Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 11, NO. 3 / MARCH 1985 / PAGE 28

Tools that make the difference - and indifference; an old saw and an especially tired one: change is the only constant. (editorial) John J. Anderson.

As the microcomputer industry continues its larval metamorphosis through the stages of growth and maturation, Creative Computing is changing along with it. We have not always been as you see us now. Some of you are glad for that fact; some of you are not so glad. While we realize that is unavoidable, we continue to listen. At the same time we have never let go of our original commitment, first set out in 1974. we have at all times attempted to respond to the new facets and new perspectives of this transmutational industry.

When Creative Computing began, there were no microcomputers in business--only the promise of microcomputing in business. The advent of the "personal" computer was viewed with excitement, because of its potential as a tool--a productivity tool and a creativity tool.

Now micros are in business to stay, as is Creative Computing. The business beat has always been of interest to our readers--for many it is a pre-eminent interest. As recent issue themes attest, Creative Computing is serious about business hardware and software coverage. We know that you are interested in the computer as a productivity tool. You are interested in using the micro as a means to complete a certain task or series of tasks. You are interested in finding the right combination of tools, both hardware and software, to solve a problem most effectively and least expensively. You turn to us to read the truth about available products. Not to read a news report or press release, or to hear why the manufacturer himself thinks he has a hot product, but to hear what an experienced, responsible critic has to say about it. We continue to strive to provide that forum in the pages of Creative Computing magazine.

The perspective that has always separated us from competitors and pretenders, however, is our unabashed commitment to computers for computers' sake. That is what put us on the map first, over ten years ago, and that is what makes us what we are here in 1985--a magazine for those interested not only in how computers can make our work easier, but how they can make our minds stronger and smarter. It can be put very simply: yes, a computer is a tool, but it is emphatically not a tool in the same way that, say, a monkey wrench is a tool. A computer is a tool that is used to make tools. And making tools is what homo sapiens are all about. Our earliest readers knew that well--they desperately wanted computer technology at their fingertips for the purpose of crafting tools. And though by today's standards they were merely chipping a sharp edge on a pointed stone, they were the first of a new breed of craftsmen.

It occasionally amazes me how many otherwise intelligent members of our industry have no idea how important a distinction is the one I am attempting to describe here. They look at hardware and software as respectively equivalent to a phillips head and a sharp screw. Such a view is not incorrect; it is simply incomplete. It is blind to the most important truth concerning the nature of the computer--that while it represents a powerful tool for the accomplishment of tasks, it also represents the modern task of the accomplishment of tools. And as any anthropologist will tell you, a human culture is defined in terms of its tools. We are what we make, so to speak. Art is about tools, too--but those tools are applied in a different way.

As computers continue to get cheaper, easier to use, and accessible to more people, they have an increasing effect on the fabric of our minds. Just as the evolution of the opposable thumb and the interlock of hand, eye, and brain have shaped the development of our species, the computer is already shaping the development of our minds. It is not as specifically important that we use computers to create a spreadsheet or maintain a database as that we utilize it as a personal extension of the mind--strengthening the breadth, scope, and clarity of that mind. A Nautilus machine, if you will, for developing brain musculature.

So what? Right? There are those of us who are obsessed with computers for the reasons outlined above. And there are those of us who will continue to care about the technology simply in terms of what is available off the shelf in the way of a good set of pliers to twist the lid off a specific, nasty problem. I bear no malice toward those who do not share my obsession--in a way I rather envy them their peace of mind. But the point to be stressed is that the microcomputer industry is very basically different from any that has come before--whether or not you believe it to follow established rules of business. Ours is the industry wherein the future of our own minds lies exposed. And it is up to us to keep that future on track--through imagination, criticism, innovation, and discussion. (Note please that these are wholly human elements.) To do otherwise is to ignore our job as human beings, which is to create, through our tools, the world that we want to live in. The people who miss that point will wait, as they have in the past, for the rest of us to show them the way.