Subject: Re: source access vs dynamism
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1999/09/01
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Erann Gat
| Just because MS-DOS was hacked more than other OSes of its day does *not*
| imply that MS-DOS was more easily hacked.

  actually, it does.  if you had been visiting this planet earlier, you
  would have seen the small computer magazines that had loads and loads of
  details on how things worked and how it could be exploited.  heck, I even
  have a few disks, copyright 1987 and 1991 by Dave Williams, called DOSREF
  2.0, which contains a _wealth_ of information, much more than I got out
  of the Linux sources and documentation in equal reading time.

| And just because all the hackers *got* was name recognition does not
| imply that that is all they *wanted*.

  no, that's certainly right.  the early MS-DOS world was also the biggest
  contributor to the _shareware_ culture, where people got free software
  with some functional restrictions and then paid other people some trifle
  amount of money for the real thing.  some people got rich off of this, in
  particular Peter Norton, which I even actually _mentioned_ in my reply,
  but most people just got enough money to keep having fun doing it.
  (which is much better than what Free Software is doing, anyway.)

| And just because MS-DOS was hacked a lot it certainly does not follow
| that MS-DOS's commercial success was a *result* of this hacking.

  yes, it does.  what made MS-DOS a success at all was that people were
  talking about all _over_ the place.  it was obviously useful on the new
  fancy machines of the day, but it was so hideously crippled and useless
  that every user _had_ to talk to his friends to be able to use it, and
  they were, lo and behold, able to supply all kinds of nifty tools.  this
  is how you build a community of users, and it this community of young
  people who had gotten themselves familiar with the Microsoft version of
  CP/M, basically, who grew up and became influential in some particular
  segments of our industry.  without these people, the fate of MS-DOS would
  have been that of the Amiga, which also had its share of devotees, but
  which didn't reach (un)critical mass.

| Here's an alternative theory:  MS-DOS succeeded because the IBM PC
| succeeded, and the IBM PC succeeded because business people, largely
| ignorant of technology but with deep pockets, trusted IBM.  People did
| not buy DOS because it was being hacked, but because they wanted to buy
| IBM PC's and Bill Gates shrewdly saw to it that if you wanted to buy a PC
| you had no choice but to buy DOS to go along with it.  People hacked DOS
| not because it was easy but because they saw business opportunities in
| remedying DOS's deficiencies.

  there _were_ no business opportunities at first.  people in suits didn't
  buy hacker's tools -- if the machines were bought by suits, they were
  used as the terminals they were intended by IBM to be, but that is NOT
  what made the PC a success.  you don't see business opportunities fixing
  broken things _until_ you have hacked it enough to see that it is indeed
  fixable.  somehow, people had to figure out a way to fix these things,
  and those were not people in suits and ties who trusted IBM.  I know this
  very well -- I got my own first computer in 1979 (not an IBM PC, but an
  Exidy Sorcerer), and basically grew up on the University computing center
  computers (DEC-10s) and joined clubs who had fun with real computers, but
  a bunch of people about my age and older got IBM PC's or even better
  machines, like the Apricot, but that came a little later, I think.  these
  guys didn't trust IBM any more than any other company, probably less.
  they studied our machines like we all did at the time.  heck, I got my
  high school to buy an AIM-65 for me back in 1978 so I could play with
  scheduling rooms and teachers and classes (I didn't know how hard it was
  supposed to be, so I just did it).  and the kind of stuff people were
  figuring out about the 6502 and the Commodore and stuff.  I tell you:
  this stuff took off because millions of pages of computer magazines had
  stuff that young aspiring nerds could have fun toying with.  Microsoft
  has also (correctly, marketingwise) targeted the home, and not primarily
  the offices, because they did understand that people will want to use the
  same machine at home and at the office, but it's a lot harder to make
  them take their office machine home if it's a fancy mainframe terminal.
  Microsoft _still_ believes that the home is where the decisions are made.

| Now, on what basis do you claim that my theory is so implausible that I
| am "completely clueless" for not immediately recognizing your theory to
| be the One True Explanation of the success of MS-DOS?

  gee, _that_ is a useful argument!  I'm not sure how stupid you are, but I
  have never seen anyone but idiots use the "One True X" argument, for any
  value of X.  if you have a personal problem reading explanations that you
  somehow think somebody else believes is elevated to divine doctrine, see
  a shrink, don't bother any other people with your problems, OK?  however,
  I must assume now that you have as your main agenda to _disprove_ what
  you stupidly believe is held to be One True Explanations, and will refuse
  to listen to it, no matter the argument, instead of trying to provide
  useful input.  sheesh.

| I believe that being innovative is extraordinarily difficult.  In my
| experience it is hard for people to even *recognize* a true innovation
| except in hindsight, let alone come up with one themselves.

  the problem is that you can't grow huge if you are good at innovating and
  once you grow big enough that you have all the money and all the people
  that could make just about any good thinker innovative, you're so deep in
  organizational quagmire and a culture of just getting stuff out the door
  that you can't afford to be innovative no matter how much money you have.
  Microsoft is not the only company to have run into that particular fate.

| >   on this planet, this actually translates to "quality is fundamentally
| >   at odds with what people are willing to pay well for".
| Yes, that's exactly what I meant.  Most people are not willing (or not
| able) to pay for quality.  Most people don't even know how to tell the
| difference between high quality and low quality.

  this is your fundamental view of people, but not a fact of nature: it is
  in fact wrong.  (and before you crank up the One True X bullshit again:
  it is obviously possible to ascertain that something is false without
  even having a clue what is actually correct.)  the reasons you think it's
  right are quite interesting, however: it isn't low quality that people
  buy, it's fun factors, image, coolness, and it is intended to be thrown
  away because it's basically a marketing gimmick.  high quality comes with
  lower fun factors, it takes longer to get to market, is less cool and has
  a very different image in most cases, such as conservativeness and family
  values like prudence and taking good care of things.  however, the kind
  of serious market research that companies who actually want to stay in
  business conduct to learn more about their customers do show that people
  don't buy the cheap nifty thing the _second_ time they buy the same
  thing, but instead evaluate whether they need it, and if they do, buy
  much higher quality products.  people do get mad when things break in
  their hands, but that never keeps them away from fun and cool stuff.

  now, if you really are a visiting alien, which I'm beginning to suspect
  for real, you would not see this in the extremely high profile marketing
  channels like TV and catalogs and such, but you would find that most
  people over 25 (used to be 30) don't buy into the same kind of craze.
  young people don't wnat quality, they want cool.  mature people know what
  money is worth and don't want to waste it on crap, but they aren't even
  reachable through the same channels that sell nifty crap to young people.

  in a culture that looks to youth as if it were the only part of life
  worth living, it is understandable that young people don't think people
  in general want high quality and endurance and other qualities, but it's
  an amazing fact (to some) that mature people have a lot of money and use
  it well.  to others, it's the bloody obvious.

  you talk about people who trust IBM and have deep pockets and who fit the
  mature person model, yet you don't understand that these people are the
  _last_ to buy crap twice.  that's why Bill Gates has to be so darn smug
  about how he's improving and innovating and making the _next_ version be
  as good as a completely new version that you'll buy because it's fun and
  new and all that.

| C++ is satisfactory.  Common Lisp is excellent.  Which one are more
| people willing to pay for?

  C++ isn't satisfactory anymore.  it has lost its coolness and fun factor.
  some companies nearly croaked on their C++ "investment", like Borland,
  and we might never learn whether they recovered their losses on C++ or on
  other products, but people have not been paying for C++ per se.  they
  have been paying for the ability to program Windows.  I know a whole lot
  of programmers all over the world, and very, very few of them have any
  sort of _appreciation_ for C++.  people are strongly dissatisfied with
  low quality, and deeply frustrated that they can't get out of it.  those
  who can, rejoice.  I have had four people call me in the past week and
  tell me they were _so_ happy that I had argued against C and C++ and
  given them free CD's with Allegro CL on to try and play with.  they just
  didn't _know_ about any alternatives, because it isn't marketed on the
  radio in the middle of techno and dance music programs, targeted at the
  same people that Joe Camel got a restraining order for talking to.

| This is not a belief, it is an empirical observation.  I wish things were
| different.

  then open your shut eyes and look again.  you didn't see _all_ the world
  in its glorious complexity and diversity the last time you looked: the
  people who matter the most are always the least visible.  if you live by
  the popularity contest, you will die by the popularity contest, and he
  who controls the popularity contest decides who lives and who dies, which
  is where the real power lies.

| The mass market *is* the only market when what you are selling is
| infrastructure.  Operating systems and programming languages are
| infrastructure.

  oh, so is _this_ a One True Explanation, Erann?  what if that's just a
  point of view that happens to fit your very simple models, but not the
  inherent complexity of the world?

| Your continued comparison of Microsoft to the Nazis diminishes the horror
| of the Holocaust, and I find it quite offensive.  Unethical business
| practices, no matter how egregious, do not deserve to be compared to even
| a single murder, let alone millions upon millions.

  I have not compared anything to the Holocaust, you hyper-sensitive twit.
  if you have nothing better to do than to accuse people of things they go
  out of their way not to say, I suggest not doing it here.

  upon reading your last paragraph, I'm _sure_ that you are visiting alien
  and that you'll be called back to your mothership or whatever very soon.
  thank you for visiting our planet and for letting me know that there are
  other planets to come from than earth.

  save the children: just say NO to sex with pro-lifers