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.

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Member since:

I totally disagree, to not recognize the contributions Windows has made to the computing world is the worst kind of self imposed blindness. It, paired with the x86 processor, really did put a computer in every home, and the process improvements in the hardware, and the lessons that the insane hardware combinations Windows supports, set the stage for Android, which basically uses the same model as Wintel

Reply Parent Score: 7

tylerdurden Member since:

Then it must be specified if the greatness refer to technology or marketing. Wintel is firmly placed in the latter.

Reply Parent Score: 4

Dasher42 Member since:

That's a monopoly's marketing in action, not technological innovation. The market could have seen an ecosystem of competing platforms. The Amiga had long filenames, pre-emptive multitasking, hardware-accelerated video and sound, and multimedia in 1986. The Atari had amazing capabilities too. The Mac was the clear leader in GUI development, and BeOS had innovations still not fully realized in today's OS. OS/2 had incredibly solid design, such that video driver crashes didn't even bring down the operating system, and an awesome threading model.

All of these deserved a fair shot at the market denied to them by monopolistic practices and lock-down through OEM agreements with Microsoft. The fact that a PC wound up on every desktop was bound to happen. It happened belatedly and half-assedly and with security holes that have fundamentally affected the growth of the internet, thanks to Microsoft.

Everything else on this list was a first of its kind innovation; Microsoft invented nothing of significance, not even MS-DOS. In fact, everything they added was old news to the technophiles by the time it showed up in a Microsoft product, usually after MS's marketing arm had argued against it and acted to kill it elsewhere.

Edited 2014-05-03 03:44 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 6

BluenoseJake Member since:

MIcrosoft didn't have a monopoly when Win 3.1 came out, it sold millions of copies. People stood in line for Win 95, it created the monopoly.

Marketing maybe, monopoly, no. Either way, It helped bring computing to the masses.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:

Quick clarification:

Your argument stands with OS/2, and BeOS. They wanted to be hardware agnostic and sell to OEMS, so consumers could buy computers from a variety of them. Microsoft's anti competitive behavior did affect them to a huge degree. The biggest barrier to owning a computer in the win 3.1 days was the cost. Having multiple hardware vendors competing helped drive that cost down.

For Atari, Mac, Amiga... Well they only sold the OS on the hardware they made ( Ignoring the power mac clones for a second *). They were expensive, and had a lot of vendor lock in.

* I think the mac clones were a great idea, implemented too late.

Reply Parent Score: 5

Soulbender Member since:

But is Windows a great work of software though?

really did put a computer in every home

A lot of homes, at least in Europe, already had a home computer at, uhm, home. Granted it was probably mostly used for games but it was a computer in the home.
Having a great impact is, as others have noted, not the same as being a great work.
Does McDonalds serve great, or even good, food? Is it a great restaurant? Hell no. Has it had immense impact on the food and restaurant industry? Without a doubt.

Reply Parent Score: 6

Dave_K Member since:

[Windows], paired with the x86 processor, really did put a computer in every home, and the process improvements in the hardware, and the lessons that the insane hardware combinations Windows supports, set the stage for Android, which basically uses the same model as Wintel

I think the comparison with Android is the one thing you've got right here.

Saying that Windows put a computer in every home is about as accurate as saying that Android put a phone in every pocket.

Reply Parent Score: 6