Scripting News: Young technologists love lock-in?
Today's background image is of the Sheep Meadow in Central Park.
In today's piece I wrote about how the previous generation of technologists wanted the young techies to come work for them, and we mostly wanted to make cool stuff on our own. We were happy to use their systems, for me the PDP-11 was like a first love. It was a real step backward for us to use the Motorola 6502 that was in the Apple II, or the Z80 that was in CP/M or 8080 in PC-DOS machines. Eventually microprocessors caught up, and the Motorola 68000 that the Mac shipped with was very much like the PDP-11.
Anyway. I remember going to the National Computer Conference in 1979 in Anaheim, as a person from the personal computer world. Now, I spoke the language of the bigger computers, so when we went over to the main hall to visit, to try to tell them about how cool our microcomputers were, they told us they used real computers, that ours were just toys. We should come work for them, on their operating systems and applications. But they were nothing like the stuff we wanted to make. They thought we were kidding around.
A few years later, they were coming to our conferences looking for jobs. They all got them, too -- the PC industry was booming, and eventually sucked in what was left of the previous industry. Mainframes were repositioned as resources for LANs that had lots of PCs on them. But the software was flaky and complicated and if they ever got the kinks out it was after the next shakeup, which turned any box that could do HTTP into a resource, and it wasn't just over a local network, it was the world!
The only things that can move fast enough to keep up are the ones that lots of people can move. So we kept the best operating system from the large-computer world that preceded the PCs, even though the companies are gone. You know what I'm talking about -- Unix. OSes come and go, but somehow at the bottom of the stack it's still Unix. That's not to say people don't use Windows, they do. But evolution went with the just-bad-enough answer, the one that no one owned. As it always does.