MORE 1.1c (1987)
Tuesday, August 3, 1999 by Dave Winer.
Today's story starts with an email I got from Dan Bricklin on 7/15/99. He had been working privately with Lotus to re-release a 1983 version of the app he created, VisiCalc.
Bricklin's program is only 27K (smaller than most GIFs). I downloaded it and ran it on my NT4 machine, and it worked! And I found I still know how to use it.
The old neural pathways relight.There were some great, highly-influential ideas in that 27K program. And some crucial ideas missing, to be supplied later by 1-2-3 and Excel. You can see that in just five minutes.
Where else on the web can you find such an interesting distraction, if you're a spreadsheet user. Visicalc is smaller than Solitaire, and almost as easy to learn how to use.
Then last week, David Intersimone at Borland did something just as interesting. He packaged up early releases of Borland's Turbo Pascal and C along with some early Borland advertising (Philippe at his best!) and put it on the Borland "museum" site:
This is the compiler he used to implement the first versions of Unix! To me this is especially significant because it was from reading Ritchie's source code that I learned how to program in the 1970s. He's my teacher and role model. And now, viewed again, this gives me a way to explore my roots as a programmer, a way that was not open to me before.
Also on Sunday, Symantec gave me permission to release my own antique software, ThinkTank, Ready! and MORE. We've begun to work on the website, and now have the first release, MORE 1.1c (8/2/87), ready for historians and Mac enthusiasts to download and play with.
This is going to be fascinating, not only because I can retrace my steps in outlining software with a new community of users, but we can also see how Mac software evolved in the period between 1984 and 1991, starting with Thinktank 128 and leading to MORE 3.1. I learned a lot just in preparing MORE 1.1c for re-release.
They were incredibly generous to let us do this. It's great that many of the ideas in our early outliners will get a chance to be seen again, in the context of all that has happened inbetween. There are some neat ideas in these products that can influence software design, and showing the evolution of an idea this way, both the wrong turns and the ideas with lasting value, could leave an interesting trail for people who want to study software evolution as a process. Symantec, thanks a million times!
Second, there's a big disclaimer on every download saying in red and boldface that these products come with no support and that Symantec can withdraw their permission at any time for any reason.
***Apple ][, Apple ///
I've sent emails to software pioneers from the early days of the Apple II, PC and Mac. For example, I am emailing with Steve Wozniak about setting up a web server on an Apple II so we can test out and run and serve antique Apple II software from an Apple II.
I hope to reconnect with gems like the first release of 1-2-3 and early BASICs. Excel, FullWrite, PageMaker, Word, Director, PhotoShop, dBASE, Wordstar, Javelin, Topview, Agenda and Jazz. Where are they now?
There are pragmatic reasons why it's a good idea to get another look at these programs in their early releases. I find on my own development team, with most of the people in their 20s and early 30s, that there are important user interface lessons that have not been passed on.
For anyone running a development company who is concerned about keeping their new web-based products and services competitive, a look back to the user interfaces of the eighties is worth doing. It would help us chart the next steps in the evolution of the web.
Universities and schools should also find this interesting because it opens new avenues for research and for teaching.
The people who created these products are colorful, intelligent, passionate, and have big integrity. They've also been educated, many of them, in the School of Hard Knocks. Good interviews!
Now with the benefit of time, we can see the products that truly had influence. And now with the web as an inexpensive distribution system, the old software can speak for itself, and once again teach lessons, now with the benefit of hindsight.
Let's shake the tree and see what gems fall out. To the reporters and analysts who read DaveNet, if you'd like to cover this, I will help any way I can.