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General Magic Corp. was created in 1990 by a bunch of stellar Apple employees, including Andy Hertzfeld, the man behind much of the original Mac interface and (I think) MacPaint. Initial investors included Apple, AT&T, Sony, Motorola, Philips Electronics, Matsushita, NTT, France Telecom and British Telecom. This company was hot.

In 1994, General Magic launched its first two products: the Magic Cap operating system and a tool for the creation of intelligent agents called Telescript. Magic Cap was a graphical user interface for handheld devices. Telescript was a computer language intended to create programs that would navigate a dumb computer network. In 1995, the company went public. Sales peaked in the same year.

Both Sony and Motorola shipped Magic Cap organizers, but none of them ever sold very well. I used one of Motorola's organizers briefly. The interface was, in my opinion, overly literal -- the screen had a little picture of a desk and, to look up a phone number, you clicked on the rolodex. For somebody used to a more conventional WIMP interface, it was cumbersome. General Magic later created a version of Magic Cap that ran under Windows 95, but it did not attract many users. They also introduced a desktop-based version of Telescript, intended to help people in large companies find information on their internal networks. It did not find a market.

By 1997, their stock price had fallen to $1 and the company changed directions, embracing voice user interfaces. This remained their focus for the next five years. By 2002, they were producing a series of products that brought a voice interface to other company's software products. Most visibly, General Motors used General Magic's products to drive the voice activated features of their OnStar in-car Internet service.

On September 17, 2002, the company announced that it was throwing in the towel, and would cease operations.

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