. The smaller the amount of overlap between the circles, the less the partnership actually benefits each partner, and the greater the pull away from each other.

For example, in the beginning of our relationship with TGI, there was a significant amount of overlap between the circles.

Venn1

GRAMCORD was focused on the academic market, and version 1.0 of Accordance was loaded with features aimed at that market. Likewise, TGI had licensed Bibles and some academic resources from other publishers, which fit well with Accordance's initial focus on high-end features for study of the Biblical text. GRAMCORD was also focused on selling its DOS software, but the DOS platform was shrinking, and they had not yet released a Windows product. Accordance was therefore an exciting expansion of their product line and a sign that they were embracing graphical user interfaces. For our part, we had long-term plans to expand Accordance into a full-featured Bible program that would appeal to non-academics, but we weren't there yet. Consequently, there was a fair amount of overlap between the two companies, and the partnership clearly benefitted both parties.

As time went on, the situation changed.

Venn2

TGI's partnerships with software developers for Windows and handheld computers eventually resulted in its offering products for those platforms. TGI naturally marketed these products as GRAMCORD for Windows, GRAMCORD for handhelds, and thus Accordance as "GRAMCORD for Mac." Yet these were different programs from different developers with different feature sets and different libraries. Much of what made Accordance unique ended up being obscured by its identification with the GRAMCORD brand. At the same time, Accordance was expanding to become a full-featured Bible program which was no longer just aimed at academics. Our marketing, licensing, and development efforts became increasingly focused in areas that were beyond TGI's academic focus. The more we began to negotiate our own licenses, do our own marketing, and process our own sales, the more complicated our relationship with TGI became. Eventually, we reached the point where it was necessary to strike out completely on our own.

Such transitions are never easy, but over time it became clear that we had made the right decision. By bringing everything in-house, we were able to forge our own brand identity, simplify life for our users, increase our offerings, and greatly expand the Accordance user-base.

At the same time we were managing that transition, Apple was facing a major transition of its own: the rollout of Mac OS X. Accordance 5 was the first version of Accordance we released after our partnership with TGI came to an end, and it was also the first Bible program to support Mac OS X. I'll tell you the story of that major turning point in my next Throwback Thursday post.


 

Jun 26, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Doing Our Homework

When I started as Accordance's sole employee, the company was run completely out of a home office, and I worked at my own home using my own computer. As we added new staff members, the ability to work at home was both a practical necessity and a major perk.

Once we began hiring our own sales staff and selling directly (before that all sales had been handled by another distributor), we decided that we would need a dedicated office for sales. Since the office we got was bigger than the sales staff needed at that time, the development staff was asked if any of us would like to work from the new office. I remember being at a meeting where the question was raised, and we all sort of looked at each other. I think we were each hoping someone else would take it so we wouldn't have to turn it down. Eventually, we realized that none of us wanted that office space. We all had been spoiled by years of working at home.

I was reminded of this the other day when I saw a coworker post on Facebook that his family had gone to the beach while he was stuck at home working. I was tempted to tease him that his post might not engender much sympathy from someone stuck working in an office rather than at home. Instead of picking on him, I just posted another one of my "Jo Jo stories"—funny anecdotes I'll share about my five-year-old's exploits. Those are stories I'd never be able to tell if I had to work from an office every day.

Now, there are certainly advantages to having all your staff work from a single location. A random interaction between two employees at the proverbial water-cooler can sometimes lead to new solutions and greater cooperation. On the other hand, our flexibility to allow staff to work from anywhere has meant keeping great employees who had to move across town or out of state. It has also meant landing great employees who happen to live across the country or across the world. We don't have to turn away a great candidate simply because of geography.

There's one other major advantage to our willingness to allow telecommuting. The fact that most of us gladly work from home means that the vast majority of Accordance's revenues go directly toward ongoing development and customer service. Because we're not having to pay huge rents, mortgages, or utility bills, we're able to make the money you spend go farther and accomplish more with it.

Getting our first sales office was a major step in our growth as a company, but that didn't stop our development staff from continuing to do its homework.


 

Jun 19, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Developing the PhotoGuide

When we first developed the Accordance Bible Atlas, we knew we needed to include a resource that would give information about the more important site and region names on the map. The other module developer (there were only two of us at the time) was occupied with developing the data for the Atlas, so I was tasked with developing this tool which would come to be called Place Names.

Each of the sites on the Atlas are given an importance ranking on a scale from 1 (least important) to 5 (most important). This ranking is used to determine which sites should be hidden when you zoom out from the map. We decided to use the sites of importance 3 or above as the ones we would cover in the Place Names module. Once I had this list of sites, I then had to research each site and write up a description of its location, history, and overall significance.

The main challenge of developing the Place Names module was the deadline. The Atlas was nearing completion and Place Names had to be finished before it could be released. To meet that deadline, the site descriptions had to be kept pretty basic and concise.

Some time after the release of the Atlas, I was approached with the idea of expanding the work I had done on Place Names into a new resource that would include photos of each site. This new resource would eventually come to be called the Bible Lands PhotoGuide.

I was given a large archive of photographs of Biblical places I had never personally visited, and I had to decide which photos best illustrated each site.

My research often began with the Bible dictionaries I had available in Accordance. Anchor Bible Dictionary was especially good about giving information about the archaeological discoveries at each site, but it had relatively few photos and illustrations. Going from a description of a Bronze Age wall discovered at a site to actually identifying that wall in a photo was next to impossible. I soon was combing through coffee table books and magazines on Biblical archaeology, tourist guide books which might illustrate how a site looks today—anything I could find that would give me clues as to what I was looking at. It would have been easy to annotate each photo with something like "Ruins at Miletus," but I wanted users of the PhotoGuide to be able to see the outline of the ancient harbor and the surrounding bay which have long since silted up. It's that level of detail which sets the PhotoGuide apart from the typical illustrated Bible dictionary.

Miletus

At times it was frustrating finding the information I needed, but I learned more about the Bible doing the research for the PhotoGuide than I ever learned in seminary. If you haven't explored the PhotoGuide in depth, begin reading through its articles on sites mentioned in your current passage of study. You'll be surprised how much it can deepen your understanding of the Bible.


 

May 1, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Scholars Don't Care About Maps

atlas 2-cdIn a previous Throwback Thursday post, I told you about a meeting way back in 1995 that helped get us thinking about developing a Bible Atlas that would prove to be years ahead of its time. Two years later, we had developed a limited prototype covering little more than the region of Galilee, and we were about to focus all of our attention on completing development of the Atlas. Having just released Accordance 3.0, with ground-breaking features such as Greek and Hebrew text-to-speech and diagramming, we had plenty to show at that year's Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, but we were so excited about the Atlas prototype we couldn't resist showing it off as well.

By 1997, the success of Windows 95 and Apple's own missteps had sent it into something of a death spiral. At the same time, the power and ease-of-use Accordance offered had earned it a reputation as the software to have for serious study, and many Bible scholars were buying Macs just to be able to use Accordance. This meant that we had a lot of people coming by the booth wanting to see what Accordance could do, yet with serious misgivings about the future of the Mac platform. The Atlas was a great way to show that there were still some really cool things you could only do on a Mac.

At that year's SBL, we were using a projector to show Accordance on a big screen. We naturally showed Accordance with Greek and Hebrew text in parallel, the new Diagram window, and other features of Accordance 3.0. We also showed some of the map images from the new Atlas prototype. Our hope was that these would grab the attention of conference attendees and draw them into the booth to learn more about Accordance. I saw this as a no-brainer, but someone from outside our company questioned the wisdom of using maps to attract attention. Apparently believing that serious scholars would regard such flash as fluff, he told us, "Scholars don't care about maps."

Now, as a very part-time seminary student at the time, I was admittedly no Bible scholar, but I found myself completely dumbfounded by this assertion that scholars don't care about maps. Even those engaged in high-level linguistic study presumably had to teach the occasional introductory survey course, and surely maps would come in handy then, right? I therefore ignored the unsolicited advice not to show the Atlas and kept the maps on the screen.

Sure enough, the Atlas prototype drew a lot of people in, and when we demonstrated what you could already do with the prototype people were absolutely blown away. We released the Atlas in July of 1998, right about the time Steve Jobs was back at Apple unveiling a colorful new all-in-one desktop computer called the iMac. That year's annual meeting of SBL was fun. We had people coming into the booth just to see our new iMac, and when we showed them the new Bible Atlas they seemed to forget any questions they might have had about the Mac's long-term viability.

Since that time, our interactive Bible Atlas has been one of our best-selling products and among our users' favorite features. If you've been missing out on all the fun, be sure to check out our Graphics Bundle.

That is, of course, unless you're one of those scholars who just doesn't care about maps!


 

Apr 24, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: A Capital Offense

When Accordance was first released, our logo looked like this:

OriginalLogo

Pretty cool, right? The almost completely curved letters of the typeface stood out from all the other text on our brochures. This font was also somewhat similar to the Chicago typeface used throughout the Macintosh interface. The use of lowercase for the initial "a" further reflected the playfulness and approachability of the Macintosh platform. At the same time, the capitalization of the second "c" drew attention to the "Cord" part of the name—a play on the name of The GRAMCORD Institute, which initially was our sole distributor. "GRAMCORD" was itself derived from the idea of a "GRAMmatical conCORDance," and the name Accordance likewise called to mind the idea of a concordance.

As you can probably guess, I personally liked that logo. Unfortunately, not everybody understood why we capitalized that second "c." We eventually discovered that some people were pronouncing the name as ay-cee-Cordance, which of course was nonsensical. We therefore had to redesign our logo when Accordance 2.0 was released so that the initial "A" was capitalized and the rest of the name was lowercase.

RevisedLogo

The new look was arguably a little less avant garde, but it had the advantage of helping folks realize that "Accordance" should be pronounced normally.


 

Apr 17, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Weighing Anchor

In my previous Throwback Thursday post, I told you about my first experience of demonstrating Accordance at the 1995 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. We were offering attendees a sneak peek at Accordance 2.0, which was released the following April. I spent most of 1996 preparing modules for the initial release of Accordance 2.0, as well as for our first CD-ROM release later that same year. Little did I realize it at the time, but my next project would prove to be a major turning point in the development of Accordance tools.

Anchor-sm Early in 1997, I was given an e-text of Anchor Bible Dictionary and told to prepare a prototype module for Accordance. Compared to the previous tool modules we had released, Anchor presented a significant increase in complexity, with a wide variety of hypertext links, images, tables, transliteration, etc. Each time I would run across a new aspect of Anchor which our current tool implementation could not support, we would have to do programming to support it. Many of the cool features in Accordance tools today are the direct result of our early efforts to support Anchor.

The time I spent developing Anchor was risky, because at that point we did not have a signed contract with the publisher. At that time, Anchor was published by Doubleday, and while Doubleday was open to working with us, we were still a relative newcomer in the Bible software market. We therefore needed to "sell" Doubelday on our ability to represent Anchor Bible Dictionary well, and the best way to do that was to show them how it would function as an Accordance tool. The risk to us was that if they ultimately decided not to license Anchor to us, a lot of work would have been wasted.

Some time around the summer of 1997, we made a trip up to New York City to meet with Doubleday and show them our sample module. This was my first trip to New York, and I remember being surprised that Doubleday was housed in a huge building right off Times Square. After ascending to whichever ridiculously high story of the building our meeting was in, we were ushered into a waiting room, where I began to get nervous about the prospect of demonstrating Accordance to a couple of publishing executives.

As it turned out, the demo wasn't the hard part. They made a few suggestions for additional minor features, but they were generally very impressed with our implementation. Much more difficult were all the questions they had about the size of the Macintosh market, the size of our user base, how we would market the product, etc. Prior to the meeting, I had made a few fumbling attempts at market research, but I certainly didn't have a lot of hard statistics I could rattle off. I realized half-way through all this that I was basically being asked to sell the viability of the Macintosh platform.

On the other hand, the only reason Doubleday was even considering working with us was because Accordance was Mac-only. They had already licensed Anchor to one Windows developer, and they had no desire to work with any competing Bible software programs. Because we served a different computer platform, they were willing to consider licensing to us as well.

Though our meeting with Doubleday went well, it was some time before the contract for Anchor was finalized, so I had to shelve a partially developed module and move on to other projects. When we finally did get the go-ahead to produce an Accordance version of Anchor, I had to pick up where I had left off and then hurry to get it done. Anchor Bible Dictionary was finally released in the Fall of 1999—I believe in conjunction with Accordance 3.6 or 4.0.

Looking back, Anchor was well worth the risks we took, the time we invested, and even the long wait for the contract to be finalized. In the short term, the work we did in developing Anchor laid the groundwork for many of the improvements in Accordance 3.0, and we were now able to support other resources with complex hyperlinks, tables, and images. When Anchor was finally released, Doubleday was very happy with the finished product, and we enjoyed an excellent working relationship with them over the years. That relationship ended up giving us added credibility with other publishers, so that they were much easier to sell on the advantages of working with Accordance. Likewise, having Anchor Bible Dictionary gave us credibility with users. For years we had customers drawn to Accordance because we offered Anchor where most other programs did not. In addition to all those benefits, the information in Anchor was of invaluable help to us when we developed other products such as our own Atlas, Timeline, and Bible Lands PhotoGuide.

All in all, landing Anchor Bible Dictionary turned out to be a significant factor in the growth and development of Accordance. Today, Yale University has since acquired the Anchor brand, and we are very excited to be able to offer the Anchor Bible commentary series in addition to the dictionary.

What about you? What has having Anchor Bible Dictionary in Accordance meant for you in your own study and research? Let us know in the comments on this post.


 

Apr 3, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Demoer and Demoee

In my last Throwback Thursday post, I talked about the development of the very first Tool modules for Accordance 2.0. Although version 2.0 was not yet ready for release in November of 1995, we were planning to offer a preview of all the new features to attendees at the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) in Philadelphia. I did not accompany my employers to ETS, since it was a smaller conference and they could manage the booth without me. I flew in to join them for the start of the larger SBL meeting. I had used that extra time at home to whip out a couple more prototype modules, so I arrived at SBL with some Accordance tools to demonstrate which my employers hadn't even seen yet.

Today when we attend a conference, we bring laptops and relatively portable flat-screen monitors. Back in 1995, laptops were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are today. They were expensive, and they had significant drawbacks such as tiny screens or limited speed compared to desktop computers. Fortunately, airline passengers could check more baggage back then. I had to lug my desktop Mac in one box and my 14-inch CRT monitor in another, along with my suitcase, to the airport and hope it all made it to Philadelphia without getting broken, lost, or stolen. Then I had to schlep all that stuff to the hotel and exhibit hall to get it set up. Once it was all set up, I had to be without my computer for the duration of the show.

At that time, we exhibited Accordance under the auspices of the GRAMCORD Institute, which served as the exclusive distributor of Accordance. Basically, we formed the Macintosh side of the GRAMCORD booth.

I actually found an old photo on the GRAMCORD website of Dr. Rex Koivisto, our associate Greek scholar (right), demonstrating Accordance 2.0 to Frederick Danker (the D in BDAG, center) at that very conference. If you look closely at the background, you can see me seated with my back to the camera, demonstrating Accordance to someone else. This was my very first time demoing Accordance to the public, and it was fun to be able to show scholars and students some of the cool stuff we had been working on.

Today when I demonstrate Accordance at ETS and SBL, I can only show a tiny portion of what Accordance can do. It is therefore rare that we offer a sneak peek at any not-yet-released features. Back then, however, we were the new kid on the block, doing our best to show people Accordance's potential as a Bible study platform. In those early days, we would demonstrate what the current version of Accordance could do, then offer a look at what was coming in the next version.

In the evenings, I got to be part of meetings where we would discuss new feature ideas or new resources we hoped to license, such as the massive Anchor Bible Dictionary. It was all pretty heady stuff for a young kid still in seminary.

One of the most memorable moments of this conference was when I got to tag along to a meeting with a gentleman who had high-resolution atlas data of Israel. As with laptops, such data was far less ubiquitous back then, and this gentleman was looking to establish partnerships to develop computer applications that could utilize his data. This gentleman did not have a booth in the exhibit hall. Instead, he had booked a hotel suite where he was meeting with potential partners. I remember entering his suite and seeing a Silicon Graphics workstation on the desk. Beside it was a large set of goggles. It was in this meeting that I went from the demoer to the demoee. The gentleman handed me the goggles and joked that I should be careful not to drop them, since they cost a substantial amount of money. If I remember correctly, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000. Needless to say, I was very careful not to break them!

Looking through the goggles I saw a three-dimensional image of some portion of Israel. These days I might actually recognize it, but back then it was just an unfamiliar series of hills and valleys. If I remember correctly, it was just a wireframe image, but it was at a resolution that required some serious computing power to generate. Next I was shown a simulated 3D flyover. This was done without the goggles, and I seem to recall that it used actual satellite imagery rather than a mere wireframe. This felt snappier than the wireframe image as well, but that was because it was essentially a pre-rendered animation rather than a 3D image being rendered on the fly. The downside of this was that you couldn't really navigate the flyover to go wherever you wanted; you merely went where the animator had decided to take you.

This was all very cutting-edge stuff, and I must have seemed like a kid in a candy store. Our discussions centered around how we might use this data to provide Mac users with a 3D Bible Atlas. After all, there were far more people with Macs than with graphics workstations. Apple had recently begun incorporating 3D technologies into the Mac operating system, so the possibilities were tantalizing, but we also knew it would be challenging to deliver acceptable 3D performance on a personal computer.

That meeting helped get us thinking about adding an Atlas component to Accordance, but that wouldn't actually happen until Accordance 3.5 was released in July of 1998. I'll tell you the rest of the story behind the Accordance Bible Atlas in a future Throwback Thursday post.

I returned home from that first SBL Conference exhausted but excited about the future of Accordance. At that point I was still only working for Accordance part-time, but I was now officially hooked. I was getting to be a part of the creation of something truly cutting edge, and I had seen how Accordance was changing the lives of its users. Since 1995, I have exhibited Accordance at SBL every year except 1996 (when my second son was born). To this day, I return home from SBL each year both exhausted and excited about the future.

How about you? Were any of you at the 1995 SBL or ETS meetings in Philadelphia? If so, did you stop by for a demo of Accordance?


 

Mar 27, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Tools for Accordance 2

AccordanceLogo We've been doing a lot of reminiscing lately, and I promise we'll get back to helpful tips and other kinds of posts soon. Still, since it's Thursday again, I'll continue reminiscing for "Throwback Thursday." In my most recent post, I went back before my own involvement with Accordance to look at Accordance pre-history. Before I took that detour, however, I was beginning to talk about the development of Accordance 2.0. In this post, I'll pick up there.

For me, the most promising feature planned for Accordance 2.0 was the addition of "Tools"—reference works like lexicons, commentaries, dictionaries, and so on. As I explained in a previous post, Accordance 1.0 offered incredible depth with respect to searching the Bible in English and the original languages, but it was not yet broad enough to serve as a complete Bible study solution. As a language student, I was most in need of a good Greek and Hebrew dictionary. In fact, before I started working for Accordance, I cobbled together a dictionary for my own use using a development environment called HyperCard. It was a nifty little resource, but I was looking forward to the day when I would have a dictionary integrated into Accordance itself.

I remember being both excited about and a little frustrated by each new feature that was added during the development cycle for Accordance 2.0. You see, I most wanted Tools, but it seemed that every other feature on the list was developed first. When I was shown the new Reference List feature, I was impressed by it, but remember thinking, "That's cool, but when are we gonna get tools?" I felt the same way about User Notes, the Parallel window, and most of the other improvements. They were all great, but I most wanted Tools. When the time finally came for Tools to be developed, I was absolutely champing at the bit.

Had I been a little more aware back then of all the work that would go into the development of Tool modules, I imagine I would have been a little more patient. All kinds of decisions had to be made before one could just whip out a dictionary or a commentary. What kinds of tools would we offer? How would they be organized and accessed from within the program? What kinds of searching and navigation would be possible? And of course, there were more technical considerations I wasn't even aware of.

I'm sure I had some input into the way Accordance tools were designed and implemented, but most of the things that make Accordance tool modules unique were conceived by our lead programmer. If I remember correctly, the first Accordance tool module was the concise Greek dictionary included at the back of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament. Edited by Barclay Newman, we simply called it "Newman." We released a revised edition of this first Accordance tool not long ago.

Newman

Even that first Accordance tool supported multiple fields which could be searched independently, a simple hierarchical table of contents, internal hypertext links, and the ability to amplify from a selection of text. After I was shown the features of this first prototype module, I was tasked with developing other tools. I believe the first tool I ever worked on was Louw & Nida—another Greek lexicon which offered greater depth and an innovative design very different from Newman. The additional features of this lexicon prompted the development of additional enhancements to our Tool modules.

Louw&Nida

At the same time I was working on Louw & Nida, another seminary student named Greg, who had been hired shortly after I was, began working on other tools. Though we worked separately out of our homes, Greg and I began calling each other for help with any problems we might run into, to discuss possible improvements to the development tools we were using, etc. We were becoming the Accordance module development team, and while we eventually took on a variety of other roles and responsibilities, we would continue to pitch in developing new modules for the next two decades.

I believe I finished Louw & Nida a few weeks before we were scheduled to exhibit at the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) in November of 1995. Although Accordance 2.0 was not yet ready for release, we wanted to give our users a sneak peek at our upcoming Tool modules, but we only had a couple of Greek lexicons finished. I seem to recall that Greg was hurrying to finish the abridged BDB Hebrew lexicon, but we still needed some English tools and commentaries. I hurriedly began converting a few simple public domain resources into Accordance tools to give the folks at ETS and SBL an idea of the breadth of material we hoped to offer. I actually flew to the conferences with a couple of new modules my employers hadn't even seen yet!

I'll tell you about some of the things that happened at those conferences in my next Throwback Thursday post. In the meantime, we'd like to know which Accordance tool modules you find most helpful. Please let us know in the comments on this post.


 

Mar 20, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Accordance and The PerfectWord

As readers of this blog well know, we're currently celebrating the twenty-year anniversary of the initial release of Accordance Bible Software. In fact, today only, you can purchase twenty popular Accordance add-ons for just twenty bucks each. For my part, I've been doing a fair amount of reminiscing about Accordance's early days in this series of Throwback Thursday posts.

The response to these posts has been fascinating. A number of users who go all the way back to Accordance 1.0 have shared their stories in the comments on this blog or on our Facebook page, and a couple have even claimed to go back further than twenty years! How can these people claim to have used Accordance longer than Accordance has been available? To answer that question, I need to go into a little Accordance pre-history.

Way back in 1988, our lead programmer developed one of the first Bible programs for the Macintosh. The name of that program, The PerfectWord, was a play on the name of a popular word processor at the time. This program was sold by a small startup by the name of Star Software, and it quickly developed an enthusiastic following. Eventually, Zondervan bought The PerfectWord and renamed it MacBible.

Now, The PerfectWord was before my time, but I managed to dig up a wonderfully detailed review dating to December of 1989. Here are a few excerpts from that review:

From a researcher's point of view [The PerfectWord's] speed offers an incredible gain in efficiency over printed concordances. The tedium and frustration of necessary drudge work over a concordance are reduced to nothingness. . . . TPW makes concordance work fun.

TPW shares the capability of doing complex searches with many of the new electronic Bible concordances; it outshines them in simplicity of implementation and in its facility for using them on the original language texts of the Bible.

From the biblicist's point of view, the primary attraction of TPW is its ability to search and display the biblical texts in their original languages and especially using the proper Greek and Hebrew fonts. . . .All text for the Hebrew Bible is displayed in proper right-to-left fashion and search terms are also typed into the entry window right-to-left.

PerfectWord

Biblical scholars especially will have to wait quite some time before something better than this comes along.

I love that last quote. Remember that this was written in 1989, some six years before Accordance was released. The PerfectWord did not support tagged Greek or Hebrew texts, so the kinds of searches Accordance users take for granted were not yet possible. Still, this reviewer positively raved about how fluid and enjoyable the program was to use—especially compared to the MS-DOS program he had been using.

Some time after The PerfectWord had been sold to Zondervan to become MacBible, our lead programmer was approached by a Greek scholar about developing a new Mac Bible program that could search grammatically-tagged Greek and Hebrew texts. In my last Throwback Thursday post, I made the claim that I am Accordance's longest-running employee. While that is certainly true; it's also a bit misleading. That Greek scholar who first approached us has been consulting with Accordance since well before I came on the scene. In fact, he's responsible for most of the grammatically-tagged Greek texts that are unique to Accordance.

While Accordance is turning twenty years old—a rare feat in the software industry—its roots go back even further, to the days of The PerfectWord. I can claim to have been using Accordance since version 1.0, but some of our users can claim to have "started with Accordance before it was called Accordance."

They're a rare breed indeed!