Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 2nd May 2014 20:03 UTC
Talk, Rumors, X Versus Y

So I set myself the task of picking five great works of software. The criteria were simple: How long had it been around? Did people directly interact with it every day? Did people use it to do something meaningful? I came up with the office suite Microsoft Office, the image editor Photoshop, the videogame Pac-Man, the operating system Unix, and the text editor Emacs.

Each person has his or her own criteria for these sorts of things, but in my view, this list is woefully inadequate. If it were up to me, I would pick these, in no particular order:

  • A-0 System: the first ever compiler, written by Grace Hopper in 1951 and 1952, for the UNIVAC I.
  • UNIX: This one's a given.
  • WorldWideWeb/CERN HTTPd: the first web browser and the first web server, both written by Tim Berners-Lee. Also a given.
  • Xerox Star: this one is actually a tie between the Star, its research predecessor the Alto, and Douglas Engelbart's NLS. These three combined still define the way we do computing today - whether you look at a desktop, a smartphone, or a tablet. I decided to go with the Star because it was the only one of the three that was commercially available, and because it's so incredibly similar to what we still use today.
  • Windows: you cannot have a list of the greatest software of all time without Windows. You may not like it, you may even hate it, but the impact Windows has had on the computing world - and far, far beyond that - is immense. Not including it is a huge disservice to the operating system that put a computer on every desk, in every home.

This leaves a whole bunch of others out, such as Lotus 1-2-3, DOS, the Mac OS, Linux, and god knows what else - but such is the nature of lists like this.

Thread beginning with comment 588039
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
The oN-Line System
by WereCatf on Fri 2nd May 2014 20:54 UTC
Member since:

To be honest, I would've left Windows out of there and brought the NLS ( ) to the table instead. Windows didn't really bring anything new to the scene, it merely collected many already-done ideas and designs to the same OS. The NLS, though, did much, much more, and the full list of computer-scene firsts is quite hefty:

* the computer mouse
* 2-dimensional display editing
* in-file object addressing, linking
* hypermedia
* outline processing
* flexible view control
* multiple windows
* cross-file editing
* integrated hypermedia email
* hypermedia publishing
* document version control
* shared-screen teleconferencing
* computer-aided meetings
* formatting directives
* context-sensitive help
* distributed client-server architecture
* uniform command syntax
* universal "user interface" front-end module
* multi-tool integration
* grammar-driven command language interpreter
* protocols for virtual terminals
* remote procedure call protocols
* compilable "Command Meta Language"

I mean, just look at the fucking list! That's an insane amount of totally new inventions and designs and almost all of those are still in use to this day.

Reply Score: 6

RE: The oN-Line System
by Thom_Holwerda on Fri 2nd May 2014 20:57 in reply to "The oN-Line System"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:

NLS is already on the list.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: The oN-Line System
by WereCatf on Fri 2nd May 2014 20:58 in reply to "RE: The oN-Line System"
WereCatf Member since:

Well, you do say you picked Star over NLS in the list. I am saying you should've picked both and left Windows out of it. I don't intend to start a fight about it, I am merely expressing my view that both NLS and Star were enormously important to software-technological progression and Windows was much less so.

One thing that Microsoft did and which was extremely important was help break IBM's stranglehold on the PC-market, but I attribute that more to Microsoft's marketing and business tactics than to their software itself.

Edited 2014-05-02 21:05 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4