Flying high. (Reminiscence - technology and hardware) David Lien.
All's quiet above the South Atlantic except for the sound of clicking keys. It's fitting that my thoughts about the last decade are entering this "briefcase portable" computer. Ten years ago such technology was barely dreamed of, but in 1984 it too is flying high.
In a few hours this ride will end. The wild ride of the personal computer will also end as it settles in as a serious part of everyday life. I wonder what the next shooting star will be, and where to buy a ticket?
Technological and social innovations often drift in directions not envisioned. Some of the fun of this computer revolution is over. Many old hackers have disappeared, replaced by peddlers and other scoundrels in three-piece suits whose qualifications consist of selling shoes or a degree in computer science. Our hobby, begun by fiddling with batteries, switches and light bulbs has, at our own hand, become an industry.
Oh, it is exhilarating, and breath-taking, and lots of fun! But it is also like being accelerated to Mach 10 without benefit of a space suit.
I researched and wrote The Original Tandy Learning Level I and The Basic Handbook during idle moments in a 12-foot travel trailer out on the desert. That was many books ago. Haywired breadboards were called computers and even worked sometimes. Sure, that struggling was lots of fun.
But can you imagine what an empty feeling it gives an old hacker to see something work right the first time? The profusion of sophisticated hardware and software that works today is absolutely amazing! We still can't understand the instructions, but that is another story.
My little travel trailer is now a booming business with buildings, management, researchers, support staff, and accountants, plus lawyers and other parasites, and a playpen full of personal computers. But I still have the 12-foot trailer. (Am thinking of having it bronzed.)
I have taught the Basic language to millions of people in the last decade, and plan on teaching it to millions more. Each book reaches more students than are seen in an entire career in the classroom.
I am still at the leading edge writing books about mice, Unix, windows, hardware and more. Only the nimble survive. The reality that computers are no more just for hobbyists dictates that the emphasis move to applications.
The majority of tomorrow's computer users will not be enthusiasts like us. They will be civilians with a job to do but no time, patience, or desire to fiddle with machines. They need simple solutions to complex problems and computers that do useful things easily. The hardware manufacturers, and software and book publishers who succeed in this environment will be those who dedicate themselves to those most elusive goals: quality, simplicity, and the minimizing of pain.
So here we are, flying high, wondering who will land where. The winners will be those who find vacant runways among dense populations. The losers will just sit on their automatic pilots until they run out of gas.
The future should be at least as interesting as the past. And maybe even as much fun.