Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Take a stroll down memory lane

Found this slideshow to be sort of amusing, and it sports a hilarious title: "How Microsoft Windows 3.0 Dragged the IBM PC into the Graphics Age." Maybe "dragged and dropped" would be a more apropos characterization to borrow from the GUI nomenclature. Here's the intro:

Microsoft introduced Windows 3.0 on May 22, 1990. This is the desktop operating systems that finally succeeding in bringing the IBM standard PC world into age of the graphical user interface. Before this time, most people using IBM standard PCs ran Microsoft's MS-DOS or the nearly identical IBM-branded PC-DOS operating system that limited users to running what today could only be considered a primitive command-line interface to enter program instructions. There was no reason to use a mouse with an IBM PC, because PC applications were simply masses of text displayed on green or amber screens. There were two earlier versions of Windows, but they were not widely adopted. Most people who wanted to work with a true graphical interface bought the Apple Macintosh. And it was mainly the Macintosh and the manifest advantages of a GUI that drove Microsoft to develop Windows. The release of Windows 3.0 was essentially the culmination of more than six years of Microsoft research and development to bring a Mac-like graphical interface to PCs. It's been a graphical world ever since and most people born less than 20 years ago probably haven't a clue what it would be like to control a computer without a GUI. This eWEEK slide show illustrates what the advent of windows 3.0 meant to the personal computing world.

I remember that my assignment at the time was still working as a Progress 4GL/SYMIX developer mostly with client UNIX character systems. A number of my colleagues were still using dumb terminals instead of telnet clients and protesting "Why do you need a PC?" Then I showed them how to cut and paste text commands and entire files between telnet sessions with Windows 3.0 and a mouse, saving a significant amount of time and keystrokes. It had never occurred to them that a Graphical User Interface like Windows 3.0 could be a transparent interface protocol between two entirely different remote hosts. They were used to thinking in terms of UUCP logins as the only mode of transferring files, or sometimes you got lucky and the client had enabled an FTP port.

Of course now it doesn't occur to the kiddies not to use cut and paste at will, so we have to remind them that plagiarism is still unethical.