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      /  Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
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bison 
Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 24-Apr-2021 18:06:50
#1 ]
Super Member
Joined: 18-Dec-2007
Posts: 1819
From: N-Space

Some interesting weekend reading. He doesn't mention Amiga specifically, but the era is familiar.

Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing

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ne_one 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 24-Apr-2021 18:21:38
#2 ]
Cult Member
Joined: 13-Jun-2005
Posts: 894
From: Unknown

@bison

Except the point is to reduce complexity while continuing to evolve.

In an era where 80s and 90s technology is enjoying a retro explosion the Amiga isn't mentioned because the only thing it is synonymous with is litigation.

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JimIgou 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 24-Apr-2021 19:56:13
#3 ]
Regular Member
Joined: 30-May-2018
Posts: 110
From: Unknown

@ne_one

Quote:
...the Amiga isn't mentioned because the only thing it is synonymous with is litigation.


So true.

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simplex 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 24-Apr-2021 21:55:04
#4 ]
Cult Member
Joined: 5-Oct-2003
Posts: 879
From: Hattiesburg, MS

@bison

Oh gosh, this is a terrible article. Assuming he actually lived through computing of the 80s and 90s, I'd summarize it as, "The author remembers only what he wants to remember, and he doesn't remember it well." But I'm not sure he actually lived through it.

Quote:
Desktop computer systems, especially those based on Linux, are way more complicated than typical personal computers in the 80s and 90s.

Modern machines do more.
For example, this guy is writing on a website whose JavaScript makes it hard to copy and paste. This is on purpose. However, I'm able to shut it off easily, without having to analyze the ROM or any binary code at all.

They do it more reliably.
My MacOS and Linux machines essentially never crash. Never. With 80s machines it was a regular thing. One bad pointer and you'd better hope your disk drive wasn't writing when the machine went belly up.

They do it more efficiently.
I remember using an Amiga 3000 after a couple of years with a 2001-vintage iBook. The Amiga felt very sluggish. I had forgotten how much "hurry up and wait" there was on old machines.

Quote:
Decoupling of the hardware from the OS and of the OS from the applications

He has it completely backwards. You couldn't run MacPaint on anything other than a Mac. You couldn't run TeleWriter on anything other than a Tandy Color Computer. You couldn't run WorkBench on anything other than an Amiga. One could go on.

Today you can literally run an enormous amount of software on any machine at all that can run a web browser. You can also run an enormous amount of software on any of the major three operating systems. For instance, I was pleasantly surprised last year to find that Microsoft Teams "just works" on Linux.

Hardware? You couldn't usually use a joystick on different systems, not unless you had special wiring skills or something, and he's obviously forgotten the nightmare that was printing. Today I can plug-and-play just about any USB device that runs on Microsoft or Mac to the other, or even to a Linux machine, and they "just work". Heck, you can literally install not just a version of Linux, but almost any version of Linux -- say, Fedora's KDE spin -- to a USB drive and run it on just about anybody's machine with a minimal amount of effort. Haiku and AROS will run on the vast majority of people's machines without too much effort.

Quote:
Select boot device

He wants a graphic boot loader, and he wants it to run on any machine in the world. I like that idea, too. I'm under the impression that there's a reason you can't do it, but I don't know what it is. (Memory limitations in boot loaders?)

Quote:
Number of files in the system

You can't have modularity / flexibility and wide utility without a large number of files.

This guy is one of the AppImage project leads, so maybe he's going on about that, but AppImages are usually poorly implemented bloatware in my experience. (To be fair, I don't have much experience with them, because Fedora is pretty darn good with software availability.)

Quote:
Knowing what every part of the system does

Dude, if you want Project Oberon, just install Project Oberon. It's free, it's explicitly designed with the intent that one person can know how every part works, it's been around since the 90s, and it was for a while the one system used at ETH Zurich.

Almost no one uses it today, the vast majority of its users use it as a hobby system rather than their main system, and there's a reason for that.

Quote:
The objects are the real thing, not just a view on the thing

Having objects be a view on the thing makes so many things easier. To start with, it reduces the number of apparent files on the filesystem, which is supposedly something he desires very much... but he seems to prefer bloatware (i.e., AppImages).

Quote:
Contrast this with today: No matter how you organize the files, they get shown differently next time you open the window.

Not on my machines they don't.

Quote:
Being able to run applications from any location

Funny that he keeps using old-time Macs as an example, because a modern Mac application will run from pretty much anywhere. It's not required to sit in the Applications folder, in part because the icon is a view of the application, not the application itself. But having all your applications in one place makes it mighty convenient to find them.

(Having said that, I always wished more machines would adopt Amiga's approach with ASSIGN C: ... or whatever, that was fantastic and elegant & is one of the biggest things I really miss.)

Quote:
Back in time when things were easy: You could have as many versions of applications next to each other as you wanted.

I have several versions of Lyx on my Mac. That's not because it's easy; it's because Lyx upgrades are not always reliable. It is quite possible to keep older versions of, say, Safari, Firefox, Word, etc. on your machine. You have to rename them, but it can be done.

Quote:
Offline by default

Weird, but pretty much all my software is this way, except the things that have to be online. Even things that exploit the cloud work pretty well offline (e.g., OneNote, web browsers, ...)

Quote:
No multi-user, no passwords by default

Fun fact: you can in fact download "libre" software that runs in precisely this way. There's a reason it's not the default. Someone's forgotten all the problems viruses caused for 20 years back when this was default.

Another thing: lots of people live in less privileged situations where several people share a desktop. Multi-user is a godsend for those situations. I have my files; my wife has her files; my children have their files; neither of us can screw with each other's files... and it's enforced by the operating system.

This guy wants to dump that.

Quote:
Log files only written to a temporary in-memory filesystem that does not survive reboots

Oh gosh, no. I've used log files after reboot to figure out what went wrong many times. This is an invaluable feature of any OS.

Quote:
Read-only operating system partition (or filesystem image) by default.

This is already the case (in my experience anyway). You have to willfully invoke superuser mode to change the system partition, such as for OS updates.

Quote:
As little configurability as possible

I thought he wanted computers to be personal. Nothing says personal more than configurable. One thing I miss of computers from the 80s and 90s is that they were as configurable as possible! You could trick up your Mac, Windows, or Amiga experience in all sorts of ways. Remember the flying toaster screensaver? By contrast, today's machines seems pretty darn locked down.

You know what wasn't terribly configurable? home computers of the 70s and early 80s. Go use those a while (plenty of emulators available) and tell me how happy you are with modern progress.

Quote:
Build systems for the long run... Contrast this with today: Built-in obsolescence where an operating system is expected to no longer be functional within just a couple of years.

That's not my experience of operating systems today. I'm still using a version of Android from several years ago (Android 5.1 I think). I could still use a very old version of Linux on my older machines. They're only obsolete in the sense that technology has advanced, and I need upgrades to use new technology.

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Hammer 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 25-Apr-2021 2:59:46
#5 ]
Elite Member
Joined: 9-Mar-2003
Posts: 4139
From: Australia

@bison

Modern X86 PCs still have 1981 IBM Personal Computer Model 5150 compatibility. LOL

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bison 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 25-Apr-2021 4:34:54
#6 ]
Super Member
Joined: 18-Dec-2007
Posts: 1819
From: N-Space

@Hammer

The ROM BIOS is there, but it might be a challenge attaching an ST-506 hard drive.

@ne_one

Quote:
In an era where 80s and 90s technology is enjoying a retro explosion the Amiga isn't mentioned because the only thing it is synonymous with is litigation.

Well, it is now, but back in the 80s the Amiga was known for doing a lot with a little. That era lasted from July 23, 1995 to May 5, 1992.

@simplex

Your love of complexity and my love of simplicity explains why you like Ada and I like C.

Last edited by bison on 25-Apr-2021 at 04:01 PM.
Last edited by bison on 25-Apr-2021 at 03:59 PM.

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Samurai_Crow 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 25-Apr-2021 13:26:49
#7 ]
Elite Member
Joined: 18-Jan-2003
Posts: 2274
From: Minnesota, USA

The application of the article is geared to the futile persuit of making a better Linux environment. The reality is that UNIX style operating systems bring a lot of baggage with them and lightweight alternatives with thin and relatively minimal POSIX implementation could be the next disruptive technology. I've come to appreciate Haiku's roots in the BeBox from the 90's which, in turn, could have been the next-gen Amiga if Commodore hadn't have had such obstinate management.

Some takeaway points from the article are that tight integration of mass storage makes bloated systems likely. I'd go so far as to say closed source drivers exacerbate the situation to the utmost. Amiga was the classic example of hardware-centered design. The OS built loosely on top of the hardware allowed the Draco and AmigaOne to happen and that's not altogether a good thing either. The fact that the MiniMig core brings Amiga chipset compatibility to the modern age cheaply only proves that open architectures are a necessity because it took too long getting here. Competitors and continuations like the Vampire stand-alone needed AROS just to get an operating system without legal constraints. As such, I would take extreme issue with the author's idea about decoupled operating systems.

If the industry were to retreat and regroup, requirement of open hardware is a must and simple architectures like the RasPi offer much with their relatively open architecture. RISC-V may play an even stronger role. A back-to-the-roots approach would go a long way.

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simplex 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 25-Apr-2021 22:54:10
#8 ]
Cult Member
Joined: 5-Oct-2003
Posts: 879
From: Hattiesburg, MS

@bison

Quote:
Your love of complexity and my love of simplicity explains why you like Ada and I like C.

Oh, I love simplicity, and IMHO Ada helps produce simpler programs. When I look at a well-designed, well-written Ada program, it's a thing of beauty. Plus, I crash less often during development. Much simpler if you ask me.

I may have said this earlier (can't recall) but I recently contributed to a comparison of a raytracer implemented in several different languages. The C version may have been simpler from a certain point of view, but it didn't produce the correct output. In fact, it didn't produce any output at all, just a black image. Amazingly, the implementer never bothered to check if the output was correct; he just wrote it, made sure it compiled and ran (and ran "fast"), then went on to something else. That says something about C programmers if you ask me. Probably not fair, what can I say.

FWIW I also appreciate Python and Nim and Kotlin, especially since Nim & Kotlin will easily generate output for multiple targets (native, JVM (Kotlin), JavaScript).

(added in edit: I also admire Oberon, but that's a bit too simple: no generics at all. I like Modula-3, too, but it's simple in many ways and too complicated in others, their implementation of generics in particular was far too complex.)

Last edited by simplex on 25-Apr-2021 at 10:56 PM.

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noXLar 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 26-Apr-2021 1:21:04
#9 ]
Cult Member
Joined: 8-May-2003
Posts: 711
From: Norway

@simplex

haven't installed firefox or opera for many years, even though they my main browsers. all the pluggins and settings I've done for years is following me on every new windows installations and machines. and they also receive all the updates.

this behavior i have make sure most programs i use do.

nox

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agami 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 28-Apr-2021 14:04:56
#10 ]
Cult Member
Joined: 30-Jun-2008
Posts: 594
From: Melbourne, Australia

I agree with @bison

You know, things were a lot simpler back in the paper and pencil days. One could use any pencil on any kind of paper. Multiple versions of paper could be used with multiple versions of pencils. Simultaneously.

The pencil only had a single representation. If you move it from the pocket to the desk, it was then on the desk. One could throw the pencil in the trash without throwing out the entire notepad. And when one is buying a new notepad in the stationary store, they didn't ask what pencil are you using with it?

I was going to label it "romanticizing nostalgia bullcrap", but I'm not sure the person actually lived through the personal computing days before 1995.

Most of the use-cases he cites are completely contrived and offer little in value to a regular user. And he completely ignores the work a developer has to put in to develop and support an application in such an exposed and specifically backward compatible operating environment.

Early Mac OS (System) was and is an irredeemable pile of crap. It only started to become tolerable at System 7.

I'll always have a fondness for the Amiga and its OS, but it just can't do the things a recent Linux distro can. Linux has come a long way, but there's still a lot of complexity that requires simplifying to obtain broader appeal, and a lot of legacy that'll take time to replace.

I too liked BeOS and I like the work the Haiku team has done. Though it too would score low on the "When things where easy" meter.

I think I agree with his core sentiment. It's hard to be sure because of how poorly it was communicated.

We did loose some quality of life UX conventions from the earlier computing examples, as hardware, operating systems, the internet, and applications all moved to meet the growing and increasingly diverse needs and wants of the consumers.

Last edited by agami on 28-Apr-2021 at 02:06 PM.

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bison 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 28-Apr-2021 16:06:52
#11 ]
Super Member
Joined: 18-Dec-2007
Posts: 1819
From: N-Space

@agami

Quote:
Most of the use-cases he cites are completely contrived

Yeah, I thought so too. It would be interesting to read a similar article, but using Amiga examples. The same era, but a different system.

@simplex

The thing about C is the language itself is not inherently unsafe, just existing implementations. For example, an out-of-bounds array access in C is undefined. "Undefined" can mean anything. In existing implementations it usually results in memory corruption, but it doesn't have to. See section 6 of this PDF:

Some Were Meant for C

Last edited by bison on 28-Apr-2021 at 04:16 PM.

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NutsAboutAmiga 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 28-Apr-2021 17:06:23
#12 ]
Elite Member
Joined: 9-Jun-2004
Posts: 11694
From: Norway

@bison

Quote:
The thing about C is the language itself is not inherently unsafe, just existing implementations. For example, an out-of-bounds array access in C is undefined. "Undefined" can mean anything. In existing implementations, it usually results in memory corruption


But on where heavy-handed isolation between process and tasks, this will cause a program crash, but it will not crash the operating system, the result is not undefined, because in the event of a write / read outside allocated memory the exception handler is triggered, you will get a core dump. And the program is terminated.

On less heavy-handed system like AmigaOS4.1, it can result in corrupted program or OS, but it will most often result in Grim Reaper, where the user can decide if he thinks itís good idea to allow the program to continue to corrupt itself or if like freeze the program. because you canít terminate programs, due to ownership and resource tracking is not best on AmigaOS4.1, beside process often cooperate, so you canít remove one process/task without removing the other. Sheard resources like libraries and devices can also have bugs, and also your conditions effecting, this will be catastrophic, if is the case, in the sense that you need to reboot, undo the state the OS is in. this not something you can tolerate in a server OS. Nor is the open hackable architecture something particular trustworthy regarding spyware and security, we trust our tiny community to not do self-harm. With larger community and user base that trust is gone, in particular if you canít find out who wrote software in case something happened, accountability is necessary, ensure that misuse of power, ill intent will not happen, if it happens makes see that you can track it back to the developer. Of cause if some write virus, its where hard to track where it came from. Of cause develops are not willing pay for data loss due to unintended bugs, however misuses software, that upload personal files, collects login details to web sites, or misuse GPU or CPU power to generate bitcoins for the hacker, is something I assume is covered in legal laws. What Iím getting to here is that security for user can be in OS or provided by the software depose. where software is hosted for download. And I think its is something to consider.

Last edited by NutsAboutAmiga on 28-Apr-2021 at 05:10 PM.
Last edited by NutsAboutAmiga on 28-Apr-2021 at 05:07 PM.

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simplex 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 28-Apr-2021 19:05:45
#13 ]
Cult Member
Joined: 5-Oct-2003
Posts: 879
From: Hattiesburg, MS

@bison

I knew the definition of "safety" would figure in, and the paper's author admits it.

Quote:
Consider unchecked array accesses. Nowhere does C define that array accesses are unchecked. It just happens that implementations donít check them. This is an implementation norm, not a fact of the language.

Yes, and implementing these checks and others there will be a performance hit, because you can't typically do it at compile time, which the author even admits elsehwere. (Statically checking these things, i.e., formally verified computing, is a field of active research, and as far as I know -- which admittedly isn't that much -- the most advanced implementation is Ada/SPARK.) It will make use of the language less simple, and all the people who say they love C for its simplicity will migrate to a less safe implementation. That, after all, is merely one reason C programmers haven't all migrated to MISRA C, and those who have (usually b/c work requires it) use it badly.

For instance, I've mentioned my implemented of a ray tracer in Ada as compared to C & C++. The C version worked & was fast but produced wrong output; the programmer never bothered to check, sort of illustrating my point. So I can compare the Ada implementation (by me, not really an Ada expert) to the C++ version, and I can say that the Ada version was roughly 6% slower, and that's almost certainly because Ada implements run-time array checking and the like.

My impression from the Ada crowd is that a 6% hit is typical and acceptable to obtain the safety associated with Ada, and my impression from the C/C++ crowd is that a 6% hit is obscene. The article admits this:

Quote:
there is a cult of performance around the C language


I would further point out that you can have a version of Ada that's about as "simple" as C by foregoing generics, tasking, a lot of the fantastic sub typing and range features, tagged records, and a few other things. You still get the safety which is built into the language, and you forego the inherently unsafe features of C (as identified in that paper).

So I'm not sure how "we can make C safe if we really want; we just don't want to" is supposed to convince anyone.

Finally, it says something (not good) that the article's notion of a safe language is Java, while Ada merits nary a mention. I've used Java almost from its inception, and I never considered it especially safe. Neither did its designers, who included warnings not to use it in situations where safety mattered (e.g., nuclear power plants).

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amigang 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 28-Apr-2021 21:20:08
#14 ]
Super Member
Joined: 12-Jan-2005
Posts: 1587
From: Cheshire, England

I do worry about the future of computers, I mean letís face it, itís all going online, which can bring huge befits, like google office suit is really handy, when Iím out and about and I want to write/take note I can start on my phone, get home and finish it off on my pc, any online drive /office suit offers this now, it great! But when the Internet goes down or you can access it for some reason (which is getting rare) you better have something else todo. Buying software and games can all be done from home now over the Internet but again most like to include drm or always checking / having you log into an account online, same issue if there severs are down or internet outage you screwed. Even on software/games that should work offline.

They also pretty much killed off the second hand or borrowing gaming and software model, which was really handy when I was a kid and couldnít afford full prices software / games.

Donít Even get me started on the subscription model most companies are moving too, fair enough if they want to to do that but offer a buy once solution too, Adobe want £600 a year to access there apps, now donít get me wrong they produce some good software and I actually think a full version should even made cost that much, but not forever for what I would call very small new features each year.

The idea you own the product is slipping away.

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simplex 
Re: Bring back the ease of 80s and 90s personal computing
Posted on 29-Apr-2021 1:02:41
#15 ]
Cult Member
Joined: 5-Oct-2003
Posts: 879
From: Hattiesburg, MS

@amigang

Quote:
itís all going online, which can bring huge befits, like google office suit is really handy, when Iím out and about and I want to write/take note I can start on my phone, get home and finish it off on my pc, any online drive /office suit offers this now, it great! But when the Internet goes down... Donít Even get me started on the subscription model most companies are moving too

Yes, yes, yes, I second this. This is the one aspect of modern computing that worries me most. Except for videos I record of my lectures, I refuse to put my important documents in the cloud. Instead I synchronize my machines with rsync.

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