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Cultimo: short note on computer archeology

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Date: Mon, 14 Jun 99 12:32:44 +0200
Subject: short note on computer archeology
From: Cultimo <>
To: <>

I looked into the window of an antique shop while walking through town
with one of my children. In the window was an old, medieval armour. What
draw my attention was a sword that was standing next to it. It was a
sword, but at the same time it was a gun. Then it hit me: the gun was
probably a quite new invention at that time. And the only way people could
think of to implement that invention was using it in the same way old
weapons where used. Both gun and sword point to destroy. Later on, other
inventions explored the ways the mechanism of the gun could be used - one
of the endproducts being rockets and machineguns. Nowadays the gun has a
shape that is totally different from the sword. 

Roughly speaking: The first personal computers where no more than
complicated type writers, and even now with the GUI/Macintosh/Parc Xerox
interface all around us, the pen and paper metaphor is the most important
metaphor in designing and using a computer interface (files, folders,
forms, the desktop, the trash etc). Just like the first gun was designed
as a sword. Because the sword was a familiar item and the gun was new. 
Maybe it will take a long time before the computer and the computer
interface will get its own shape... 
Personally, I'm a bit afraid that the dominance of Microsoft will be
counterproductive to finding the real shape of the computer interface. 
Because - as far as I see it - they only explore what is invented and
thought of ten years ago. No real creativity can be expected from them. 
It is the marketing that made them big. 

But there is a wealth of handheld systems comming to the market in the
next years. Just wait and see what they have for us in store. A lot of
them will have their own operating systems. Some of them are really
powerfull with large storage capacity (300 plus Mb flashcards). Maybe the
future lies there. Because there lies a change to reinvent the operating
system from the bottom up, starting with relatively small systems that
grow bigger and more complicated. Just like Apple did for the - now
orphaned - Newton. The Newton has no files, just objects. It might be one
of the ways. But maybe not. Time will tell. 

Jeroen Goulooze