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    Great article!

    From the conclusion:

    Conclusion I don’t think this is detrimental to the profitability of the software business, but I do believe it makes the world a little worse for us all as individuals. If you’ve never jumped through certain hoops, it’s not apparent that some of them were there to empower the user. If you’re not familiar with the benefits of configurability, chances are you’re not going to implement them. If the machines you’ve grown up with never offered options and freedom of choice, will you spend energy on championing that in a professional setting?

    What about zooming out and choosing to change your mindset, adopting a radically different perspective?

    I would posit that very same configuratability and expressiveness IS out there! It’s just not going to leap off the screen if you’re running, say mainstream Windows or Linux.

    There are SO MANY amazing niches to explore in 2022 for people like us! Over the last several years, a thousand thousand flowers have bloomed, and I’m not even exaggerating.

    You could buy a tiny computer for a few dollars and build something amazing. Or you could build or even design one of the minimalist computers people are playing with based on chips old and new.

    Or you could even just take that same gestalt and apply it to more modern systems! A super expressive, programmable READY prompt-esque desktop for Linux perhaps? Maybe using framebuffer graphics? :)

    The world is our oyster! Rather than being all maudlin because the world moved on, why not bring some of that beautiful power and expressiveness forward into the future?

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      You could buy a tiny computer for a few dollars and build something amazing. Or you could build or even design one of the minimalist computers people are playing with based on chips old and new. […] The world is our oyster! Rather than being all maudlin because the world moved on, why not bring some of that beautiful power and expressiveness forward into the future?

      I sympathize with this idea, too. We’re fixated on the idea that modern hardware is too complicated and too locked down to make this possible. And lots of modern hardware is indeed too complicated and too locked down for experimentation, but lots of it isn’t, and you can still use much of the complicated and locked down hardware to your benefit.

      One of the things I’d always dreamed about was to build a computer from scratch. I doodled a bunch of clever schematics around 6809 and Z80 during boring high school classes, many years ago. The one hurdle I never figured a way around back at the time was that I had no EEPROM programmer. They were expensive to buy – not that I had anywhere to buy them from, it’s not like anyone shipped anything to where I’m from back at the time – and, given how unlikely it would’ve been that I’d have been able to get the code right without extensive debugging, asking someone to burn an EEPROM for me once in a while wasn’t an option. At one point I tried to design my own, but it was way harder than my very modest, pre-university EE skills allowed for.

      Now you can emulate the EEPROM with an Arduino Nano for a fraction of the price of what an EEPROM programmer used to cost. Last time I did it I was so lazy I got some Nano clone with BLE support so I didn’t even have to unplug it, I could reprogram it over the air while I made tea.

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      We are the generation that see the rot under the surface. That see wallen garden web silos and sideload-locked devices as steps backwards. We had it all and lost it.

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        It’s human nature to look back to a time when things were novel and new. Such memories are inherently radiant with the glow of nostalgia.

        I have that too. Ask me about the Amiga or the Atari 8 bit sitting behind me :)

        However as I mention in my comment above, while I totally get it, I also think there’s value in choosing a different path as I personally feel like the tech world is drowning in negativity, which can be cathartic and habit forming in and of itself.

        I’m NOT judging anyone, just wondering if perhaps choosing differently might be something to consider.

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          We had it all and lost it.

          I disagree. Editing AUTOEXEC.BAT to play a game wasn’t something we “had”, it was something that was forced upon us by circumstance. And the article actually makes that quite clear. No one wanted it, we just didn’t have a choice.

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            I was really hopeful during the “downhill battle” era for FOSS and commons.

            Then came three big blows:

            1. Smartphones. We were caught up or ahead on the desktop, then the arena was moved to the pocket with these super locked down computers.
            2. Web silos. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace, YouTube ate the web. This specifically is what I mean as a sense of “loss”. I know there is IRC and mailing lists for some projects but there used to be for all kinds of mainstream topics.
            3. DRM-laden streaming sites like Spotify and Netflix.

            I feel that we who went through edit autoexec.bat, notepad index.html, ./configure && make have a different perspective on this. That’s not to say that those three were good things, they were bad, but they were markers; I’ve just noticed that more people from that era share the perspective of how messed up the current tech stacks are. They paved paradise and out up a parking lot.

            The advantage of the current era is easier UI. Silents and boomers were overjoyed in the era of iPhone and Facebook since they were finally “let in”, and millennials and younger grew up in a Truman Show world where Insta and YouTube were as established and inescapable as TV, radio, roads, and grocery stores had been for us. It’s like that old story of what a fish thinks about water.

            (With plenty of individual exceptions in all directions because I’m talking cohort trends here; we have our pioneer elders, our non-nerdy peers, and people of all ages who wanna to see behind the curtain of how the tech world works.)

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          1. I write (even now) a lot of code that I release open source. That scratches my computer hacking itch that fiddling with the C128 and the 48+ used to serve
          2. Even closer to the spirit of the C128 are micro-controllers which are cheap and fun and full of some amazing capabilities.

          I suspect a lot of the type of people who were scratching their itch with wrestling 1980s computer systems now make robots and drones and do home automation with the IOT.

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            And some people are having fun combining their new fangled IoT peanut butter with their retro-computing chocolate :)

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            I am among them and I believe it’s no coincidence. This is definitely an over-represented group here.

            For me, it was the Amiga.

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              Many a DOS gamer will, I’m sure, remember editing AUTOEXEC.BAT, CONFIG.SYS …

              Oh yes. Ohhhh yes. Trying to re-arrange things in those startup files to pack as much into the 640K -> 1M range as possible, while also loading drivers for CD-ROM drives and such. Dealing with extended memory vs. expanded memory and the drivers for that. Codepages. Towards the end of the DOS era, things had smoothed out though, and you could easily make a single setup with nearly all the 640KiB range available for applications, and the applications which could used EMS / XMS would just work. Or else I finally just knew what I was doing.