VMS and OpenVMS Welcome to the History of Computing Podcast, where we explore the history of information technology. Because understanding the past prepares us to innovate (and sometimes cope with) the future! Today we’re going to talk through the history of VMS.
Digital Equipment Corporation gave us many things. Once upon a time, I used a DEC Alpha running OpenVMS. The PDP-11 had changed the world, introducing us to a number of modern concepts in computers such as time sharing. The PDP was a minicomputer, smaller and more modern than mainframes. But by 1977 it was time for the next generation and the VAX ushered in the 32-bit era of computers and through the evolutions evolve into the VaXServer, helping to usher in the modern era of client-server architectures. It supported Branch delay slots and suppressed instructions. The VAX adopted virtual memory, privilege modes, and needed an operating system capable of harnessing all the new innovations packed into the VAX-11 and on. That OS would be Virtual Memory System, or VMS. The PDP had an operating system called RSX-11, which had been released in 1972. The architect was Dan Brevik, who had originally called it DEX as a homonym with DEC. But that was trademarked so he and Bob Decker over in marketing wrote down a bunch of acronyms and then found one that wasn’t trademarked. Then they had to reverse engineer a meaning out of the acronym to be Real-Time System Executive, or RSX. But for the VAX they needed more and so Dave Cutler from the RSX team, then in his early 30s, did much of the design work. Dick Hustvedt and Peter Lipman would join him and they would roll up to Roger Gourd, who worked with DECs VP of engineering Gordon Bell to build the environment. The project began as Starlet, named because it was meant to support the Startlet family of processors. A name that still lives on in various files in the operating system. The VMS Operating System would support RISC instructions, support 32-bit virtual address extension, would work with DECnet, would have virtual memory of course, as the name implies. VMS would bring a number of innovations in the world of clustering. VMS would use a modified Julian Day system to keep track of system time, which subtracts the Julian Date from 2,400,000.5. Why? Because it begins on November 17th, 1858. THat’s not why, that the day it starts. Why? Because it’s not Y10,000 compliant only having 4 slots for dates. Wait, that’s not a thing. Anyway, how did VMS come to be? One of the killer apps for the system though, was that DECnet was built on DIGITAL Network Architecture, or DNA. It first showed up in RSX, where you could like two PDPs but you could have 32 nodes by the time VaX showed up and 255 with VMS 2. Suddenly there was a simple way to network these machines, built into the OS. Version 1 was released in 1977 in support of the VAX-11/780. Version 2 would come along in 1980 for the 750 and Version 3 would come in 1982 for the 730. The VAX 8600 would ship in 84 with version 4. And here’s where it gets interesting. The advent of what were originally called microcomputers but are now called personal computers had come in the late 70s and early 80s. By 1984, MicroVMS was released as a port for running on the MicroVAX, Digitals attempt to go down-market. Much as IBM had missed minicomputers initially, Digital had missed the advent of microcomputers though and the platform never took off. Bill Gates would adorn the cover of Time that year. Of course, by 84, Apple had AppleTalk and DOS was ready to plug in as well. Bill Joy moved BSD away from VAX in 1986, after having been with the PDP and then VAX for years, before leaving for Sun. At this point the platform was getting a bit long in the tooth. Intel and Microsoft were just starting to emerge as dominant players in computing and DEC was the number two software company in the world, with a dominant sales team and world class research scientists. They released ULTRIX the same year though, as well as the DECStation with a desktop environment called UW for ULTRIX Workstation. Ultrix was based on BSD 4 and given that most Unixes had been written on PDPs, Bill Joy knew many of the group launched by Bill Munson, Jerry Brenner, Fred Canter and Bill Shannon. Cutler from that OpenVMS team hates Unix. Rather than have a unified approach, the strategy was fragmented. You see a number of times in the history of computing where a company begins to fail not because team members are releasing things that don’t fit within the strategy but because they release things that compete directly with a core product without informing their customers why. Thus bogging down the sales process and subsequent adoption in confusion. This led to brain drain. Cutler ended up going to the Windows NT team and bringing all of his knowledge about security and his sincere midwestern charm to Microsoft, managing the initial development after relations with IBM in the OS/2 world soured. He helped make NT available for the Alpha but also helping make NT dominate the operating system from his old home. Cutler would end up working on XP, Server operating systems, Azure and getting the Xbox to run as a host for Hyper-V . He’s just that rad and his experience goes back to the mid 60s, working on IBM 7044 mainframes. Generational changes in software development, like the move to object oriented programming or micro services, can force a lot of people into new career trajectories. But he was never one of those. That’s the kind of talent you just really, really, really hate to watch leave an organization - someone that even Microsoft name drops in developer conference session to get ooohs and aaahs. And there were a lot of them leaving as DEC shifted into more of a sales and marketing company and less into a product and research company as it had founded to be back when Ken Olsen was at MIT. We saw the same thing happen in other areas of DEC - competing chips coming out of different groups. But still they continued on. And the lack of centralizing resources and innovating quickly and new technical debt being created caused the release of 5 to slip from a 2 year horizon to a 4 year horizon, shipping in 1988 with Easynet, so you could connect 2,000 computers together. Version 6 took 5 years to get out the door in 1993. In a sign of the times, 1991 saw VMS become OpenVMS and would make OpenVMS POSIX compliant. 1992 saw the release of the DEC Alpha and OpenVMS would quickly get support for the RISC processor which OpenVMS would support through the transition of Alpha to Itanium when Intel bought the rights for the Alpha architecture. Version 7 of OpenVMS shipped in 1996 but by then the company was in a serious period of decline and corporate infighting and politics killed them. 1998 came along and they practically bankrupted Compaq by being acquired and then HP swooped in and got both for a steal. Enterprise computing has never been the same. HP made some smart decisions though. They inked a deal with Intel and Alpha would become the HP Itanium and made by Intel. Intel then had a RISC processor and all the IP that goes along with that. Version 8 would not be released until 2003. 7 years without an OS update while the companies were merged and remerged had been too long. Market share had all but disappeared. DECnet would go on to live in the Linux kernel until 2010. Use of the protocol was replaced by TCP/IP much the same way most of the other protocols got replaced. OpenVMS development has now been licensed to VSI and is now run by vmssoftware, which supports many former DEC and HP employees. There are a lot of great, innovative, unique features of OpenVMS. There’s a common language environment, that allows for calling functions easily and independently of various languages. You can basically mix Fortran, C, BASIC, and other languages. It’s kinda’ like my grandmas okra. She said I’d like it but I didn’t. VMS is built much the same way. They built it one piece at a time. To quote Johnny Cash: “The transmission was a fifty three, And the motor turned out to be a seventy three, And when we tried to put in the bolts all the holes were gone.” You can of course install PHP, Ruby, Java, and other more modern languages if you want. And the System Services, Run Time Libraries, and language support make it easy to use whatever works for a task across them pretty equally and provides a number of helpful debugging tools along the way. And beyond debugging, OpenVMS pretty much supports anything you find required by the National Computer Security Center and the DoD. And after giving the middle finger to Intel for decades… As with most operating systems, VMS is finally being ported to the x86 architecture signaling the end of one of the few holdouts to the dominance of the x86 architecture in some ways. The Itatiums have shipped less and less chips every year, so maybe we’re finally at that point. Once OpenVMS has been ported to x86 we may see the final end to the chip line as the last windows versions to support them stopped actually being supported by Microsoft about a month before this recording. The end of an era. I hope Dave Cutler looks back on his time on the VMS project fondly. Sometimes a few decades of crushing an old employer can help heal some old wounds. His contributions to computing are immense, as are those of Digital. And we owe them all a huge thanks for the techniques and lessons learned in the development of VMS in the early days, as with the early days of BSD, the Mac, Windows 1, and others. It all helped build a massive body of knowledge that we continue to iterate off of to this day. I also owe them a thank you for the time I got to spend on my first DEC Alpha. I didn’t get to touch another 64 bit machine for over a decade. And I owe them a thanks for everything I learned using OpenVMS on that machine! And to you, wonderful listers. Thank you for listening. And especially Derek, for reaching out to tell me I should move OpenVMS up in the queue. I guess it goes without saying… I did! Hope you all have a great day!
Welcome to the History of Computing Podcast, where we explore the history of information technology. Because understanding the past prepares us to innovate the future! Today we’re going to look at one of the more underwhelming operating systems released: Windows 1.0. Doug Englebart released the NLS, or oN-Line System in 1968. It was expensive to build, practically impossible to replicate, and was only made possible by NASA and ARPA grants. But it introduced the world to the computer science research community to what would be modern video monitors, windowing systems, hypertext, and the mouse. Modern iterations of these are still with us today, as is a much more matured desktop metaphor. Some of his research team ended up at Xerox PARC and the Xerox Alto was released in 1973, building on many of the concepts and continuing to improve upon them. They sold about 2,000 Altos for around $32,000. As the components came down in price, Xerox tried to go a bit more mass market with the Xerox Star in 1981. They sold about 25,000 for about half the price. The windowing graphics got better, the number of users were growing, the number of developers were growing, and new options for components were showing up all over the place. Given that Xerox was a printing company, the desktop metaphor continued to evolve. Apple released the Lisa in 1983. They sold 10,000 for about $10,000. Again, the windowing system and desktop metaphor continued on and Apple quickly released the iconic Mac shortly thereafter, introducing much better windowing and a fully matured desktop metaphor, becoming the first computer considered mass market that was shipped with a graphical user interface. It was revolutionary and they sold 280,000 in the first year. The proliferation of computers in our daily lives and the impact on the economy was ready for the j-curve. And while IBM had shown up to compete in the PC market, they had just been leapfrogged by Apple. Jobs would be forced out of Apple the following year, though. By 1985, Microsoft had been making software for a long time. They had started out with BASIC for the Altair and had diversified, bringing BASIC to the Mac and releasing a DOS that could run on a number of platforms. And like many of those early software companies, it could have ended there. In a masterful stroke of business, Bill Gates ended up with their software on the IBM PCs that Apple had just basically made antiques - and they’d made plenty of cash off of doing so. But then Gates sees Visi On at COMDEX and it’s not surprise that the Microsoft version of a graphical user interface would look a bit like Visi, a bit like what Microsoft had seen from Xerox PARC on a visit in 1983, and of course, with elements that were brought in from the excellent work the original Mac team had made. And of course, not to take anything away from early Microsoft developers, they added many of their own innovations as well. Ultimately though, it was a 16-bit shell that allowed for multi-tasking and sat on top of the Microsoft DOS. Something that would continue on until the NT lineage of operating systems fully supplanted the original Windows line, which ended with Millineum Edition. Windows 1.0 was definitely a first try. IBM TopView had shipped that year as well. I’ve always considered it more of a windowing system, but it allowed multitasking and was object-oriented. It really looked more like a DOS menu system. But the Graphics Environment Manager or GEM had direct connections to Xerox PARC through Lee Lorenzen. It’s hard to imagine but at the time CP/M had been the dominant operating system and so GEM could sit on top of it or MS-DOS and was mostly found on Atari computers. That first public release was actually 1.01 and 1.02 would come 6 months later, adding internationalization with 1.03 continuing that trend. 1.04 would come in 1987 adding support for Via graphics and a PS/2 mouse. Windows 1 came with many of the same programs other vendors supplied, including a calculator, a clipboard viewer, a calendar, a pad for writing that still exists called Notepad, a painting tool, and a game that went by its original name of Reversi, but which we now call Othello. One important concept is that Windows was object-oriented. As with any large software project, it wouldn’t have been able to last as long as it did if it hadn’t of been. One simplistic explanation for this paradigm is that it had an API and there was a front-end that talked to the kernel through those APIs. Microsoft hadn’t been first to the party and when they got to the party they certainly weren’t the prettiest. But because the Mac OS wasn’t just a front-end that made calls to the back-end, Apple would be slow to add multi-tasking support, which came in their OS 5, in 1987. And they would be slow to adopt new technology thereafter, having to bring Steve Jobs back to Apple because they had no operating system of the future, after failed projects to build one. Windows 1.0 had executable files (or exe files) that could only be run in the Windowing system. It had virtual memory. It had device drivers so developers could write and compile binary programs that could communicate with the OS APIs, including with device drivers. One big difference - Bill Atkinson and Andy Hertzfeld spent a lot of time on frame buffers and moving pixels so they could have overlapping windows. The way Windows handled how a window appeared were in .ini (pronounced like any) files and that kind of thing couldn’t be done in a window manager without clipping, or leaving artifacts behind. And so it was that, by the time I was in college, I was taught by a professor that Microsoft had stolen the GUI concept from Apple. But it was an evolution. Sure, Apple took it to the masses but before that, Xerox had borrowed parts from NLS and NLS had borrowed pointing devices from Whirlwind. And between Xerox and Microsoft, there had been IBM and GEM. Each evolved and added their own innovations. In fact, many of the actual developers hopped from company to company, spreading ideas and philosophies as they went. But Windows had shipped. And when Jobs called Bill Gates down to Cupertino, shouting that Gates had ripped off Apple, Gates responded with one of my favorite quotes in the history of computing: "I think it's more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it." The thing I’ve always thought was missing from that Bill Gates quote is that Xerox had a rich neighbor they stole the TV from first, called ARPA. And the US Government was cool with it - one of the main drivers of decades of crazy levels of prosperity filling their coffers with tax revenues. And so, the next version of Windows, Windows 2.0 would come in 1987. But Windows 1.0 would be supported by Microsoft for 16 years. No other operating system has been officially supported for so long. And by 1988 it was clear that Microsoft was going to win this fight. Apple filed a lawsuit claiming that Microsoft had borrowed a bit too much of their GUI. Apple had licensed some of the GUI elements to Microsoft and Apple identified over 200 things, some big, like title bars, that made up a copyrightable work. That desktop metaphor that Susan Kare and others on the original Mac team had painstakingly developed. Well, turns out that they live on in every OS because Judge Vaughn Walker on the Ninth Circuit threw out the lawsuit. And Microsoft would end up releasing Windows 3 in 1990, shipping on practically every PC built since. And so I’ll leave this story here. But we’ll do a dedicated episode for Windows 3 because it was that important. Thank you to all of the innovators who brought these tools to market and ultimately made our lives better. Each left their mark with increasingly small and useful enhancements to the original. We owe them so much no matter the platform we prefer. And thank you, listeners, for tuning in for this episode of the History of Computing Podcast. We are so lucky to have you.
Welcome to the History of Computing Podcast, where we explore the history of information technology. Because by understanding the past prepares us to innovate the future! Today we’re going to look at one of the more underwhelming operating systems released: Windows 1.0. In our previous episode, we covered Windows 1.0. Released in 1985, it was cute. Windows 2 came in 1987 and then Windows 3 came in 1990. While a war of GUIs had been predicted, it was clear by 1990 that Microsoft was winning this war. Windows 3.0 sold 10 million licenses. It was 5 megabytes fully installed and came on floppies. The crazy thing about Windows 3 is that it wasn’t really supposed to happen. IBM had emerged as a juggernaut in the PC industry, largely on the back of Microsoft DOS. Windows 1 and 2 were fine, but IBM seeing that Microsoft was getting too powerful would not run it on their computers. Instead, they began work on a new operating system called OS/2, which was initially released in 1987. But David Weise from the Windows team at Microsoft wanted to reboot the Windows project. He brought in Murray Sargent and the two started work in 1988. They added a debugger, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint, and I’m pretty sure everyone knew they were on to something big. IBM found out and Microsoft placated them by saying it would kill Windows after they spent all this money on it. You could tell with the way they upgraded the UI, with how they made memory work so much better, and with the massive improvements to multitasking. Lies. They added File Manager, which would later evolve into File Explorer. They added the Control Panel which lives on to the modern era of Windows and they made it look more like the one in the Mac OS at the time. They added the Program Manager (or progman.exe), parts of which would go on to Windows Explorer and other parts which would form the Start Menu in the future. But it survived until XP Service Pack 2. They brought us up to 16 simultaneous colors and added support for graphics cards that could give us 256 colors. Pain was upgraded to Painbrush and they outsourced some of the graphics for the famed Microsoft Solitaire to Susan Kare. They also added macros using a program called Recorder, which Apple released the year before with Macro Maker. They raised the price from $100 to $149.95. And they sold 4 million copies in the first year, a huge success at the time. They added a protected mode for applications, which had supposedly been a huge reason IBM insisted on working on OS/2. One result of all of this was that IBM and Microsoft would stop developing together and Microsoft would release their branch, then called Windows NT, in 1991. NT had a new 32-bit API. The next year they would release Windows 3.1 and Windows for Workgroups 3.1, which would sell another 3 million copies. This was the first time I took Windows seriously and it was a great release. They replaced Reverse with the now-iconic Minesweeper. They added menuing customization. They removed Real Mode. They added support to launch programs using command.com. They brought in TrueType fonts and added Arial, Courier New, and the Times New Roman fonts. They added multimedia support. And amongst the most important additions, they added the Windows Registry, which still lives on today. That was faster that combing through a lot of .ini files for settings. The Workgroups version also added SMB file sharing and supported NetBIOS and IPX networking. The age of the Local Area Network, or LAN, was upon us. You could even install Winsock to get the weird TCP/IP protocol to work on Windows. Oh and remember that 32-bit API, you could install the Win32 add-on to get access to that. And because the browser wars would be starting up, by 1995 you could install Internet Explorer on 3.1. I remember 3.11 machines in the labs I managed in college and having to go computer to computer installing the browser on each. And installing Mosaic on the Macs. And later installing Netscape on both. I seem to remember that we had a few machines that ran Windows on top of CP/M successor Dr DOS. Nothing ever seemed to work right for them, especially the Internets. So… Where am I going with this episode? Windows 3 set Microsoft up to finally destroy CP/M, protect their market share from Microsoft and effectively take over the operating system, allowing them to focus on adjacencies like Internet and productivity tools. This ultimately made Bill Gates the richest man in business and set up a massive ride in personal computing. But by the time Windows 95 was announced, enough demand had been generated to sell 40 million copies. Compaq, Dell, Gateway, HP, and many others had cannibalized the IBM desktop business. Intel had AMD nipping at their heels. Mother board, power supply, and other components had become commodities. But somehow, Microsoft had gone from being the cutesy little maker of BASIC to owning the market share for Operating systems with NT, Windows 95, 98, Millenium, 2000, XP, 7, 8, 10, and it wasn’t until Google made Android and ChromeOS. They did it, not because they were technologically the best solution available. Although arguably the APIs in early Windows were better than any other available solution. And developing Windows NT alongside 95 and on once they saw there would be a need for a future OS was a master-stroke. There was a lot of subterfuge and guile. And there were a lot of people burned during the development but there’s a distinct chance that the dominance of a single operating system really gave the humans the ability to focus on a single OS to care about and an explosion in the number of software titles. Once that became a problem, and was stifling innovation, Steve Jobs was back at Apple, Android was on the rise, and Linux was always an alternative for the hacker-types and given a good market potential it’s likely that someone could have built a great windowing system on top of it. Oh wait, they did. Many times. So whether we’re Apple die-hards, Linux blow-hards, crusty old Unix grey beards, or maybe hanging on to our silly CP/M machines to write scripts on, we still owe Microsoft a big thanks. Without their innovations the business world might have been fragmented so much on the operating system side that we wouldn’t have gotten the productivity levels we needed out of apps. And so Windows 95 replaced Windows 3, and Windows 3 rode off into the sunset. But not before leaving behind a legacy of the first truly dominant OS. Thanks for everything, Microsoft, the good and the bad. And thanks to you, sweet listeners. It’s been a blast. You’re the best. Unlike Windows 1. Till next time, have a great day!
Visual Basic Welcome to the History of Computing Podcast, where we explore the history of information technology. Because understanding the past prepares us for the innovations of the future! Today we’re going to cover an important but often under appreciated step on the path to ubiquitous computing: Visual Basic. Visual Basic is a programming language for Windows. It’s in most every realistic top 10 of programming languages of all time. It’s certainly split into various functional areas over the last decade or so, but it was how you did a lot of different tasks in Windows automation and programming for two of the most important decades through a foundational period of the PC movement. But where did it come from? Let’s go back to 1975. This was a great year. The Vietnam War ended, Sony gave us Betamax, JVC gave us VHS. Francisco Franco died. I don’t wish ill on many, but if I could go back in time and wish ill on him, I would. NASA launched a joint mission with the Soviet Union. The UK voted to stay the EU. Jimmy Hoffa disappears. And the Altair ships. Altair Basic is like that lego starter set you buy your kid when you think they’re finally old enough to be able to not swallow the smallest pieces. From there, you buy them more and more, until you end up stepping on those smallest pieces and cursing. Much as I used to find myself frequently cursing at Visual Basic. And such is life. Or at least, such is giving life to your software ideas. No matter the language, there’s often plenty of cursing. So let’s call the Altair a proto-PC. It was underpowered, cheap, and with this Microsoft Basic programming language you could, OMG, feed it programs that would blink lights, or create early games. That was 1978. And based largely on the work of John Kemeny and Thomas Kurts, the authors of the original BASIC in 1964, at Dartmouth College. As the PC revolution came, BASIC was popular on the Apple II and original PCs with QuickBASIC coming in 1985, and an IDE, or Integrated Development Environment, for QuickBASIC shipped in 2.0. At the time Maestro was the biggest IDE in use, but they’d been around since Microsoft released the first in 1974. Next, you could compile these programs into DOS executables, or .exe files in 3.0 and 4.0 brought debugging in the IDE. Pretty sweet. You could run the interpreter without ever leaving the IDE! No offense to anyone but Apple was running around the world pitching vendors to build software for the Mac, but had created an almost contentious development environment. And it showed from the number of programs available for the Mac. Microsoft was obviously investing heavily in enabling developers to develop in a number of languages and it showed; Microsoft had 4 times the software titles. Many of which were in BASIC. But the last version of QuickBASIC as it was known by then came in 4.5, in 1988, the year the Red Army withdrew from Afghanistan - probably while watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit on pirated VHS tapes. But by the late 80s, use began to plummet. Much as my daughters joy of the legos began to plummet when she entered tweenhood. It had been a huge growth spurt for BASIC but the era of object oriented programming was emerging. But Microsoft was in an era of hyper growth. Windows 3.0 - and what’s crazy is they were just entering the buying tornado. 1988, the same year as the final release of QuickBASIC, Alan Cooper created a visual programming language he’d been calling Ruby. Now, there would be another Ruby later. This language was visual and Apple had been early to the market on Visual programming, with the Mac - introduced in 1984. Microsoft had responded with Windows 1.0 in 1985. But the development environment just wasn’t very… Visual. Most people at the time used Windows to open a Window of icky text. Microsoft leadership knew they needed something new; they just couldn’t get it done. So they started looking for a more modern option. Cooper showed his Ruby environment to Bill Gates and Gates fell in love. Gates immediately bought the product and it was renamed to Visual Basic. Sometimes you build, sometimes you partner, and sometimes you buy. And so in 1991, Visual Basic was released at Comdex in Atlanta, Georgia and came around for DOS the next year. I can still remember writing a program for DOS. They faked a GUI using ASCII art. Gross. VB 2 came along in 1992, laying the foundations for class modules. VB 3 came in 93 and brought us the JET database engine. Not only could you substantiate an object but you had somewhere to keep it. VB 4 came in 95 because we got a 32-bit option. That adds a year or 6 for every vendor. The innovations that Visual Basic brought to Windows can still be seen today. VBX and DLL are two of the most substantial. A DLL is a “dynamic link library” file that holds code and procedures that Windows programs can then consume. DLL allow multiple programs to use that code, saving on memory and disk space. Shared libraries are the cornerstone of many an object-oriented language. VBX isn’t necessarily used any more as they’ve been replaced with OCXs but they’re similar and the VBX certainly spawned the innovation. These Visual Basic Extensions, or VBX for short, were C or C++ components that were assembled into an application. When you look at applications you can still see DLLs and OCXs. VB 4 was when we switched from VBX to OCX. VB 5 came in 97. This was probably the most prolific, both for software you wanted on your computer and malware. We got those crazy ActiveX controls in VB 5. VB 6 came along in 1998, extending the ability to create web apps. And we sat there for 10 years. Why? The languages really started to split with the explosion of web tools. VBScript was put into Active Server Pages . We got the .NET framework for compiled web pages. We got Visual Basic for Applications, allowing Office to run VB scripts using VBA 7. Over the years the code evolved into what are now known as Unified Windows Platform apps, written in C++ with WinRT or C++ with CX. Those shared libraries are now surfaced in common APIs and sandboxed given that security and privacy have become a much more substantial concern since the Total Wave of the Internet crashed into our lego sets, smashing them back to single blocks. Yah, those blocks hurt when you step on them. So you look for ways not to step on them. And controlling access to API endpoints with entitlements is a pretty good way to walk lightly. Bill Gates awarded Cooper the first “Windows Pioneer Award” for his work on Visual Basic. Cooper continued to consult with companies, with this crazy idea of putting users first. He was an earlier proponent of User Experience and putting users first when building interfaces. In fact, his first book was called “About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design.” That was published in 1995. He still consults and trains on UX. Honestly, Alan Cooper only needs one line on his resume: “The Father of Visual Basic.” Today Eclipse and Visual Studio are the most used IDEs in the world. And there’s a rich ecosystem of specialized IDEs. The IDE gives code completion, smart code completion, code search, cross platform compiling, debugging, multiple language support, syntax highlighting, version control, visual programming, and so much more. Much of this isn’t available on every platform or for every IDE, but those are the main features I look for - like the first time I cracked open IntelliJ. The IDE is almost optional in functional programming - but In an era of increasingly complex object-oriented programming where classes are defined in hundreds or thousands of itty bitty files, a good, smart, feature-rich IDE is a must. And Visual Studio is one of the best you can use. Given that functional programming is dead, there’s no basic remaining in any of the languages you build modern software in. The explosion of object-orientation created flaws in operating systems, but we’ve matured beyond that and now get to find all the new flaws. Fun right? But it’s important to think, from Alan Kay’s introduction of Smalltalk in 1972, new concepts in programming in programming had been emerging and evolving. The latest incarnation is the API-driven programming methodology. Gone are the days when we accessed memory directly. Gone are the days when the barrier of learning to program was understanding functional and top to bottom syntax. Gone are the days when those Legos were simple little sets. We’ve moved on to building Death Stars out of legos with more than 3500 pieces. Due to increasingly complex apps we’ve had to find new techniques to keep all those pieces together. And as we did we learned that we needed to be much more careful. We’ve learned to write code that is easily tested. And we’ve learned to write code that protects people. Visual Basic was yet another stop towards the evolution to modern design principals. We’ve covered others and we’ll cover more in coming episodes. So until next time, think of the continuing evolution and what might be next. You don’t have to be in front of it, but it does help to have a nice big think on how it can impact projects you’re working on today. So thank you for tuning in to yet another episode of the History of Computing Podcast. We’re so lucky to have you. Have a great day!
This is a big fat episode! In this episode you'll learn about the poorly-selling LucasArts roguelite, warezing over ISDN lines using DCC bots, and I summarize an interview with creator Hal Barwood.
San Diego Zoo Presents: The Animals! The Multimedia PC specification, a short discussion of Blender magazine, and memories of Video for Windows.
Our first foray into the world of Windows 3.1 gaming: The Adventures of MicroMan. I reflect on the history of this much loved cult classic, and talk a little about its creator. You can download the original shareware version of and even play it in-browser. Read technical information on and check out Brian Goble's
I recently got the chance to sit down and talk with Microsoft alumni Brad Chase. He was the product manager for Microsoft Works on the Macintosh, DOS 5, DOS 6, and the marketing lead for Windows 95 as well as much more. We talk about the Apple-Microsoft relationship, the groundbreaking launch of Windows 95, and what it takes to sell software.
Editing for this episode was handled by Franck, you can follow him on instagram: www.instagram.com/frc.audio/
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Welcome back for the second half of our DOS Prompt series on Betrayal at Krondor, where I discuss the development history of the game.
Welcome all you Northwarden Piggies! Today's episode is a first: we're dropping down to a DOS Prompt to talk about Betrayal at Krondor.