In the beginning was Word, -- and WordStar, and Xywrite, and Multimate, and even Displaywrite. But apparently there's only one Indian left -- oh, all right, one and a half. Natural selection? Divine predestination? Or simply proof of the First Axiom of software development: The Most Painful Way to Go Out of Business Is By Trying To Sell The Perfect Consumer Software.
No one has yet discovered what causes this. At one time pirates were blamed, but trying to stop them pissed off the wrong people -- your paying customers. So did charging them for help, although it turned out you really had no choice, especially since the mascara and cosmetic surgery necessary to gussy up that DOS dowd often proved to be nearly toxic, causing many an "expert" to dial up and curse like like a sailor with a fresh dose -- only to hang up and see the reason the screen was frozen was because the corner of his newspaper was pushing down the Alt key.
Plus as the base of the pyramid expanded, the bigger developers could margin you to death. It just seemed that few people who found themselves happy and productive using their pcs and Macs felt like throwing any more money at it in order to install something that was dangerous (viruses! crashes!) and hard to learn. But eventually they got wise. If you don't want to be stuck in the past -- why then, buy the future. All the smart people have!
Then came the whatyacallit and things got really hairy, as it turned out you really were going to need a lot of that crap if you wanted for the world to make a better place for you, or something.
But ramping up the masses turned out to be a pain, since the perpetual problem seemed to remaim: stable=hard to use, gooey=mess.
As usual, we took the programmers' problems as our own. We started to feel bad for them because once we had made our brand choice, we felt they deserved our support, or something, and besides, we'd never use anything made by IBM. (They're just too corporate, and must have been too stupid to realize how great an idea preloads were.) So we decided to love them despite themselves.
Another corollary of marketing software is, "It is better to steal an idea than try to invent one." Which in religion is called syncretism and which actually when you think about it works out for everyone involved, not to mention being cost- effective. So what if it starts a march of successive teleologies? -- leading by following, whether it's the TV Top Box, the Internet, or the "Not-Actually-Slim-But-Thinking-of- Going-On-A-Diet" client. What's important is not the direction, but that everyone's going the same way.
One Computer, One World. Wake up and smell the -- um, chicory.
Meanwhile cynics and other sore losers contend that certain Manichean developers wish to turn this software business into a subscription thing, like a magazine that you pony up a few bucks for every year to get new features about how to shave. These are the same malcontents who claim the lesson learned was "The better you code it, the less they need you."
This sort of whining is typically heard from all the inferior operating environments that have fallen by the computing wayside, twitching helplessly like the half-dead ectoplasmic garbage they are. Sure, the Nietzschean plod onward has left in its wake plenty of <i>ressentiment</i> -- but that's life. That's what the people say. (For the last time, OS/2ers are post- Resurrection Pharisees, Unix people are Buddhists, and how a brain named Humbert could fail to recognize Apple as the icon of secular humanism we'll never know.) Ridin' high in April, shot down in May. That's the way the cookie crumbles. Hey, we're all in the same boat.
And if you're not, why then, check your pulse, because you're already extinct, you fucking moron. Got that? Hasta la vista, Baby!
What difference does it make anyway? It's just plain evolution. Hey, they all do the same thing, anyway. Sort of.
The goal apparently is to be transparent . . . invisible . . . "intuitive." The way your mind relates to your body -- you don't point and click on a neuron, it just transmits that anxious, burning feeling in the pit of your stomach. So, okay -- let's design something your mind can use without thinking!
But does something as lazy as a brain have the right being in charge of anything? There it sits in your head, doing nothing, really, for the most part except telling you you're hungry, getting you horny, hating your boss, wanting a new wardrobe
Sco-Joe" sez: "See, I tol' ya -- the road to Hell is paved with Visual Basic."
Things have changed since the day when computers were just counting endless beans in the perpetual silicon night. Back then, Big Iron made the rules. If your machine might wear down, Software was Forever. But after computers became everybody's friend and helpmate (colorful and smarmy, fickle but cute) pretty soon software started telling hardware what it wanted, which apparently was to be a dog. Feed me -- So I Can Fetch the Paper! So I Can Guard The House!
Nowadays hardware's peripheral -- tissue at the beck of this electronic DNA. Except real DNA is cheap -- they give it away with life, but you never have to apply a service pack to it or pay for ribochondria upgrades. Software is turning into a fictional character -- Iago telling you to ditch that chick -- or Camille, who might just up and die on you one of these days. Or Monty Woolley. And it's cooler than you are. "You may as well buy me," it says. "You need me more than I need you, anyway."
Remember when, before your pc started turning into a really, really smart television set, you thought of it simply as a tool? Making them easier to use made it easier for them to use you. What was once a hammer or a wrench that came with a lifetime guarantee has become an insurance policy -- a plan for buying off your anxiety semi-annually. What happens if -- gulp -- my platform disappears?
Hey! Aren't you LISTENING?! It doesn't matter what the standard is, as long as it's the same yardstick for everyone! OKAY? Unless you think you're too good to do all your measuring with the fanciful contrivance of some bygone king who apparently wanted all the far-flung ladies of his realm to think he was well-hung. Besides, maybe he was -- so there.
Not for a hundred years or so after Gutenberg did anything un- Christian find its way into print. Centuries later, we had direct mail, and then came the personal computer. No coincidence that soon thereafter, buying applications became like going to the post office to buy stamps -- a treat, when you were a kid and they were cool enough to collect, that now is something you just sort of have to stand in line and do.
But it could be worse -- you could be working there.