One of the things I always loved about Macintosh computers, back in the mid 1990’s when I was using them at work as my day-to-day computer, was the amount of simple light-hearted fun that was available for the platform. For example, I had a program called Homer Pro, which simply drew a Homer Simpson character on the screen.
If you put the mouse pointer on him, he would churlishly exclaim “Don’t point that thing at me!”. Homer had numerous other amusing and predictably unpredictable behaviors, all of which kept him a permanent fixture on my desktop.
However, without a doubt, my favorite piece of Macintosh silliness of the day was the eyeball programs. These programs would place a pair of eyeballs on screen, which would do nothing more constructive than “keep an eye on the mouse pointer” wherever it went. The eyes themselves did not move of course. Rather the eyeballs within them moved around to track the location of the mouse pointer, no matter where you put it. Making them go cross-eyed by putting the mouse pointer right underneath them was always a great diversion when things got too serious and I needed a smile!
As you may guess, there was absolutely zero practical value in such programs, and perhaps because of that they appealed to my sense of the absurd. And as you might also guess, my menu bar was never without a pair of observant eyeballs, keeping a constant watch on whatever I was doing.
I decided a while ago to try to find such a program, and install it on my Power Macintosh 7300/200, just for the fun of it. I was surprised to find not just one such program, but in fact THREE such programs: Eyes, MyEyes and Watcher. I tested them all and this post reflects my findings.
Eyes^3 v1.1 (eyes3_1.1.sit):
Eyes^3 was my first candidate. It declared itself to be from Jades End Software, 1996, and further pronounced itself to be compatible with System 7.5.1 and up and Power Macintosh.
This sounded compatible enough with my machine and so I gave it a whirl. Disappointing! The eyes did not appear on the menu bar at all, but rather in a new and dedicated window on the desktop.
Worse still, they did not move! While large and colorful, they simply sat there with a fixed stare, no matter what I did with the mouse pointer. I tried increasing the memory assigned to the program, but that had no effect. The eyes stubbornly refused to track the mouse pointer (or anything else for that matter). Clearly, compatibility with Mac OS 9.x did not exist. One for the recycle bin I’m afraid!
Verdict: at least on Mac OS 9.1, Eyes^3 is a bust.
MyEyes 2.3.5 (myeyes-235.sit):
Next up was MyEyes, 2.3.5. This one attributed itself to Federico Filipponi, and stated a need for Mac OS 7.1 or later. Encouragingly, it said that it was a FAT binary and was thus compatible with my Power Macintosh 7300/200.
MyEyes installed via a dedicated installer program, and required a restart afterwards. Ah hah – a system extension clearly! I ran the installer, which completed successfully, and granted the requested restart. When the machine completed its boot cycle, a pair of lovely full color eyeballs popped onto the menu bar and began to do just what I remembered – they tracked the mouse pointer wherever I moved it.
Further to that, they blinked from time to time! I caught the below screen shot “mid blink”:
MyEyes had more tricks “up its eyelids” however. There was a new MyEyes control panel, and there you could set the color of the eyeballs, the color of the lids, the rate of blinking and much more. All in all, a very well rounded package, and one that did just what I remembered.
There was one fly in the ointment however: MyEyes was released as shareware, and it reminds you of this fact shortly after boot, every boot. It wants a user name and a serial number. While you can dismiss this request each time (and happily it does not reoccur until the machine is booted again) it is annoying, exactly as it was intended to be! Mind you, those of you who feel even a bit adventurous should be easily able to locate a valid user name and serial number out there on the wild, wild web. Just saying…
Verdict: Very Good! Just what I was looking for (minus the nagware dialog!).
Watcher 2.0 (watcher(eyes)20.hqx)
Our final contender in this digital staring match is Watcher 2.0. Watcher 2.0 credits Binary Software Inc with its provenance, and says that it is a 1998 program, compatible with Mac OS 7.0 – 8.1 and any machine 68020 and above. Hmmm… clearly an older program and probably a 68K only binary as well. Despite the fact that I was running Mac OS 9.1 on a PowerPC, I decided to try it out.
Like MyEyes, Watcher 2.0 is really just a system extension, and the install instructions directed the user to copy the extension file to the System Folder and restart. I did just that, and as with MyEyes, I was rewarded with a pair of watchful eyeballs in the menu bar when the boot process completed.
However, it wasn’t REALLY like MyEyes… These eyeballs were much plainer, and quite a bit smaller as well, likely the result of being written to not adversely impact the performance of a lower powered 68K environment. They did dutifully track the mouse pointer, but the whole effect wasn’t nearly as comical as that created by MyEyes. Heck, they didn’t even blink!
Verdict: Workable, but lacks the pizzazz of MyEyes.
Overall, this author has to give “two eyeballs up” to MyEyes 2.3.5, which will henceforth have a permanent place in the menu bar of my vintage Macs! You can get MyEyes at http://macintoshgarden.org/apps/myeyes. Honorable mention is given to Watcher, which turns in a credible, if minimalistic, performance in this role.
BTW, MyEyes actually turns out to be more than just a fun diversion. It can actually be very useful as well – it makes a great indirect CPU meter! In some sense, MyEyes runs “in the background” and so if the machine gets heavily loaded, the eye’s rate of tracking of the mouse pointer slows down. By simply observing the suppleness of the eye’s movements, you can deduce the state of load on the CPU. I find myself glancing at MyEyes’ eyeballs frequently for exactly this purpose.
p.s.> A note about the Homer Pro program I mentioned above. Believe it or not, I still have that program!
Back in 1997, when my company so precipitously shifted from Macintoshes to PCs (deeming Windows 95 “good enough”), I copied some key programs and documents off of my work machine and onto a floppy, reasoning that if we ever reversed this decision and returned to Macintoshes, I would still have them. Homer Pro was among the items I included in this 1.44 MB long term time capsule.
Somehow, through all the intervening years, I kept that floppy, and when I started restoring vintage Macs a few years ago, it was the very first diskette I loaded into my very first functioning, now vintage, Macintosh. I was delighted when Homer Pro loaded up properly and Homer indignantly pronounced his displeasure at having a mouse pointer leveled at him! I wish I had had the foresight to have kept more stuff back then, but hindsight is always 20/20.
I recovered my copy of Homer Pro from the above long held floppy. YOU can get Homer Pro a little more easily. It turns out that it is available at the ever valuable Macintosh Garden. Go to http://macintoshgarden.org/apps/homer-pro and you will be able to download your very own copy. Enjoy!