It was Twenty Years Ago Today!

Ok, well it wasn’t, but I had the Beatles running through my head.  It is amazing what can remind you of the oddest things from the past…

In June, 1988 I was finishing Grade 10 and my last computer course on the Apple //e was behind me.  I had made the decision to sell my old Apple clone and buy a new PC – it was an IBM clone that I bought from my buddy Steven Rich.. it had 640KB of RAM and a 40MB hard disk.  It was absolutely amazing!

One of my best friends at the time was a kid named David Jedeikin.  David was, as I was, a computer fanatic.  He was one of the last hold-outs of the Atari 800 which I had gotten rid of in 1985, and he is definitely someone I respected when it came to computers.  He kept asking me what was so great about the PC?

It’s got 640KB of RAM!’

What do I need that much memory for?

It has a hard disk!

Yeah but it is still low-res graphics and has no sound.

It runs all of this great software!

But it still doesn’t have graphics that compare to my GR8 mode!

It does everything you could even possibly imagine!

Really?  Does it do Windows?

Yes!

Let’s put that conversation into perspective.  Today we live in a world dominated by Microsoft Windows.  Love it or hate it, there is no denying the impact that Windows has had.  It (along with Microsoft Office) are the only two consumer products in the history of the world used by over one billion people worldwide.  In 1988 Bill Gates was not a household name, and unless you worked with a very short list of applications (primarily desktop publishing) you probably had never heard of Microsoft Windows.

Like many IT professionals I make a decent living thanks to the preponderance of computers in the world.  Would we all be in the business without Microsoft Windows?  Well, maybe… Imagine an alternate History in which Microsoft didn’t make it big, either GEM or Apple or someone someone else would have won the war for the desktop. 

As a lot of people have pointed out to me, Microsoft doesn’t always get there first.  This is true with so many of the technologies I use every day – Apple released it’s GUI OS before Windows, and VMware pre-dated Hyper-V; several score companies released gaming systems before Microsoft came up with its X-Box and lord knows it took them a long time to get their smartphone right.  Before there was Microsoft Office Word there was WordPerfect, Word Star, and a hundred other word processors, just like Lotus 1-2-3 and VisiCalc pre-dated Microsoft Office Excel.

When people point these realities out they usually present them as a challenge.  That’s not how I see it though.  The truth is that first is not always best.  The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.  If you don’t believe me I ask how many of you listen to a Marconi radio, drive a Daimler, or enjoy your music on an Edison phonograph?

I haven’t spoken with David in a while, although I do plan to read his book.  I don’t know when he finally retired that old Atari of his, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his parents threw it out (or packed it away forever) when they moved off of Roslyn Rd.  I do know one thing though… whatever computer he is using today most likely does do Windows… if not in the way that he meant way back when.

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