John-ny! John-ny! John-ny! (LONG)

  • From: "Troy V. Barkmeier" <barky@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Technocracy" <technocracy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2001 22:16:45 -0500

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. 



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 

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."

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