What Goes Around…

Reflecting on 30 years of progress in computingComputers from yesteryear

Back in the “old” days there was the brand new kid on the block in the form of MS DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System), but there was also the somewhat “entrenched” standard of CPM, and of course the first generation of Apple OS. There was also a plethora of mini computers in that era, all of which had their own operating systems. So the poor developers were faced with the age old issue of which operating system to write their applications for. And by the way, for the large number of the current computer users who don’t know the genealogy of the word “App”, guess what, it’s an “Application” and  yes, we had “Apps” way back when. In any case most software developers bet the farm by writing their applications for a specific platform and hoped that platform had long legs.

Of course this was only supposed to be a transitory problem as first DOS won the operating system wars, then Unix became Linux then became a public domain operating system which EVERYONE could use. And of course the Java folks brought us the promise of “write once” code that would run on absolutely anything.

So, 30 plus years later, everything is resolved, right? You write code once, don’t worry about what actual device/operating system it is running on and everybody is happy. Not! Here we are back to the future, with Windows still hanging on, Apple OS maintaining its traditional market share, iPads hoping that the user doesn’t even know what an operating system is,  Android – the latest generation of “open” operating systems, and Chrome, which sells itself as both a browser and an operating system. And oh my, that great multiple platform Java stuff that doesn’t even run on iPads. Now developers are further forced to consider what size device the user has (7”, 10”, etc.) and write conditional code to attempt to optimize their applications to the device size as well.

Can you imagine if the auto industry was this fractured, so that if you owned a Ford, you could only fill your tank with Shell gasoline?

Well I guess we’ll see what the next 40 years holds in terms of delivering some real standards that we can all benefit from.

And, on the hardware front…

So we had this great idea called a notebook computer.

Then we turned it into a tablet computer by flipping the screen around and parking it against the keyboard.

The we decided that we didn’t need keyboards and came out with tablets.

Then we decided that we did need keyboards after all and sales of external keyboards for tablets took off.

Then we decided to nicely integrate the external keyboard for the tablet so that it attaches to the tablet in a nice form factor.

Hmm, a computer with a screen and an attached keyboard that is portable…what a novel idea.

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