Warning: anyone who thinks ZDNet and the writers there employed are the last bastion of responsible, insightful IT journalism should probably read no further. Delete this message immediately. Really. "I think Windows 3.0 will get a lot of attention; people will check it out, and before long they'll all drift back to raw DOS. Once in a while they'll boot Windows for some specific purpose, but many will put it in the closet with the Commodore 64." - John C. Dvorak, May 1990 I hate John Dvorak. It's very difficult for me to admit this, because in general I'm a very "live-and-let-live" sort of individual, but I hate, loathe and despise this man. I hate him because he's the 'net equivalent of those guys who love to tell racist/sexist/whateverist jokes at parties, who are so sure that they are being brave and witty by expressing their true feelings, that "everyone else thinks the same as I do, but I'm the only one who's not too chickenshit to admit it." You know the guys I'm talking about -- they think they're Bill Maher when they're actually Rush Limbaugh. Worse yet, when you tell them that, they take it as a compliment. I think I mostly hate John because unlike TV's flamebaiting idiots such as Jerry Springer and Howard Stern, whose daily desperate struggles to remain controversial are about as provocative to me as reruns of "The Facts of Life" (and get flipped past just as quickly), Dvorak possesses a unique blend of stupidity and self-assurance that is always capable of inciting me to fits of genuine rage. Because I consider myself to be pretty open-minded, I often feel some actual guilt that I'm letting somebody I've never even met infuriate me to distraction. In fact, the only way I can reassure myself is to read even more of his drivel, which invariably confirms the fact that he is an overpaid smarmy idiotic Luddite headcase, thereby proving that my hatred is totally justifiable. Of course, every time I hit his site to read his latest crap, he gets paid even more, and the vicious circle is unbroken. And I hate him for that, too. Not wanting to suffer alone, but not wanting John to see any more profit if I can help it, I've made the ultimate sacrifice. I submit, for your disapproval, the latest opus from the magnificent D. Notice that I have deliberately not provided a link (apologies to those using text-based readers, but I did warn you...). Infringement of ZD's copyright? I won't even dignify that with a response. Read carefully and enjoy -- rarely have I seen such a fine example of a thesis, which is perfectly invalid in its own right, being supported by "evidence" and "arguments" which are even less provable and/or, in many cases, outright lies. TVB ================ Blame It on the Pros By John C. Dvorak February 2, 2001 Computer sales are down, because computers are not fun anymore. It's not that there aren't fun things to do with them, but computers themselves stopped being fun years ago. This is partly due to the increased complexity that came with the GUI. I blame the Mac and the people who bought it. They didn't want to learn the few commands of the command line interface. And although it was fun to use -- mainly because it was different -- the Macintosh was actually the first "un-fun" computer. There was nothing you could do to the computer itself; it was a sealed box, and even the operating system was buried deep. Compare that with the Apple II and its open architecture, or the then-new IBM PC with its card slots. In 1984 you could still "burn a ROM" and install a handmade BIOS into an IBM PC. Today, nobody knows what a ROM burner is, and few users know a programming language. Not My Idea of Fun When desktop computers first appeared, they were considered an extension of the brain -- something that could be explored so that new and radical uses could evolve. But nothing could evolve unless the owner/user of the computer could actually control the device. People needed some programming experience to modify the computer as needed. The early freedom resulted in the invention of desktop word processing, the spreadsheet, the computer game, image manipulation, and all the rest. Since the GUI has dominated the computing scene, all new ideas come not from the masses but from professionals. And although there is a lot of cool stuff that professional programmers can do, they tend to be limited in both creativity and courage by the corporations for which they work. So what we see in today's market are mere improvements on old ideas. This is the current computing scene: old wine in new bottles. Take the computer game market (please!). I don't know of any new game on the market today that is not derivative. What new game genre has been invented since the standard GUI slammed the door on game companies that were developing their own user interfaces running under DOS? What's special about a me-too, first-person shooter? New weapons? A better-looking wall? Some of these ideas are over ten years old. Yeah, the smoke looks a lot better. Big deal. The improved graphics have much more to do with 3-D cards than anything else. Some fun did come with the invention of the Web browser in 1993. It spawned an entire house-of-mirrors industry that flourished because it reintroduced a smidgen of fun into the computing equation. Individuals began to regain control of their machines in a very small but important way. They could "code" HTML and make their machines do what they commanded. Go Pro and Die Along came the professionals once again. Complexity was added to HTML. Java was invented. XML now threatens to replace HTML completely. And Web pages are now a jigsaw puzzle-inspired jumble of graphics. Recently, a guy told me that he uses my Universal Home Page to do testing because "it's the last pure HTML page left on the Internet." Sheesh. Even worse, people are no longer encouraged to create their own pages from scratch. Instead, they are told to use tools and templates dreamed up by professionals. It's like painting by numbers: You can create an oil painting -- but hardly anything to be proud of. There seems to be an underlying societal desire to keep the individual as far away from the basics as possible. As this trend continues, does anyone find it surprising that the dot-com world collapsed in April of 2000, followed by a continuing bloodbath right up until the end of the year? Fun was waning, and people were losing interest. The computer makers suddenly found their sales down substantially by the end of the year -- all part of the same trend. Get a clue, folks. It seems to me that in 1998 and 1999 there was a lot more interest on the part of individuals in creating their own Web pages. I used to ridicule the vanity page; every high school girl had one loaded with pictures of her cat. But such pages are increasingly hard to find. A few years ago, companies were making real money selling HTML editors, but no more. Along came the professionals and out went the fun. Hmm. And out went the profits with the fun. ====================================================================== Observation attributed to Prof. Robert Wilensky of the University of California at Berkeley: "We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true."