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NCR 315
I sold several of these dinosaurs

COMPUTING Paradigms

Some of this is a history lesson. I was selling mainframes when a computer was the size of a dozen refrigerators.  

ENIAC -- John A. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert. Proposal 4/2/43, completed 12/45. 30 tons, 180,000 tubes, 5,000 calculations/second, 1,000 times faster than electromechanical Mark I. Todays' PCs are 100 times faster. World-wide sales of computers run $115 billion/year. The average GM car contains as much information-processing power as was on board the Apollo moonlanding craft in 1969, and more than a 1970s mainframe.

 If car prices had droppped at the rate that computer chips went down, it would have been cheaper to park the car and abandon it rather than to put money in the meter.

"Laws of the Computer Jungle"

 (from the NYT 7/16/89)

 1.         Expect the worst, then plan for it.

 2.         Back up your hard disk frequently.

 3.         Don't buy Version 1.0 of anything.

 4.         Don't buy anything from a company whose address is a post office box.

 5.         Pay attention to warranties and service contracts.

 6.         Heed the Tarzan Principle: Don't let go of the first vine until the next one is firmly in your grasp.   


A bug is an imperfection in your competitor's program. Imperfections in your program are called various things depending on who you are:

  • ACIUS--anomaly,
  • Claris--unexpected result,
  • Microsoft--wrongful termination, and
  • Apple--undocumented feature.

--The Macintosh Way


Networks

 When Novell had no competition, circa 1988,

  • The average network was disabled 23.6 times per year (Selling Red).
  •  The average local area network crashed twice a month. (Forbes 11/89)
  •  If your network was running well 70% of the time, consider yourself lucky (Network Computing)
  •  LANS were down due to failure 6 percent of the time (LANTIMES)

 


Web maturing

July '99. This week I attended the introduction of Allaire "Spectra," nee Tempest. A couple of years ago, just about everything that showed up on the web was strained through a "webmaster." Teams have replaced webmasters, and the Spectra pitch captures the move to let everyone in on web/intranet production and use. The vision is that programmers program, designers design, managers get reports, SMEs input information, etc.

"Allaire Spectra is designed around a model and methodology for building large scale content and commerce systems that embrace the idea that every participant in an enterprise has a unique set of requirements to be productive in their use of the Web. This spectrum of participants spans system administrators, developers, designers, business managers and users, as well as customers, partners, and site affiliates. With Allaire Spectra implemented across an enterprise, each member of the spectrum is empowered to use the Web in a logical way," reads the announcement. (Spectra, get it?)

Jaws dropped when the audience, many of them small-time Cold Fusion or HomeSite users, heard that the pricetag is $7.500 for a single server -- probably $100,000 for a complete set-up. Nonetheless, Allaire paints a tidy picture. Best practices in a box. C-and-c for intranets.


My web

Several years ago I began thinking of the web as my hard drive. Increasingly, the web is becoming my processor. Currently my gustbook, site maps, search function, calendar, quizlet, and discussion forums are all on the someone else's server. This month I've put many of my reference files and working papers on my site to share with everyone. Now my web site is where I think as wel as where I publish.

 


The Four Paradigms of Computing

from Scientific American, 9/91, but remarkably prescient.

 

Batch

Time-Sharing

Desktop

Network

Decade

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

Technology

medium-scale integration

large-scale integration

very large scale

ultra large scale

Location

computer room

terminal room

desktop

mobile

Users

Experts

Specialists

Individuals

Groups

User Status

Subservience

Dependence

Independence

Freedom

Data

Alphanumeric

Text, vector

Fonts, graphs

Script, voice

Objective

Calculate

Access

Present

Communicate

User activity

Punch & try (submit)

Remember & type (interact)

See & point (drive)

Ask & tell (delegate)

Operation

Process

Edit

Layout

Orchestrate

Interconnect

Peripherals

Terminals

Desktops

Palmtops

Applications

Custom

Standard

Generic

Components

Languages

COBOL, FORTRAN

PL/1, BASIC

PASCL, C

Object oriented

 The old paradigms do not die out completely. In this respect, the evolution of computing recalls that of organisms, which often survive in certain ecological niches even though they have been superseded elsewhere by new forms of life. Time-sharing, for instance, still dominates industries that process many transactions....

 Memory was bulkier than paper as recently as 20 years ago. To store in immediately accessible form a million characters of text (about as many as appear in two copies of this issue of Scientific American), one then required a disk pack the size of a birthday cake. By the 80s that many data could be stored on a diskette that fitted into the shirt pocket.

 Electronic software distribution will also lead vendors to package software into smaller units that can be transmitted more easily. "Component" software.

 The most profound technologies are those that disappear. The idea of a "personal" computer itself is misplaced and  the vision of laptop machines, dynabooks and knowledge navigators is only a transitional step toward achieving the real potential of information tecyhnology.

 Virtual reality is only a map, not a territory.

 Virtual reality focuses an enormous apparatus on simulating the world rather than on invisibly enhancing the world that already exists.


 from Well,  Conf: Information              Topic: 486

 VESTIGIAL PARADIGMS

In William Gibson's cyberpunk novel NEUROMANCER, the hero asks an artificial intelligence program if it can read his mind.  The AI responds, "Minds aren't read.  See, you've still got the paradigms print gave you..."    Commands like READ, WRITE, and PRINT were incorporated into "high level" languages like COBOL, FORTRAN and BASIC.  Even today, a large set of memory locations (for instance 64,000 of them) is called a "page."  These are book-age metaphors.

 

The computer programmer who uses READ and  WRITE statements has one foot in the pre-computer age.

 The English word "print" comes from the Latin word premere which means to press. The old Romans pressed their styli into wax tablets.  Of course, wax tablets weren't the only ancient medium. Julius Caesar would appreciate CTRL-S for "no scroll."

 Computing will advance out of the Era of Print when you never need to open a book.  Already  "Shareware" programs from PC-SIG have this instruction printed on the diskette label: TYPE GO.  This activates the GO.BAT program that tells you what to do with the diskette.  If this is too arcane, the user needs a course in information literacy.

  

Traditions linger.  Our computer terminals have CRTs that display 80 columns of data.   We accept this without question.  The fact is that 80 columns is about the right number for a punched card the size and shape of a US "horseblanket" dollar bill from 1890.  These were the punched cards that Herman Hollerith used.  The 8-bit byte seems like a handy way to communicate with a binary machine.  In fact, eight holes are about all you can get on a strip of paper tape read by an RCA teletype which (30 years ago) transmitted at 45 baud.

 As we move away from staining dead trees, we can look forward to a time when annual reports exist on hardcopy, but more frequent output does not.  The system manager may have fat  manuals which explain all the "tricks and traps".  The users will not longer need to interrupt their work to get help.  The best thing about high-resolution, three-dimensional graphics enhanced with voice annotations is that you can't do this on greenbar.

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