The Idea Dude


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Peter Coffe at eWeek had the following list of 25 Kill Apps of All Time. Didn't agree with him on some of them but it did make me think back to what tools were indispensible at each point of my life. This is my remember-when moment...

  • The early years: who can deny Wordstar, VisiCalc, dBase II as the pioneers of what we take for granted as office suites today.
  • Programming languages: If you battled with the early Basic interpreters and C compilers, you would have appreciated what Borland bought to the table with Turbo Pascal, Turbo C and Turbo Prolog in terms of speed of development and their integrated development environment.
  • First generation Microsoft Office, being a non-Mac user, Word for Windows and Excel were my staple tools because of their WYSIWYG approach and ability to exchange data through DDE.
  • Operating systems: Having spent too much time with real-time systems such as DEC with their RSX-11 OS's, Dos and Windows x.0 were poor substitutes. IBM made a faux pax with OS/2 although it was so much superior than Windows 3.x. At least Microsoft redeemed themselves by scalping Dave Cutler and team from Dec and the birth of Windows NT marked a new era for Microsoft, finally, a true preemptive, multi-tasking systems. Linux made the notion of cheap enterprise OS a respectable option.
  • Browsers: In the mid-80s we spent a lot of time scraping websites (where was RSS when you needed it). Perhaps you would remember Microsoft's CDF format when XML was acrononym no-one knew about. I lived through the IE/Netscape browser wars when the the only certainty was incompatibility (has anything changed?)
  • Handhelds: I managed to pass-up on the early Apple Newton because I couldn't afford it (like everything else that Apple or Steve Jobs sold in the 90's, didn't you lust after the NeXT cube with it's Postscript display?). But did own a Palm V and a PocketPC over the years.
  • Laptops: Owned one of the first Toshiba color laptops with a 8inch screen, 25 MHz and 20MB hard disk. Weighed about 3 times as much as my cell then which was a Nokia brick. Other Toshiba laptops followed, they had a philosophy in those days that if it was high end it was also damn heavy (and that's not including the battery charger). These days a slim Thinkpad X series does the job.
  • Memory: You're old if you remember Apple's floppy disks where 143kB and you had to punch a notch in the disk to use the other side and Dos 5 1/4 floppies held 320MB of data. The Apple IIe was less than a 1 Mhz. 64kB ram was luxury. Today, my son's PS/3 has probably more processing power than the Cray not too long ago. I took me 2 hours to ray-trace a fractal landscape on my Apple IIe. Today, you can play a game at 32 times the resolution with real-time smoothing, anti-aliasing, shading and multiple light sources with 10 other people over the Internet. Don't get me started on the 25GB Blu-ray disk capability!

Sometimes I have to remind myself and my kids, life wasn't black and white like the Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy.

The interesting thing about this exercise is probably 50% or more of my readers will probably have no clue what I'm talking about, that's progress!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the added perspective. I invite further conversation at

- Peter Coffee, eWEEK

5:59 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home