Subject: Re: Lisp in the "real world"
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1997/07/10
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp,comp.lang.scheme
Message-ID: <>

* Erik Naggum
| ... until Microsoft itself rots and dies, which I predict happens between
| the years 2005 and 2010.

* Bengt Kleberg
| That is a very long wait. Still, it is better than not-in-the-forseeable-
| future (which is my own guesstimate).  Would it be possible to get the
| underlaying reasoning?

sure.  I watched managers at all levels ignore the Year 2000 problem for a
whole decade after there started to be some murmurs among software
professionals about a possible problems in both software and data.  then,
in 1995 or so, they suddenly got this Bright Idea that they should do
something about it, probably because somebody able to talk their language
could express the concern to them, and in typical manager-style, got all
panicky about it.  the short-sightedness of today's average manager is much
worse than the short-sightedness of the average programmer.  programmers
take some pride in writing code that doesn't break under forseeable stress,
but managers seem to take pride in "acting responsibly" and "taking charge"
_after_ an accident has happened, or when it is imminent, if they're good.
I guess no manager was ever promoted for wasting company resources to avoid
a costly problem that nobody ever saw because it was averted.  however,
managers that act calm in a crises are awarded with promotion, provided
they can blame somebody else for the actual incident.

if this is how the manager guild actually works to promote their own, it
will dawn on some unusually bright manager that all the huge investments in
software and in information is all for naught when Microsoft changes their
data formats, API's, MFC internals, etc, all the time under their feet,
that they can't afford to re-key the documents, and can't afford to keep a
barn full of old computers with old software to make old documents

it probably doesn't take more than one large-scale lawsuit where some
_manager_ loses because he can't retrieve the necessary documents to defend
himself, documents which he entrusted to some version of Microsoft Word.

with some luck, there is already a manager somewhere who has grasped that
he has sold his soul to Bill Gates in exchange for some unproductive tool
with many colors and icons that only shortens the lifespan of his company's
information to about two releases, and he's very frustrated.  he's trying
to alert other managers to this problem, and he can't do it, because what
he has discovered is not really a threat to managerdom, and he can't act
responsibly while blaming somebody else, because it's basically his own
idiocy that has come back to bite him.  instead, he will find a consulting
company that can convert his old documents for him, but only after he has
created some crises that he can look good to senior management if he's on
top of and _he_ is in charge of fixing, and then he will become famous and
capitalize big time on this with nationwide seminars on "protecting company
assets in information" and all sorts of ways to lie about how he once was
an idiot who bought Microsoft Word for his secretary to type that one
letter that could have been the end of his career (never mind the company).

then it will take five years for Microsoft to die a horrible, flaming death
in humongous lawsuits from companies who have to spend billions upon
billions of dollars to fix what was a known problem in 1969.

incidentally, I fully expect the responsible authors of software that is
not Year 2000 Compliant to be hauled in front of a judge and made to pay.
I actually think this is the _only_ reason managers wised up to this
problem as early as they did.  if it weren't for the lovely legal system,
managers wouldn't miss a night's sleep or worry a second until 1999-12-31,
when their personal calendars for "tomorrow" said "1900-01-01".

managerial incompetence giveth and taketh away.  Microsoft is the best
proof ever that if you keep managers happy and careless, they will give you
oodles and oodles of money to help them stay that way.  however, even the
average, incompetent manager will wake up, and the senior management will
notice that something is happening.

when this does transpire (a management word for "happens"), it's important
that somebody stand by to solve the problems they _really_ wanted to solve.
my guess is that free software will be in that position by the time
Microsoft goes down, and that programmers will no longer _want_ to waste
enormous amounts of time on stupid bugs only because incompetent managers
can't make the right choice.

the key to all this is to be prepared for Microsoft's fall.  like the Year
2000 Problem, there will be _tens_of_thousands_ of incompetent managers who
want to capitalize on the problem -- after all, they know _exactly_ what
the problem is.  like the Year 2000 Problem, it's very important not to be
in a position where you can be blamed for choosing Microsoft.

also note that this is different from any other company crash in history,
because no other company is so utterly oblivious to the information
(values) that their customers invest in with their tools.  Microsoft will
fall because of lack of confidence, just like a failing bank crashes only
because people lose confidence, not because they have actually lost the
money, yet.  this lack of confidence will be strictly isolated to Microsoft
because they have made such a big deal about inventing everything on their
own, too.  the best part of this is that Microsoft's total lack of cultural
influence from the outside world will also mean that they can't just suck
up thousands of programmers to fix technical bugs.  the whole of Microsoft
is built on marketing to incompetent managers, on a balloon of confidence
that _will_ burst, and on a belief in "the next version" which _will_ vane.

I have the highest hopes for the future.  in the post-Microsoft era, I also
doubt that governments world-wide will allow a repetition of Bill Gates,
who should remember the wisdom in the saying "you have only one chance to
make a good last impression".  I even envision the creation of American
Programmer's Association, possibly with bar exams or apprenticeships.  it's
time the trade of programmers got as responsible as their position in the
society is.  Microsoft will, through their phenomenal incompetence, prove
the need for certified programmers.  of course this will be dirty, this
will require flirting with Washington, this will mean all kinds of permits
and government control, or at least overseeing by insurance companies and
legal advisors.  the kinds of people who will be programmers in the future
are not the kind of people who become programmers today, just like witch
doctors are a different kind of person from today's MD's.

I believe programming will be a most important trade in the future, and the
company that will prove it to you -- Microsoft.

NT 4.0 -- an abbreviation of "new technology for naught"