Ok, I am really going to date myself here. I have been using computers a long time. A really long time. Probably longer than some of you have been alive. Some of my first computing experiences involved juggling disks, floppy disks, big floppy disks. Hard drives were for the commercial users who had to store all those kilobytes of data or even (Gasp!) megabytes of data. For me one floppy to run the program and one to hold the data was all I needed. The fact that I could put my Professional Write disk in one drive and write a document on the other, spell check it and have it print to a dot matrix printer was pure magic for that time. I was hooked. There was no looking back.
I proceeded to spend money that I didn’t have to feed my habit. I bought programs that would change the world forever like WordPerfect, Quattro Pro and dBase (Back then the “Ins” “Del” and “/” keys actually had meaning!). Naturally I needed some robust hardware to run them on. Kaypro, AST, Packard Bell, Tandy, Zenith Data Systems, and Compaq to name a few. This software and hardware was not cheap. Especially by today’s standards. My family and friends thought I was nuts. It was just an expensive hobby that would run it’s coarse they thought. When I told them that this was the future they laughed. At the time a very select few could operate a Texas Instruments BA-II calculator successfully (I wasn’t one of them) so why would anyone mess with these computers?
For a while I thought they may be right. I could see the potential but living in a predominately blue collar area of Western NY I thought I was the only one. I had a PC in my home before modems, internet and well before any business / employers in the area. Then something happened. DOS. Microsofts DOS in my opinion brought computing from the super high tech to an easily digestible form to the masses. Masses being me and what seemed like a few hundred others at the time. With DOS you had a command line, directory structure. Could store files run programs from the same place. Not so coincidentally hard drives were being offered by some PC manufacturers make adaptation even easier.
Then Microsoft hit a real home run with Windows 3.0. With Windows the need to know commands was no longer needed. You could find virtually anything just by looking at your screen and clicking on a folder with this new fancy mouse thing. Now if you could point, click and type you were damn near a computer expert. Now the masses wanted one. Retailers sprung up everywhere as did PC manufacturers. The technology revolution was on! In my opinion, much to the credit of Microsoft and there Windows operating system.
Microsoft was masterful at making computing a learnable experience for all. They successfully integrated their own office suite taking the best from the competition and building on it. They helped office productivity and collaboration with the various server operating systems. They arguably helped make web browsing what it is today by making Internet Explorer a staple in every Windows version. They made computing a somewhat fun and dare I say easier for everyone.
So what went wrong? Why do I think Windows is broken and maybe for good?. It seems to me that they got away from what made them successful in the first place. Maybe they got a little to big for their britches. Rather than making their product attractive, they made it more difficult. Lot’s of bloated code that slows the OS to crawl. In their defense they now have to keep their enterprise customers happy. That is now their cash cow but even that can’t excuse Windows Me, Vista and now Windows 8. With Windows 8 users must disregard virtually every thing they have learned over the years on previous Windows releases.
I hear the term post PC era thrown around quite a bit. I think this is very much Microsofts doing. Windows has become more difficult to use. It is exploited at every turn by malware and viruses. Other PC operating systems have tried such as Linux and Chromebooks. I love Linux and use it every day as my goto OS but even with the likes of Ubuntu, your Grandmother can’t easily find Facebook with it.
Enter iOS and Android. With both you can see everything on the screen. You can find files and folders just by clinking on icons and you don’t even need that old mouse thing anymore. Computing is easy again. Even for Grandma.
Footnote: I have been evaluating Windows 10. I think it shows a lot of promise. It brings back the comfort of the earlier Widows version (Windows 7) and keeps a lot of what they wanted to accomplish with Windows 8. I think it will be a big win for retaining their enterprise customers but I think consumers have moved on.