40 years ago – The Mother of All Demos

Doug Englebart and the Demo

I happened to be driving in today and heard forum on the radio. The topic was the anniversary of ‘the demo’ or ‘The Mother of All Demos’.

I didn’t know about it or Doug until I went to a tribute to Doug and the demo given at the SRI campus by the ACM. Until then I thought it was all done at Xerox PARC. It was not. Great stuff did happen there, but the demo is really a singular even that can really mark the begining. It was an amazing event given the technology of the day.

Doug was at the SRI talk with some of the other researchers on his team. An amazing group. It is a shame that all he gets credit for is the mouse. His openness and big ideas haven’t even been truly realized yet. They were thinking about collaboration, structured Hypertext (like the web), and more. If you get a chance, watch the video online.

Thank you all who were part of the ARC at SRI. You did make a difference.

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BusinessWeek – February 2006

Business Week 2006 Cover

This is a Business Week cover from Feb. 2006 about the economy. The subtitle is “Why it’s so much stronger than you think” .

At any rate… you didn’t have to be a genius then to see that the housing bubble was a completely, and I mean completely, unsustainable situation. People were feeling very very rich. Cheap advice. This just goes with the old saying… you get what you pay for.

What it should have said is: “How it is so much more fragile than you think” and then gone into the depths about how leveraged the entire situation was.

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The New Era in Storage *finally* Here

People are finally waking up to the new era in storage – persistent silicon devices.

The crossover has begun, all that has to happen now is mass market adoption. When you see this in low-end machines, there will be huge changes in software design. For example, remember when you used to worry about non-24 bit video displays.

Huge changes…

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I love this old siggraph video

If you want this, it was:

Issue 120: SIGGRAPH 97 Electronic Theater Program

Billy Ray Shyster’s House of Discount Special Effects & Animation – Texas A&M University Visualization Laboratory

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Finally, the music stops for this financial system

This financial house of cards has finally noticed that the music has stopped. The bills came due, and they couldn’t be paid.


Hopefully, the U.S. taxpayer will wake up and notice that this will affect them in a big, big way. We are the ones backing the system now. I wonder who will back the U.S. taxpayers when they have issues (or need health care).

Lets see if this finally causes people at all levels to slow down and come back to reality.

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Emacs vs. VI

A ‘long, long, long while back’, the first real editor I used was Vi. After that, I used a great editor on VMS called Eve.

Then, just ‘a long while back’, I made the switch from bare-bones VI to Emacs. That was what all the cool kids were using (middle 90’s). Then I even moved to XEmacs, since it was the best of the bunch. After a while, though, I got tired of all the problems. I didn’t want to be an elisp programmer in order to debug the frequent problems. For example, to set up an advanced IDE mode seemed to require all these packages that never seemed to be the right version. These packages were huge. This meant that they were hard to understand or modify. Things would break and it was no longer fun. I also noticed that I was getting the emacs pinkie problem. Double no fun. Where is the performance boost that this environment was supposed to deliver?

At about that time, VIm became popular and life was good again. It had most of the features that I missed from Emacs (aka: the features I could get running). So, for a long time I kept VIm as my editor of choice on the command line. This era also had me using Eclipse briefly, Visual Studio with Visual Assist heavily, and a few brief moments with some attempts at IDEs for Python.

Now it is 2008 and I’ve heard the Yegge rants. I’ve decided to give Emacs another go. Besides, a practical programmer should always continue to learn. After going back to Emacs, I now use Emacs in VIPER mode for VI compatability. I use a mixture of the two systems, and it works pretty well. I’m kind of cheating. It isn’t so strange when you consider the fact, that I always preferred or had the emacs keyboard navigation shortcuts on any OS I use. (note:the old C-e, C-a are really from the DEC Tenex OS)

This recent switch has brought me to an interesting understanding. It is kind of like the ‘worse is better’ understanding that was a popular read many moons back.

Emacs, by default, is in a mode for text creation. Text manipulation and navigation require chorded keypresses and thus cost more.

VI, by default has 2 modes, and it is cheap to switch between those modes. Each of those modes reuses the same keys, but keeps the costs low for all three modes: (text creation, text manipulation and text navigation).

I think this is why VI is such a winner. If you are doing any programming, you spend as much time doing navigation and manipulation as you do creating text. The costs for these chorded key sequences start to pile up on that left hand pretty quickly. This last point is the greatest discovery for me so far. Why? It seems like a little forethought by the Emacs team could have spotted this and made the same change a while back. It will be hard to change now. (Just look at Steve Jobs… it is going to be d-i-f-f-i-c-u-l-t to get rid of that crappy menu bar at the top). (I wonder if there are a few other tools that I use, that could be looked at with the same analysis? Maybe some programming languages??)

So why use Emacs? Well, the architecture of that system is a lot better than the VI system. I can do some powerful text manipulation with that system via the elisp and macro system. I feel and know I can build real ‘systems’ in elisp. I will say, though, that the cc-mode and other language mode support systems for emacs are really poor compared to the modern IDEs of today.

It is also interesting to point out where they both fail. Both systems are mired in the 1970s when it comes to UI. They are stuck in the old tty/terminal interface era. Neither system works or looks ‘just right’ on a modern operating system. This last point is easily seen as a big hole when you see the success of an editor like TextMate.

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Interesting Paper on Make

I wish this paper was available in 1994. I wasted so much time on these old issues in the past. I also wasted a lot of time on things like autoconf. The unix toolchain is not recommended.

Recursive Make Considered Harmful

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Font Pollution

America Is F*cked…….(Graphically at least) from Jess Gibson on Vimeo.

I saw the movie Helvetica about a year ago… good movie (good soundtrack too). This little video would fit right in there.

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