Monday, March 19, 2012

The Death of General Purpose Computing

I am a dinosaur.

My first class in programming was back in 1973.  Fortran was the name of the game then.   Spent some good times in New Orleans in the 80's learning:
  1. How to be a sysadmin on HP1000 and HP3000 systems. 
  2. How not to pick up women with adam's apples.
I used to speak VAX/VMS with RSTS as the operating system.  Ran a lab with bunches of data collection from GC/MS, GC, and HPLC data.  Did a pretty fair job.

Drifted out of that realm in the very serious operating system defined by the letters ATCG.  Spent the next twenty years or so in that realm.  Used computers as a serious tool the whole while.  I am in that nether world between serious geek and "Power User".

I am saying these thing to establish my bona fides.   

In the past couple of days, I have been spending a lot of time locked in mortal combat with a six-year old Compaq Presario C700.  I am too damn cheap to fork out the money to buy a new axe, so I spend time keeping this thing running.

I have spent the last week fooling around with operating systems.  It is not that I am trying to get back into the computer game.  Nope, I have been to that mountain and I ain't going back.  It is a game for young men.   Nope, just trying to use some old chops to keep expenditure low.

What I did see through my whirlwind tour of these systems is the ruthless and almost unimaginable dumbing-down and commercialisation evident in the last ten years.   I think that the lesson was brought home by my downloading and installing the windows 8 consumer preview.

The commercial boys are doing everything in their power to link the OS of your computer (be it pc, mac, or android) to marketplaces.  Hell, even look at ubuntu's unity and tell me that it isn't being designed as a way to steer folks into the ubuntu "marketplace" for the coin needed for Shuttleworth's next little display of conspicuous wealth.

Now, apple has never been anything but a ruthless competitor, it OS is never been anything but a means of guiding revenues into the mothership.  Microsoft, with good reason, was dinged for monopolistic business practices.  Google is showing a bit more of it's true colors with each passing day.  Facebook is nothing but a way to sell people shit.

I am comfortable with the idea of a computer as an incredibly adaptable tool  I have used them for years as such.  But more and more these are means of control for that portion of your life defined by economics.

There is a short story out there somewhere.  I read it years ago.  The name is "Codemus".   I read it in some SF anthology years ago.  The upshot is that there were little devices that everyone carried that told them where to go and what to do, reported the actions of the individual to the authorities, and everyone liked it.

I am going over to Powell's and see if I can dig it up.


Publius said...

Hey - I appreciate your blog and your honest take on things.

You are still in the computer "game"!
Think of experimenting with OSs and computers as a game. Can't games be fun?
I am "getting back into it," and I'm no spring chicken. A Gen Xer. But there is a certain beauty in the lower level stuff - the commands, shells, programming.
And it DOES give you a bit of freedom to do it your own way and evade the mind-sucking dumbing down that is doing on in the user space.

Anyway, good luck...
I still like Linux Mint..

Degringolade said...

Publius, If I may be so a follow up with your e-mail. I am conducting a little experiment (will be writing about it for the next couple of days) and would be pleased if you joined in.


Degringolade said...

Oh: and BTW..I am running linux mint right now....Windows didn't pan out