Closed-source considered harmful (was: JavaScript considered harmful)

John W. Baxter jwbaxter at
Thu Jan 10 17:46:24 CET 2002

In article <a1jm2i$t5n$1 at>, Alex Martelli
<aleax at> wrote:

> "Karl M. Syring" <syring at> wrote in message
> news:a1ibhn$qt4bg$1 at
>     ...
> > Once upon a time, there was a company that controlled the hardware and the
> > software market. Although some people say that it induced a statsi of 20
> > years, it was finally toppled.
> Interesting -- WHICH "twenty years" were the "stasis"?  Perhaps those
> which saw the birth and wildfire-like spread of Unix, C, relational
> database management systems, Pascal, interactive terminals, ... ?-)

Unix and C spread wildfire-like after most of the 20 years (until
sometime around 1997, I could say I'd been around computers more than
twice as long as C had existed outside the lab).

Interactive terminals:
In the 1958 or so timeframe, there was a rack of gear at the back of
MIT's computation Center (which housed an IBM 704).  This rack was
being built to interface a teletype (Model 28) to the 704.  Almost as
soon as it was working a little, IBM replaced the 704 with a 709...the
rack instantly became useless, since the IO structure of the new
machine was entirely different.

The replacement was built and working a little, when the 709 walked out
the door to be replaced by a 7090.  This only took a little tweaking
here and there (mostly timing issues).  [Later, the 7090 was replaced
by a 7094, and then a 7094-II.]  The careful observer here will recall
that Multics was eventually built on GE equipment.

Mid 50s to mid 70s...the era of IBM and the Seven Dwarfs (fewer than 7
by the end of that time through mergers and departures).  Every Dwarf
had better hardware or better software...some including Burroughs had
better both.  IBM had sales (oops...leases of bundled
hardware/software, until the Judge told them they couldn't do only

  --John (who once referreed a basketball game with Vannevar Bush as
his partner)

NCR's John Patterson fired Tom Watson Sr (his top marketing guy in
today's terms) for not being aggressive enough.  ;-)  Of course, that
was the era in which a Western saloonkeeper who didn't buy a register
from the friendly NCR salesman was fairly likely to suffer a broken leg
shortly after.  Amazing coincidence.

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