I felt like rambling about computers today, enjoy or not, it's here, deal with it! :)
In the beginning:
It was a hodge podge of competing formats but I tried them all.
My first computer was a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I with a screaming Z80 1Mhz processor, 48K of RAM, 16K of Basic in ROM, 2 64K floppy disk drives, and a 300bps tape cassette backup (we sped it up). Compare these humble beginnings to Ghz CPUs, 8GB Ram, TB hard drives, and memory sticks that hold more than the early hard drives, we've come a long way baby but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Worked on some other computers as well, such as a TEI Super Computer running CP/M, but it was just another 8080 1Mhz 64K machine with 256K 8" floppies, not much of an improvement.
Then there was the Apple II, it was a mixed bag with about the same specs as the Radio Shack box except it had better graphics, color, crappier floppy drives, but color graphics were a step forward. If you wanted to make it a business machine you could plug-in a MS Z80 Softcard and run all the great CP/M business apps which is how I tended to use Apples.
Of course my fave, just because it was much cheaper than the Apple, my good old Commodore-64 and I'll call it minor evolution because the disk drives were smart and the more expensive ones were really fast. I could play games in the software to make the Bizarre-64 BBS I wrote look like it was streaming data at a smooth 2400 bps without staggering when it stopped to access the disk. But I digress, still, smart floppies were cool.
Then there was the Altos business computers running MP/M that I used at work. Those bad boys were multi-user Z80A machines with a whopping 208K of RAM, Z80A CPU, two 8-inch floppy disk drives, six serial and one parallel port, and optional hard drives up to 40MB! Then they came out with dual 5" drives that stored 1MB each, I was in heaven.
Then someone handed me an IBM-PC, and said this was the future.
I think I wept a little.
It wasn't multi-user, the operating system was buggy and slower than snot, it had very little RAM and the floppy was next to useless compared to the 1MB floppy of the Altos, and this is the future?
Kind of a useless lump of hardware compared to the Altos I had at home. At home I could edit on one terminal, compile code on another terminal, link code on the 3rd terminal and spool to the printer in the background. It was the hardware equivalent of having 3 windows open at the same time, it was just individual terminals, but I knew where it was heading. Yes, my spare bedroom was a computer room with gear lined around the perimeter, it looked like Nerdvana, complete with modem :)
Side note: if you wanted lots of nerdy friends in the 80s, just have the coolest computer gear around and you'll never be lonely.
Another machine shoved my way was an Apple III, let's just not discuss that lump of junk and I won't run off screaming in a tirade about the month or two of my life I'll never get back wasted on attempting to program that garbage.
Evolution and Devolution, How can you do both at once?
The original MAC, freaking cool, had one of the first to roll off the assembly line for about a week. Looked more like a toy than a business machine and I was making a living writing business software for CP/M and PCs at the time and nobody wanted it. Worse yet, there was no good Basic or C compiler for it, and they wanted you to learn Pascal to use it if I remember. One major GUI step forward, major programming steps backwards. No thank you. Plus, programming the MAC was a real slow and complicated PITA compared to it's later Windows counterpart, glad I waited :)
Won't even mention the Apple Lisa, oops, too late. We had only had the machine a couple of months and determined it was a boat anchor. We used it to hold the door to the computer lab open on particularly hot days.
Apple eventually came around and fixed the shortcomings I saw in the MAC, almost 20 years later, and now are finally starting to own some market share they originally bungled, but it's better late then never, eh?
IBM and the promise of the OS/2 presentation manager, which MS dropped and ran off and built Windows instead (thanks, whew!) actually saw the light of day in the early 90s, and I knew some people that made lots of money off OS/2 for a year or so until IBM discovered nobody wanted it as Windows 3.x took the market by storm so they flushed it down the drain.
IMO most of the computer revolution was rather boring after the PC came around because it was nothing but faster CPUs, more RAM, bigger hard disks, more resolution, faster graphics, yada yada yawn.
BBSing and Fidonet was my first involvment of what I saw as evolution, from 300bps to 1200bps, then 2400 and 9600, WOW! Communicating with anyone around the world, just like we do today at WebmasterWorld, that was truly game changing IMO. My friends and I were quick to get on the Fidonet bandwagon when it came along and become echo nodes in that original version of what evolved into the internet.
Email echoed for free all the way from Europe, Asia or the Middle East only in 1-2 days?
If you wanted instant delivery, you called the BBS direct and paid the long distance, but if you wanted it for free, you let FidoNet echo it around the planet bypassing many of the telephone tolls and tariffs.
Next came networking and all those wonderful coax cables that now allowed everyone to once again share data like I did with an Altos computer almost 10 years prior. Sure took them long enough to catch up to where I'd already been before, here we go again!
Then I got my fist Internet account, bye bye FidoNet!
Took a while before the old school dial-up BBS's died, but once the internet caught on, it was over for them, they were dinosaurs quickly on the way out.
Now, with local networking linking the office machines all together and the internet linking the entire world together, it's just a matter of time for all the software hackers to make some cool stuff happen.
Still Unsure, Devolution or Evolution?
I'm on the fence here, as things are now evolving to 'the cloud' whether it's a good or bad thing.
Why I'm on the fence is it may be the end of desktop computers as we know them. With all the iPads, netbooks and laptops, all prone to easily suffer catastrophic failure and the owners need to get back online quickly, having all their data on the cloud makes sense. My buddy was in Hawaii when his netbook failed, he got a replacement unit and everything was right where he left it on the cloud, no data loss, no time wasted trying to recover the old machine, it was just there. That is, until you can't connect to the cloud!
Plus, now you've given all your data to a 3rd party, do you trust them not to look, or in some areas of the world, do you trust them not to share it with the government?
I think cloud computing as a convenience for sharing the same data with multiple devices such as the smart phone, iPad or netbook/laptop and even desktop is a huge win, a step forward in computer evolution.
However, it makes the computer user weaker, no longer in control of their own data. If there was a catastrophic event tomorrow, such as a very major earthquake that knocked out a lot of communications and maybe took out some data centers entirely, how would they get mission critical information stored in the cloud? The very things we rely on for our 'paperless office' which was traditionally stored on our local computers are no longer within our grasp if we give it up to the cloud. One step forward and two steps back?
I'm thinking the cloud is good but people should invest in their own personal cloud, such as using your desktop computer to run some cloud software and not some 3rd party company.
Then you get the best of both worlds where you can still share files easily and seamlessly across all your devices yet have full control of your own data and don't have to worry about where it is when you need it most.
Sadly, this won't happen because people are sheeple and don't understand the technology enough to know it's pitfalls and really just want the computer to be an appliance like a toaster.
OK, I'm done rambling, comment if you must.