Think outside of the box (Gawd, I hate that term)

Jerry McAllister jerrymc at
Sat Aug 9 20:54:34 PDT 2003

> Jerry McAllister <jerrymc at> writes:
> ...
> > 
> > Wonderful thought, but the thing that made Gates big was clout in
> > the marketplace that was given to him by sleeping with Big Blue (IBM)
> > who, at the time was the "undisputed" 10 ton gorilla in the computer
> > market.   Remember there were no "PCs" up to that point and only a
> > smattering of microcomputers of various sorts, none with any sales 
> > power behind it (not even Apple really).  Everyone in the business 
> > world was waiting to see what IBM was going to do.   
> ...
> Um, that is almost completely wrong.  There were *lots* of PCs before
> what everyone thinks is the original IBM-PC (5150).  This wasn't even
> IBM's first PC.  IBM's *First* PC was the 5100. 

Essentially consistent with what I said.   There were a number of 
microcomputers before the first "PC" but none of them made a serious
impact in the marketplace.    Although IBM did try to sell something
before the "PC" it didn't appear to seriously address the desktop/
personal market - though they might have first thought it did.

>                 The later 5150 was a success because IBM stole
> every good idea they could find, from the other successful
> makers of the time.

True, but still, it was IBM's clout in the marketplace that sold it.
At least at first.   IBM lost control of the PC market though because
they were unable to shift gears sufficiently and to understand that
market.   That is where Gates and/or his cohorts shined.  They 
were eventually able to use their position to take control.  You
describe it well below.

> Just as IBM was not very original, neither was MicroSoft.  Those
> "Genius" software developers who wrote the original MS DOS didn't even
> work at microsoft.  

All quite true.   

> it's well documented.  MicroSoft's real key to success has nothing
> to do with IBM or technical expertise; their goal was to get the
> consumer to buy microsoft software before the computer was even sold,
> by being bundled into the initial purchase.  They perfected this before
> IBM; this strategy came out of the commodore PET, TRS model 1, & other
> early machines.  MicroSoft wasn't just sleeping with IBM, they were
> promiscuous with everyone.  IBM was just a convenient vector so far as
> MicroSoft's success goes; MicroSoft had hedged their bets so they
> couldn't lose whoever won the hardware race.

OK.  You can say MS 'used' IBM.   That is a reasonable way of
describing it and still essentially consistent with what I said.   
But, still, it was IBM's position that they rode to the position 
of power.   This is not to say they rode IBM's technical expertise.    
As you mentioned, neither company contributed all that much to the 
technical end of things.   They marketed.  Anyway, Comodore's bones 
lie in that techie burial ground too, just like so many others who 
had technical ability, but no market clout.   And their choices of
joining had much more to do with money than technology.

> Borrowing ideas is essential to progress in the computer industry.
> Technically; you measure progress not by market results, but by the
> spread of ideas.  The value of ideas lies not in how much money the one
> company that owns those ideas makes, but by how readily those ideas are
> given away and used by everybody as a community good.  

It is nice to be an idealist, but the reality is that a lot of
superior technology has gone by the wayside - its line snuffed out
only because it was unable to gain sufficiently in the market place.
Microsoft did not gain its position because of superior technology
in the products they sold, but in "superior" abililty in the marketplace -
sometimes abilities that we question should be exercised - eg may not
have been for the common good.

>  Even (or perhaps
> I should say especially) IBM and MicroSoft are part of this ecology of
> ideas; you need look no further than MS DOS or the 5150 (and their
> competition) to see the importance of this.

There is an ecology but there is not a guarantee that the best idea
or technology either wins or advances to be included in the future.   
Sometimes they do.  We can hope they do.    Sometimes those whose 
enterprise failed in the market find some other way to insert those 
ideas in to the continuing genetic pool.  Certainly the open software 
movement represents that dynamic of finding a different way.   Those 
who sell out to the big money sometimes are doing it too in yet 
another way.

> The mass marketing end of this has no importance to openbsd "the
> project".  

But it certainly does to the question that originally started this
thread.   The person was expressing hope that the brilliant minds 
who do such things as the BSDs in the open software field might 
also produce a revolutionary new generation of computing - implying 
hardware maybe more than just software.   If an enterprise with 
market clout picks up and promotes an idea, it will be much more
likely to have an influence on the direction that development takes.

>    The point of openbsd isn't to achieve mass market
> penetration.  The point of openbsd is to advance the state of art in
> computer security and correctness.  

>   If you want to measure the success
> of openbsd, then you want to look at how much influence openbsd has
> over how other people manage security. 

The point of the original question (and my response) was not to measure
the success of any of the BSDs but to talk about how to create a new
generation of technology and have it overtake what is currently the
accepted way of doing computing.

>   Frankly, I think it's a bit
> soon to judge this; a lot of this history is still happening.  Still,
> the signs are quite positive, it's increasingly hard to find any major
> opensource OS effort today that doesn't have *some* openbsd code.  So I
> doubt historians will accord openbsd the same place in history as the
> IBM 5100.

Again, it is nice to work in an idealistic way.  We can be glad
when that does contribute to the common good.   Sometimes it does.
Certainly there are projects here where I work (including my main
project) that could not have come in to being without FreeBSD and
much of the rest of the open software movement.   And, fortunately
it does influence the course of development of even commercial and
proprietary software.   But, it doesn't raise money to develop the
revolutionary next generation of hardware.


> 					-Marcus Watts

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