While playing around with the GUI on OpenVMS I was looking for CDE documentation and I found out CDE is still being developed and can be installed on modern linux. This quick post shows you how to install CDE on Debian 10 and includes a bit on compiling GENERIC TETRIS, the same program I installed on OpenVMS.
I will forever stand by my article from 14 years ago and you can put on my gravestone that I truly think CDE is one of the best graphical user interfaces ever conceived. CDE was released as open source software about nine years ago, and is still being developed.
Haha I don’t even have to click the link to know which article that is! I have quoted and linked it countless times over the past 14 years, it’s one of my favorites! Not only do you make great points, but I love the way it makes people say “…what?” XD
I first used CDE back in 2005 in college. We had to remote into a SunOS 4 server in order to use I-DEAS (a CADD software). Then again I ran into it at work circa 2009/2010 where a long running project used software only available for HP-UX workstations. The concepts in CDE are very interesting, and it is obvious a lot of thought was put into every single piece of user interaction. It is also clear that it was the designed by committee, which was it’s downfall.
To me, the major problem with CDE is the Motif toolkit. While it was extremely cohesive and innovative in the early 90s, it quickly became outdated due to its strict adherence to backward-compatibility. All you have to do is open up any screenshot of CDE over the last 2-and-a-half decades to see what I’m talking about: Absolutely nothing changed during that time. While that sounds great if you’re looking for compatibility and familiarity, the reality is that concepts and preferences never stopped evolving, and so Motif got left behind. You can come to the same conclusion simply by reading this excerpt from the CDE Wikipedia article:
It’s just crazy to think that it took them 15 years after “their last major version” to release version 2.2 as open source. At that point, it was too little, too late and the world had moved to greener pastures.
In my opinion, had Motif and CDE been released from the very beginning as free software, or something similar, it would have likely dominated. In hindsight, Motif could have been successful by following a similar path as Qt which started out as proprietary, then move to a semi-open license and finally became free software. The need for a free, pure C widget toolkit was obvious, but was filled by GTK+ instead.