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On Sat, Dec 20, 1997 at 12:53:19AM -0500, Dan Strychalski wrote:
Dan, normally I agree with your opinions as posted on this list, but I must
take issue with a couple of things you've said recently.
It was wonderful to have an operating system that ran on a wide variety of
And today, we have even more hardware designs to choose from, and several
OS's which run on all of them. Life is good. It could be better, don't get
It was wonderful to have dynamic on-screen instructions.
And only a few of the best-written applications, then or now, actually have
It was wonderful to be able to choose a user interface suitable for your
work and your tastes.
But in the CP/M days, you could choose text, or ... text. "Graphics
terminals" were expensive exotic devices used by researchers, CAD people and
not many others. Same was true for the "Big Boys" like IBM, CDC, and
Burroughs. And on the Apples and TRS-80's, graphics were for games--real
applications didn't use them. Now, at least with the right OS, you can use
text, graphics, or a mix of both. I prefer the latter. My most
heavily-used X application is xterm. <grin>
For people who work with text, it was particularly wonderful to be able
to keep your hands on the home row, your eyes on the screen, and your
mind on your work ...
A point made repeatedly by Jerry Pournelle in his Byte columns in the
mid-to-late Eighties. Sadly, Jerry has turned to the Dark Side now. His
beloved WordPen (or whatever the heck it was called) is collecting dust on
a shelf now.
... and to do *everything people do today* ...
Oh, really? Which CP/M or Apple II ftp client did you use? Which web
browser? When was the CP/M or Apple II version of The GIMP released, and
which S-100 TrueColor display cards could you afford? Prior to VisiCalc,
which spreadsheet did you use? People do *more* today, although not as
efficiently as they used to.
... using standards-based non-printing main-block command keystrokes
common to every computer on Earth ...
Sorry, Dan, now you've gone too far. Which standards were you thinking of
here? I assert that things were just as much a mish-mash in the days of
CP/M and the Appple II as they are now, if not moreso. The closest thing to
keystroke standards I've ever seen were the Wordstar control keys, still in
use in some modern software, and the Emacs control keys, still widely used
in lots of different packages.
"Common to every computer on Earth"? Hogwash, total stuff and nonsense.
Software has *never* been able to agree on much of anything, especially
Oops -- correction: those keystrokes were common to every computer, every
operating system, and every application program on Earth until Apple
REMOVED the Ctrl key, M'soft DISABLED it, IBM REPOSITIONED it, and
WordPerfect and Lotus IGNORED it, making keyboard use a NIGHTMARE and
FORCING people to use vendor-specific keys and pointing devices.
Please, people, don't be misled into believing this. IBM, CDC, Univac,
GE/Honeywell, Burroughs, Harris, DEC -- they each one thought they had A
Better Way, and enforced it mercilessly on their customers. Using a
heterogeneous computing environment was pretty much a foreign concept in
business, and only slightly more common in academia, until just a few years
ago. The vendors made sure of that, by enforcing proprietary file formats,
even down to the character codes. Anybody remember EBCDIC, Fieldata,
Display Code, etc.? We tend to take ASCII sorta for granted, but not that
long ago (well, I guess it was before your time, Dan) there wasn't even a
"common" text format.
I'm not saying things are a whole lot better now, just different. Some
things are better, some are worse. On the whole, I think we're making
progress, just not as fast as we could be.
Sorry to shout. I get emotional about this.
As well you should. Lots of people tend to forget the lessons of history,
and are thus condemned to repeat it.
... once Apple showed the way, lock-in became the name of the game, and
everything based on public standards had to go.
I believe IBM actually invented lock-in back in the sixties. Apple are
amateurs at it compared to IBM mainframe salesmen. Public standards in
computing are pretty recent, relatively speaking.
Because of that, neither GUIs nor text-based systems are half of what
they could be.
I agree with this.
Speaking of pedaling, for someone who knows what is possible on a computer
and who must use a computer eight hours a day, to sit down at a Mac, a
Windows machine, or any system with the keyboard layout IBM introduced in
1986, is like riding a bicycle with one pedal missing, or riding along and
having the handlebar stem snap in two.
I contest this. As one who has been using a computer a lot longer than you,
Dan, I find the 100-key keyboards a delight. Oh, the layout could stand
some improvement, I agree, but having actual cursor keys (that even *work*
in most applications!), a numeric keypad, and user-definable function keys
is a dream come true for someone who spent hours on an IBM 026 keypunch or a
KSR-33 Teletype. And even *those* were pretty modern machines in their day.
Try using an IBM 3270 connected to, oh, a Honeywell Level 66, for two or
three years and then get back to me.