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Re: The "Vision" Thang, and Tales out of School...

At 1:36 am -0400 on 9/10/97, Tim May wrote:

> Nonsense. A lot of those machines are running Linux, or other flavors of
> Unix. And lots of other microprocessors comparable in every way to Intel's
> processors are running the Mac OS, or some flavor of Unix, or whatever.

I'd love to see the numbers on that. Though, I wonder where the "90% of the
world's computers" hype comes from...

> Had MS never existed, the world would still be consuming vast amounts of
> microprocessors. Possibly more, many of us think.

Yes. But would they be, in such a large proponderance, Intel processors?

Granted, I was a little quick on the draw with the "last 10 years of Intel
existance" crack. Intel would certainly still be here, but, without the x86
demand, caused primarily by DOS, and especially by WIN3.1, maybe they
wouldn't be so much in the catbird seat. Of course, they've had a "vision
thang" of their own at Intel. They own the Valley franchise, certainly.

> ( I use a Mac, as may be known to many of you. The issue of the OS is
> separable from the issue of the processor...the Mac OS is no more tied to
> the Motorola 680X0 than the MS OS is tied to the Intel x86. Indeed, the Mac
> OS runs on the IBM/Motorola PowerPC, and the Windows NT OS runs on the DEC
> Alpha (and used to run on the PPC).

Yes, yes, yes. And Apple, according to Don Crabb this week, is gonna use
IBM and probably Intel chips, too, some day, though I'm not sure what
machine *you* use has to do with this discussion. The comment about Intel
was certainly not a shot at you, Tim, after all...

> >My understanding is that for all his apopletic "code reviews", Billzebub
> >couldn't code his way out of a paper bag.
> >
> Also nonsense.

Really? I have cited a source to the contrary. Would you like to provide
your own proof of Bill Gates' programming ability instead? I'd love myself
to see the commented code, even from, say, QuickBASIC, with the ';--BG' or
something, next to the revisions... Don't even need whole modules. Frankly,
I've never heard of any, and you can bet that the Redmond publicity machine
would have said something by now after 10 years.

> >Nonetheless, people who didn't share his "vision", like IBM, and DEC, and
> >now Apple, and all the rest of his competition, got their clocks cleaned.
> Utter nonsense. I lack the time to write about the early history of MS,
> Seattle Computers, and Gary Kildall, but to make this claim above indicates
> Bob is sacrificing objectivity for some sort of cheap shot in favor of MS.

I didn't think I was saying anything that wasn't conventionally accepted
opinion, there. :-).

I think you're just disputing this because *I* said it, Tim. Sort of a bad
reason to argue, isn't it?

After all, I'm a certified Mac Bigot, myself, if you insist on
psychoanalyzing my motivation from a two line sentence. :-). It seems to me
a fortune now measured in tens of billions of dollars, and the most
plutographic magazine in the world calling him the richest man on the
planet kind of speaks  for itself, wouldn't you?

> I used to know Kildall, when he was hanging around Intel in the mid-70s,
> and up until two weeks before his death. The situation was a lot more
> nuanced than this "vision of Bill" argument suggests.

Yeah, I know, Tim. You *knew* Gary Kildall, and Bill Gates is *no* Gary
Kildall. :-). He certainly wasn't.

> Are you making this stuff up as you go along? You spout about the "vision
> of Bill," but then you fantasize about how he and Paul got Altair Basic
> out.

Actually, don't blame me. My fantasy life isn't *that* healhy. It's in that
'Hard Drive' book, and I expect that the authors, particularly as they
hoped to remain employed in Seattle at the time :-), probably had their
facts straight.

> As it happens, I also know the founders of Zilog, and the Z-80 was not
> available at the time the Altair and IMSAI machines were gaining
> popularity. (A friend of mine designed the IMSAI 8080, the first
> semi-decent S-100 machine. I'm tempted to e-mail this fantasy to him and
> give him his laugh for the evening.)

Okay. Granted I had the chip name wrong. That was what the little (?) was
for next to the chip's name for, anyway. Sorry, but at midnight I wasn't
about to wake the fact checking department for the company name. However,
the fact is that the chip emulator was at Harvard, as was the PDP-11 BASIC
source, and the claim was made by several people who were there at the
time, to the authors of "Hard Drive", that Allen and Gates did use both the
emulator and the BASIC source, on the Harvard machines, to port the DEC
BASIC to the chip which the Altair used (whatever it was), which they in
turn took to Albuquerque and MIPS. (Or whatever the company's name was
which made the Altair, which is, like its chip manufacturer's name,
irrelevant to the point I was making.)

> The larger issues of Bill Gates' contributions, or whatever, to the world
> are much more nuanced than these fantasies would have it.

Sticks and stones, Tim. Insults don't become such well-known expositor of
rational thought...

And then Tim says:

> The issue of chip production is largely orthogonal to the issue of which OS
> is being used. Like I said, if one believes the critics of Windows, Intel
> would have sold _more_ chips had machines been less brain-damaged.

And refutes it with:

> Or maybe
> it takes a 200 MHz Pentium Pro to make up for the inefficient OS.

Which, of course proves, my point. Thank you. :-).

My own specious gerrymandering of your words aside, I do think that
software does drive hardware, as Microsoft folks, like Mhyrvold, often
claim, "Software is a gas", and all that. How else do you explain things
like the x86's imbedded floating point circuitry, and now the MMX stuff,
which will certainly end up on the x86 someday if Intel doesn't get RISC

Heck, the demand for RISC is, paradoxically, driven by software itself,
don't you think? Just move some microcode over to software and the chip
runs faster, or whatever the rationale is.

Could it be your desire to rip my heart out and show it to me before I die
is clouding your judgement about something you know a lot about?


> But I won't buy the canonization of Bill Gates as the Engine of the
> Revolution.

Neither do I, even on the canonical inverse, my smart cracks about
"Billzebub" not withstanding. However, if money's the way you keep score,
n-dy billion dollars pretty much speaks for itself, I figure...

Seriously, there is something to be said for BillG's assimilative impulses
and understanding of the markets he's in. I would more certainly attribute
his fortune to his own "vision", than to dumb luck and path determinacy,
which is what I think I hear you saying.

Clearly, the market would look different without Bill Gates in it. I
attibute that to "grand vision".

Bob Hettinga

Robert Hettinga ([email protected]), Philodox
e$, 44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
The e$ Home Page: http://www.shipwright.com/