15 Successes of the Computer Industry
(for most), which was a triumph of design and creativity.
One of the few computer systems to ever to be released on
time, within budget, and within specification. Bill Gates
must take some credit in getting IBM to adopt the 8088 processor,
rather than the relatively slow 8080. After its success,
every man and his dog at IBM had a say in what went into
it. The rise of the bland IBM PC is an excellent example
of an open-system triumphing over a closed-system. Companies
that have quasi-monopolies are keen on keeping their systems
closed, while companies that openly compete against other
compeditors prefer open systems. The market, and thus, the
user, prefer open-systems.
TCP /IP, which is the standard
protocol used by computers communicating over the Internet
. It has been designed to be computer-independent and operating
system independent, thus any type of computer can talk to
any other type (as long as they both use TCP/IP communications).
It has withstood the growth of the Internet with great success.
Its only problem is that we are now running out of IP address
es to grant to all the computers that connect to the Internet.
It is thus a victim of its own success. TCP/IP has proved
the foundation for all the Internet applications, such as
the World Wide Web , video conferencing , file transfer,
remote login and electronic mail . It has also been followed
by domain names (such as fred.com), which map symbolic names
to IP addresses.
which has taken the paperless office one step nearer. Many
mourned the death of letter writing, as TV and the telephone
had suppressed its form. With e-mail it is back again, stronger
than ever. It is not without its faults, though. Many people
have sent e-mails in anger, or ignorance, and then regretted
them later. It is just too quick, and does not allow for
a cooling off period. My motto is: 'If you're annoyed about
something, sleep on it, and send the e-mail in the morning'.
Also, because e-mail is not a face-to-face communication,
or a voice-to-voice communication, it is easy to take something
out of context. So another motto is: 'Carefully read everything
that you have written, and make sure there is nothing that
is offensive or can be misinterpreted'. Only on the Internet
could e-mail addressing (such as, firstname.lastname@example.org) be accepted,
worldwide, in such a short time.
Microsoft, which made sure that
it could not lose in the growth of the PC , by teaming up
with the main computer manufacturers, such as IBM (for DOS
and OS/2), Apple (for Macintosh application software) and
for its own operating system: Windows. Luckily, for Microsoft,
it was its own operating system which became the industry
standard. With the might of having the industry-standard
operating system (DOS, and then Microsoft Windows ), Microsoft
captured a large market for industry-standard application
programs, such as Word and Excel. For a company that never
specialized in application software, it has done well to
capture a larger market share than all of its competitors
put together (many of whom specialize in application software).
Intel, which was
gifted an enormous market with the development of the IBM
PC, but has since invested money in enhancing its processors,
but still keeping compatibility with its earlier ones. This
compatibility caused a great deal of hassle for software
developers, but had great advantages for users. With processors,
the larger the market you have, the more money you can invest
in new ones, which leads to a larger market, and so on.
Unfortunately, the problem with this is that other processor
companies can simply copy your designs, and change them
a little so that they are still compatible. This is something
that Intel have fought against, and, in most cases, have
succeeded in regaining their market share, either with improved
technology or with legal action. The Pentium processor was
a great success, as it was technologically superior to many
other processors on the market, even the enhanced RISC devices.
It has since become faster and faster.
6502 and Z80
(joint award), the classic 16-bit processors which became
a standard part of most of the PCs available before the
IBM PC. The 6502 competed against the mighty Motorola 6800
, while the Z80 competed directly with the innovative Intel
which took computing out of the millionaires' club, and
into the classroom, the laboratory, and, even, the home.
Ethernet, which has become the standard
networking technology. It is not without its faults, but
has survived because of its upgradability, its ease-of-use,
and its cheapness. Ethernet does not cope well with high
capacity network traffic , because it is based on contention
, where nodes must contend with each other to get access
to a network segment . If two nodes try to get access at
the same time, a collision results, and no data is transmitted.
Thus the more traffic there is on a network, the more collisions
there are. This reduces the overall network capacity. However,
Ethernet had two more trump cards up its sleeve. When faced
with network capacity problems, it increased its bit rate
from the standard 10Mbps (10BASE) to 100Mbps (100BASE ),
which gave ten times the capacity and reduced contention
problems. For networks backbones it also suffered because
it could not transmit data fast enough. So, it played its
next card: 1000BASE , which increased the data rate to 1Gbps
(1000MBps). Against this type of card player, no other networking
technology had a chance.
which is often confused with the Internet , and is becoming
the largest database ever created (okay, 99% of it is rubbish,
but even if 1% is good then it is all worthwhile). The WWW
is one of the uses of the Internet; others include file
transfer, remote login and electronic mail.
Apple Macintosh, which was
one of few PC systems which properly competed with the IBM
PC . It succeeded mainly because of its excellent operating
system (MAC OS), which was approximately 10 years ahead
of its time. Possibly, if Apple had spent as much of its
time in developing application software rather than for
their operating system it would have considerably helped
the adoption of the Mac . Apple also refused, until it was
too late, to license its technology to other manufacturers.
For a long time it thus stayed a closed-system.
DeskPro 386. Against all the odds, Compaq stole the
IBM PC standard from the creators, who had tried to lead
the rest of the industry up a dark alley, with MCA.
Sun SPARC ,
which succeeded against the growth of the IBM PC , because
of its excellent technology, its reliable Unix operating
system , and its graphical user interface (X-Windows ).
Sun Microsystems did not make the mistakes that Apple had
made, and allowed other companies to license its technology.
They also supported open systems in terms of both the hardware
and software. Sun is probably the main reason that Unix
is still alive, and thriving.
which bravely fought on against the IBM PC . It released
many great computers, including the Vic range and the Commodore
Amiga, and was responsible for forcing down the price of
which, more than any other company, made computing affordable
to the masses. Okay, most of its computers had terrible
membrane keyboards, memory adaptors that wobbled, took three
fingers to get the required command (Shift-2nd Function-Alt-etc),
required a cassette recorder to upload a program, would
typically crash after you had entered one thousand lines
of code, and so on. However, all of this aside, in the Sinclair
Spectrum they found the right computer, for the right time,
at the right price. Sometimes success can breed complacency,
and so it turned out with the Sinclair QL and the Sinclair
C -5 (the electric slipper).
for startling growth, that is unlikely to ever be repeated.
From zero to one billion dollars in five years, which it
achieved, not by luck, but by shear superior technology,
time-after-time, and by sharing its technology with others
(which, at the time, was the only way to compete against
the might of IBM ).
a few others:
mainly for providing the communications protocol for the
Internet : TCP /IP , and for being so reliable, and long-lasting
in a short-term industry. Also for being one of the strongest
rivals to Microsoft Windows . For the technically minded,
Unix allows the user to view the complete system, which
is often hidden in Microsoft Windows.
X-Windows , for lots
of things, including its openness, and ability to share
with others (good old human attributes ).
, for its range of printers and their brand strength.
for its networking products and providing the backbone of
the Internet (with CISCO routers ). Oh, and for making lots
of people a lot of money on their shares.
Java , for ignoring
computer architecture , the type of network connection,
and, well, everything.
PC , for trying to head off the PC, at the pass, but
no quite succeeding.
for, like Compaq, achieving unbelievable growth, and creating
a new market niche in selling computers directly from the
W. Buchanan, 2000