Linked by snydeq on Mon 12th Oct 2009 15:24 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces InfoWorld's John Rizzo chronicles the 20 most significant ideas and features Microsoft and Apple have stolen from each other in the lead up to Windows 7 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard. 'Some features were stolen so long ago that they've become part of the computing landscape, and it's difficult to remember who invented what.' Windows 7's Task Bar and Aero Peek come to mind as clear appropriations of Mac OS X's Dock and Expose. Apple's cloning of the Windows address bar in 2007's Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard as the path bar is another obvious 'inspiration.' But the borrowing goes deeper, Rizzo writes, providing a screenshot tour of Microsoft's biggest grabs from Mac OS X and Apple's most significant appropriations of Windows OS ideas and functionality.
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wirespot
Member since:
2006-06-21

Even today, several of high-profile GNU projects are nothing but copy-and-rewrite something that someone else came up with. I appreciate them doing all this work and they make good (alternative) tools, but at the fundamental level they are just "copying".


I'm afraid I can't agree to that. Even though you used quotes around "copying". To copy is to not do any work, or to do very little. But if you're given the task of replicating functionality by implementing it from scratch it's certainly not as easy as "copying" would make it seem. Yes, innovation and breakthroughs in conceptual development are hard and those who do it deserve credit. But actual implementation, even if it is re-implementation, is work that is just as hard and also deserves credit. And very often those who reimplement software perform feats of innovation themselves, during the creation of their particular solutions of implementation.

This is actually why sharing ideas and allowing reimplementation is good, and why blocking ideas or software or fundamental knowledge like math with patents is bad. Because by building upon ideas from others we evolve much faster.

Let me put it this way. If you see a public park arranged in a particularly nice way and you go home and work hard and make your garden look that way too, does it mean that you stole from that park? Yes, those who made the park payed for a skilled designer. But they meant the park to be seen by the public at large and once you saw it you cannot "unsee" it.

Should I avoid following the philosophical ideas in a book because the author thought about them first? Even though he meant for them to be read? Should we refrain from using things that get into our brains because we feel like we owe whoever had that idea first?

Reply Parent Score: 3

strcpy Member since:
2009-05-20

No big disagreements here. Replicating functionality deserves credit, especially when done in the spirit of free/open source software. I did try to mention that.

But, and this is intentionally provocative, GNU should not go to the history books as an innovator in the field of software. In the field of software licenses and politics around software, sure, they should be (and will be) remembered.

Edited 2009-10-12 20:15 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

wirespot Member since:
2006-06-21

Look, I'm a programmer and I don't think you are. As a matter of course, programmers innovate all the time. They're given limited resources and are asked to write software to a certain spec. And in order to make that software as good as possible within the given limitations, they resort to all kinds of interesting solutions. Quite often it's things they haven't tried before, ideas they get as they go. Yes, it's very seldom a world premiere for those ideas. But within the realm of experience of a particular programmer, he innovates.

It would be hard to say whether the people who wrote the GNU userland used new (to them) ideas, which they thought up all by themselves. You'd have to study and compare existing solutions at that time, and which of them they had been exposed to before. But trust me when I say that, in writing an userland from scratch, like in writing any software from scratch, they innovated at least a bit.

We all do. What we call our reasoning is the sum of past experiences and the ideas we've aquired in all the time we've lived. To act upon them is natural. And every time you encounter something you haven't before and you apply that reasoning to find a solution, and you manage by yourself, you innovate. And if you were to trace back the ideas involved you'll find out that most, if not all, of them came from somewhere else. This is what intelligent thought is: applying past experience to new circumstances. Asking who "really owns" that past experience is silly and irrelevant.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Hae-Yu Member since:
2006-01-12

Yes, innovation and breakthroughs in conceptual development are hard and those who do it deserve credit. But actual implementation, even if it is re-implementation, is work that is just as hard and also deserves credit.


I agree with your general belief as stated elsewhere in your post that innovation is a cumulative process. However, I have to take issue with the part of your statement that I bolded.

Reimplementation is NEVER as hard as working with original inspiration. That original programmer had to, first of all, be inspired, and inspiration doesn't happen on command. I can spend weeks fighting a problem and a night banging it out in code.

How much effort did Microsoft, for instance, put into creating Windows keyboard shortcuts? (A big one the article missed). Virtually all Windows' basic keyboard shortcuts were lifted from the Mac: ctrl+c, ctrl+v, ctrl+x, ctrl+a, ctrl+z.... Woohoo, they changed from Command key to Control Key. Sure it had to be programmed from scratch on a different platform, but they didn't have to do any legwork.

Think about everything that had to go into that. Some Apple designer had to think "maybe kb shortcuts would speed up this GUI thing." Then he had to sell the idea to his fellow devs, then to management, probably make a mockup all his own, maybe he had to fight for it against GUI purists, maybe go over his boss' head and alienate coworkers thereby jeopardizing his job, then program basic functionality, then code it, test it, fine tune it over years as others throw their ideas in and new shortcuts are added... Think about how much work went into deciding which common actions needed KB shortcuts and which keys to assign to each action.

Then you have MS. Probably farmed the work out to drones in Ireland or India with a spec sheet that said "augment GUI functionality with KB shortcuts. Key assignments should conform with existing industry usage." Wink, Wink.

Reimplementing is in no way shape/ fashion/ form as hard or heartbreaking as making new functionality. Reimplementing is hanging your hat on ideas that have already withstood the real world. Outside the legal aspect, there isn't any risk.

Edited 2009-10-13 16:27 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

ichi Member since:
2007-03-06

Think about everything that had to go into that. Some Apple designer had to think "maybe kb shortcuts would speed up this GUI thing."


There were keyboard shortcuts back in the command line days.
Sure they were (are) different, but it's the same concept translated to the GUI.

Reply Parent Score: 2