General Magic – Hope for Humanity?

Longhurst Limited

13th December 2018

General Magic – Hope for Humanity


A bold statement I appreciate. 

Hope for Humanity. 

But having just watched General Magic, I truly believe we, as in the human-race, still have a general fighting chance.


General Magic 

Quite simply, a thought-provoking documentary which I will personally be watching again, and probably, again and again.

A wonderful insight into the marvel that is innocent creativity. The advancement of technological art. The inner workings of Silicon Valley. And how failure is, for all of us, an individual journey.

Through the lense of archive film, we witness a group of individuals coming together to solve a problem for a future they believed was just around the corner. A focus on providing humanity with a new mobile way of communicating. A level of ingenuity and foresight well ahead of all of their peers.

They were Rock Stars. And they were artists.



We all handle failure differently.

In my humble opinion, for Marc Porat, following years of putting his life, soul, and marriage, into General Magic, the very public end of his dream, crushed him. 

Failure is always a difficult pill to swallow. A public failure is even harder. Knowing others have taken your work and advanced without you, well, that for some, can be terminal. I sincerely hope he finds solace and healing in this documentary. He was, and ultimately still is, a pioneer. And a Rock Star.

And for the other Rock Stars, for them they advanced, no doubt following a bout of their own soul searching. Andy Hertzfield. Megan Smith. Tony Fadell. To name just three. Google. Apple. Ebay. Android. Even the US Government. These are in part a result of, or a continued success because of, the team at General Magic. These individuals took what they learned throughout their time at ‘GM’, and moved forward into an evolving world, under a new employer. They licked their wounds, learned their lessons, and decided to continue on their artistry paths.

And how lucky are we that they all did this?

Answer: Very.


Lessons to learn 

General Magic failed because they were ahead of their time. They believed society, and therefore humanity, was ready for their art. They were wrong.

They did not assess the landscape, nor test whether their target audience actually wanted their product. They instead buried their heads into their work. Spent years developing a full product for launch; a launch that they then rushed into (even for them).

No minimum viable product (MVP). No testing of the water. A very public IPO. With investors now to satisfy. In hindsight, the end was always coming.

In the UK we have an abundance of technical artists. I am very fortunate to know many of them, working on Silverstone Park, and as fellow members of the Silverstone Technology Cluster.

Very bright individuals. Working long hours. Trying to improve the world, or their sector, one step at a time.

But they will fail. And so they must. Because without failure they will not learn; and will not iterate what they are developing.

How they handle this failure will then dictate what happens next – sink or swim.



I agree with a comment made by an audience member last night. We need to create an environment where failure can happen on a community-level. Where the individual lessons learned can be shared with all others within that community. MVP’s being tested, by other artists. Constructive feedback, designed to further our collective objective – which is to move forward.

And this is happening. With ACES events. Networking. And even the occasional social. But more can be done. To remove our barriers, and fears. And to further unite. If we’re all prepared to do so.

Personally, prior to launching Longhurst, and indeed the Inside Silverstone Podcast, I spent years testing and learning my trade. Being very patient, and then strategic, in understanding (or attempting to understand) exactly what my target audience wanted (i.e my niche, which for the record, is tech and engineering). Not just from a service, or professional support, but from me, on a human level.

I’m still on my iteration journey, but I know that with constructive feedback from the STC community, I can build a business that serves those that want our help. Whether that be financial planning based, or just an opportunity to publicly share their businesses journey. But I need your help. And support. To learn.   


Humanity – saved?

I woke on the morning of Thursday 13th December, to see a Twitter post to the team at General Magic, from an old healthcare-based acquaintance of mine. I was delighted to see it.

Matt Maude was right last night, that the story of General Magic reaches into all areas of our life. And there can be no greater one than the healthcare sector. 

Great strides are being made by many in healthcare. Junaid Bajwa. Melissa Morris. Many others for whom I knew in a past life. Learning. Iterating. Pushing forward.

And I’m so pleased. Because without this momentum, what hope do we have? Rising pollution. Global warming. A healthcare crisis. Countries at war. You’d be forgiven for thinking we’d screwed this world up.

But there are still artists out there. Technical geniuses. Humanity focused. The ones that will change our lives. Modern day Rock Stars


Thank you

Thank you to both Matt Maude and Sarah Kerruish for directing what I believe should become a must watch, and staple, class-room activity for all students, no matter what subjects they are sitting.

Thank you also to Matt for his compassionate, and human-focused, talk at the end of our showing. I didn’t get to ask my question, in part, because so many other great questions were asked. However, if I could’ve, I’d have asked:

‘Throughout the documentary’s journey, from the beginning to the end, and now to the promotion, what was the biggest new life lesson you learned from all of those involved?’

I’d like this think his reply would’ve simply been – ‘There is still hope for humanity’.

And I think he’d be right.

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