Fallibility, Atonement, Redemption, Trust, And Other Arcane Technical Concepts.

Found this page/article this morning, courtesy of an e-mail list/forum I participate in that is discussing computers and education.*

[From Neal Stephenson's publishers site, of the book, "In the Beginning was the Command Line."]

About twenty years ago Jobs and Wozniak, the founders of Apple, came up with the very strange idea of selling information processing machines for use in the home. The business took off, and its founders made a lot of money and received the credit they deserved for being daring visionaries. But around the same time, Bill Gates and Paul Allen came up with an idea even stranger and more fantastical: selling computer operating systems. This was much weirder than the idea of Jobs and Wozniak. A computer at least had some sort of physical reality to it. It came in a box, you could open it up and plug it in and watch lights blink. An operating system had no tangible incarnation at all. It arrived on a disk, of course, but the disk was, in effect, nothing more than the box that the OS came in. The product itself was a very long string of ones and zeroes that, when properly installed and coddled, gave you the ability to manipulate other very long strings of ones and zeroes. Even those few who actually understood what a computer operating system was were apt to think of it as a fantastically arcane engineering prodigy, like a breeder reactor or a U-2 spy plane, and not something that could ever be (in the parlance of high-tech) "productized."

Download the zipped file to read the whole article, I, of course spent a few hours turning the txt file into a dtp publishing application to 'dress' it up and make it easier to read.

OK; OK; so I'm mad.

Some noteworthy quotes

..."Applications get used by people whose big problem is understanding all of their features, whereas OSes get hacked by coders who are annoyed by their limitations."
..."Or they could make the browser one with the OS, gambling that this would make the OS look so modern and sexy that it would help to preserve their dominance in that market. The problem is that when Microsoft's OS position begins to erode (and since it is currently at something like ninety percent, it can't go anywhere but down) it will drag everything else down with it."
..."The OS has (therefore) become a sort of intellectual labor-saving device that tries to translate humans' vaguely expressed intentions into bits. In effect we are asking our computers to shoulder responsibilities that have always been considered the province of human beings--we want them to understand our desires, to anticipate our needs, to foresee consequences, to make connections, to handle routine chores without being asked, to remind us of what we ought to be reminded of while ļ¬ltering out noise."

*Written in 1999, so some aspects of the article may or may not be relevant.and according to Wiki, now defunct as a piece of software. But I feel the principles regarding how and what a computer is used for, still hold true.

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This page contains a single entry by s2art published on October 4, 2008 2:56 PM.

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