1. 12

  2. 4

    This was also around the time that people thought there might only need to be a handful of computers in the whole wide world – that computers would be a public utility like telephone service.

    We sorta swung back around to this, though, didn’t we? I mean, a “handful” is an understatement, but they are basically a utility at this point, at least the way most people use them.

    1. 4

      I think people tend to underestimate the impact early telephone switches had on computing. This video from the Connections Museum sold it to me - these are programmable state machines.

      1. 1

        Nice video! Have you been to the actual museum in Seattle? I’ve had the good fortune. A definite joy.

      2. 2

        Most of you have probably seen this by now but I’ll leave it here for those who haven’t.


        1990s Pentium PC WWW

        2000s Laptop Web 2.0

        2010s Smart Phones Apps

        2020s Wearables TBD

        2030s Embeddables TBD

        I’ve seen this table in 2000 and 2010 and now again in 2020. Each time the “wearables” is touted as next decade’s big thing. I think it’s something that we won’t be able to achieve before the year of Linux on the desktop :-).

        Granted, people have been singing dirges for the personal computer since about that same time, too. First it was thin clients (were it not for that stupid slow-ass network!). Then it was phones and tablets (were it not for them simpletons whose work did not consist of forwarding emails and attending meetings). But, you know, if you predict things at a high enough rate, some of them are bound to come true.

        1. 2

          2020 smart watch, fitness armbands

          They are not as dominant as the others though.

          1. 1

            I regularly take walks without my phone, wearing my cellular watch streaming audiobooks and podcasts to my wireless earbuds, responding to messages through the voice assistant. No “smartglasses” yet, but wearables are important today and a huge growth area.

            Still, yeah, doesn’t feel like anywhere near the the impact of PCs or smartphones. Once glasses get here, I think it will.

          2. 2

            Oh the Nostalgia. To think that I’m so old that I’ve experienced a big chunk of computer history is mind blowing. I started out with Commodore 64 and a VIC20. I used Intel 8086 and Intel 8088, my 486 66mhz I remember fondly, as I remember my Pentium from Digital (what a beast it was). After that point it went fast and from that point on I cannot really remember any particular computer as very special, up until my first Mac with OSX.

            1. 1


              … which also turned 20 a week ago.

              1. 3

                I’ve never been a mac user but I wonder if the upgrade path/user experience feels much diifferent over these 20 years of OS X compared to Windows (either 3.11 up to 5 years ago, or Win98/2000 up till Win 10)…

                Because despite having used all these Windows systems (3.11, NT 4, 95A,B,C, 98, 98 SE, Me, 2000, XP, 7, 10, and not Vista and 8/8.1) - while some people might say the gui is kinda samey or had a clear evolution, my /experience/ is so vastly different.

                3.11 was basic but worked.

                95A was a complete shitshow and crashed daily and I had to reinstall once a month, at least

                95 B and C were tolerable

                98 was somehow fresher but less stable again

                98 SE was pretty good

                Me I don’t really remember

                2000 was awesome (after the first few months with driver problems for some games)

                XP was ok

                7 was solid

                10 is a step back in my opinion but it’s close to 7 in quality

                1. 1

                  3.11 was basic but worked.

                  I worked in the helpdesk in a university library back then. I can’t remember how many people lost their complete dissertations from crashing window 3.11 machines (Combined with having no idea that you need to keep multiple backups on these slow and unreliable floppy disks). Whatever came after might have been bad, but all of them have been better than 3.11.

                  1. 1

                    interesting. I mean we only had it for like 2 years (on one PC) and it was mostly used for Word and Excel but I can’t remember any crashes at all, that’s why I was so surprised that 95A was so bad…

                  2. 1

                    The 1984 original Mac was “the first [UI] worth criticizing”, to misquote Alan Kay. Once you upgraded the RAM it was very capable, and quickly launched desktop publishing once PageMaker was released.

                    The later 80s brought color and bigger screen support, some limited multitasking, networking, and a huge filesystem improvement.

                    System 7 in 1991 was a big step with a fully-color GUI, multitasking, IAC, and tons of usability improvements. But under the hood it was still quite primitive with no memory protection or pre-emptive scheduling.

                    The rest of the 90s saw only incremental improvements since Apple kept working on a series of failed attempts to build a better OS from scratch and/or port to x86 (Pink/Taligent, Star Trek, Maxwell/Copland).

                    Finally in 2001 came Mac OS X, which was a NeXT-derived OS using the Mach microkernel, BSD Unix, the “AppKit” evolution of OpenStep, the “Carbon” porting layer for the old Mac APIs, and the “blue box” classic OS emulator to run unported apps. 10.0 was buggy and incomplete, but by 10.2 in 2002 it was solid.

                    1. 1

                      When I started working we had a lot of OS 9 macs, I used to only use them to test web pages in Internet Explorer. They crashed often and to a casual Windows/Linux user they weren’t great, but usable.

                      When a coworker showed me OS X (must have been 10.0) it was kinda amazing, but I didn’t use it a lot, so can’t really comment. But I’ve always felt that mac users have sometimes lamented about good and bad releases, but hardly any game breakers to switch away for a certain release, more of a “been sick of it for a while”:..

                    2. 1

                      I have been using Windows since 3.11 and was using only Windows (and Dos) up until around Mac OS X. Never used a Mac before that point.

                      But for me it has seemed like Windows have been more incremental while OS X release have been more continuous. I mean, If I think back to my original OS X, I kind of remember it being just the same as what I am using today (Big Sur), which is obviously wasn’t. Windows releases however has been more distinct from its previous version, in my mind

                      I also used OS/2 (was that what it was called?) along side of Windows 3.11. But to be frank, back in those days, I was mostly using Dos. Windows 3.11, to me as a gamer at the time, didn’t really add anything for my needs.

                2. 2

                  It really doesn’t make sense to round everything to decades; there’s too much aliasing. In terms of hardware it’s especially bad because for some reason the generations seem to line up best on mid-decade events:

                  • Minicomputer: mid-60s; the iconic PDP-8 appeared in 1965.
                  • Microcomputer: mid-70s: the iconic Altair 8800, IMSAI 8080, SOL-20 all appeared in 1975, also the year BYTE magazine started, and I think the start of the Homebrew Computer Club. 1977 brought the Apple II, TRS-80, PET…
                  • 32-bit PC: mid-80s: first Macintosh 1984; Compaq 386-based PC in 1985
                  • Laptops: Well, my first was a PowerBook 100 in 1991, but they really only became practical in the mid-90s.

                  In terms of networking, ARPAnet does snap to a decade boundary (1969) but the switch to TCP/IP and DNS occurred, again, mid-decade in the 80s. And while the birth of the WWW was around 1990, the really explosive growth came in 1994-95.

                  1. 2

                    The rate of change in consumer computing makes me feel physically sick. It’s so fast. It’s so tumultuous. It’s so hard to keep up, and adapt.