Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Cerf: I would happily fertilize my tomatoes with Crovitz' assertion."

C|net's Charles Cooper has an interview with Vint Cerf, motivated by the recent op-ed by some wingnut on the WSJ opinion page (but I repeat myself) that claimed "the gummit had nothing to do with the creation of the Internet!!!1!"

I hesitate to give even a tiny bit more attention to Gordon Crovitz, but since the MSM is once again going all Shape of Earth: Views Differ on yet another completely specious claim by a mindless rightwing ideologue (but I repeat myself), I suppose it's worth having an authoritative rebuttal at hand.

Cerf concludes, "Articles like Crovitz' distort history for political purposes and I hope people who want to know the real story will discount this kind of revisionist interpretation."

Nuff said.

(h/t: This Week in Google #156, about 81 minutes in)


Alastair said...

Jeeze, before you know it, they'll be trying to claim that it was Free Enterprise that faked the moon landings instead of NASA.

Or that NASA was not run by the guvmint.

Or something.

In other news: yes I'm still around!

Brendan Keefe said...


And ... glad to hear it.

Substance McGravitas said...

I hope you've read this. Good gossip, but at a meta level it's interesting for the amount of management jargon the author seems to take at face value and also for the assumption that Microsoft got to where it was because it was doing the coding/technology well.

Brendan Keefe said...

Thanks for the link/reminder. I remember seeing that article, but I didn't read it back then. Will do so now.

As much as your summary puts me off, I mean. Maybe it'll make for some good howlers.

There is, in any case, no company better at impenetrable and ultimately substance-free suit-speak than Microsoft, though, that's for sure.

Brendan Keefe said...

Having just finished reading, I want to point out for the benefit of anyone else who happens across this discussion that 90% of the article is, in fact, harshly critical of all aspects of the management at MS, and so others shouldn't be put off by thinking the author is an MS fanboy, because that's not at all true.

It is fair to say, though, that there is something of a suggestion that they had good geekery back in the DOS days. I'd also say that portrayal of Win95 omitted the part of the real story that it was itself a "me, too," product, trying to catch up with Apple. (I can excuse that to some degree in the spirit of allowing the author to pick a peak point from which MS started its long slide, but there should have been some mention.)

You could probably also quibble about MS-DOS having become a success not because it was great, but because of smart, and amoral, business maneuvering way back when.

From personal experience, though, I do have to say that back in the early- to mid-90s, the thought of getting a job at MS was the height of coolness, among many of my code monkey coworkers. We spent many hours talking about the legendary interview questions, for example. And of course, we all wanted to be instant millionaires. From that perspective, what caused MS to lose its panache was not so much anything it did, but the beginning of the dot-com boom.

My own turnoff with MS began around then, watching how they dealt with being behind on all things Web, particularly their non-stop scuzziness in the browser wars.

And, around then, when they bought Equation Editor (at the time, a separate company's program that could hook into Word for Windows) and ruined it for the next three or so years, that was the last straw.

Substance McGravitas said...

Being from Vancouver there's been a lot of cross-pollination from the tech guys here and in Seattle. Yes, everyone thought it would be great to work at Microsoft and make a lot of dollars. No I never heard any of them describe any Microsoft product as any sort of peak, with the exception of a lucky sound guy who travelled around the world recording location sound for Microsoft Golf.

That was a sweet deal.

Brendan Keefe said...

Heh. Sounds it.

I can't really argue that I ever thought any MS product was earth-shattering, but I will say a few things in their favor.

One of the smartest programmers I ever met persuaded me that their C++ compiler was the best (at least then).

People I know who use spreadsheets more intensively than I do swear by Excel.

My own reflection: there was a time when Apple computers were near-prohibitively expensive and Linux had not yet come along. Further, MS's operating systems -- DOS and later Windows -- had the strong virtue of being good enough; i.e., they were open enough and general enough to allow anyone to write useful (or fun) programs, and the attitude the company had about exposing APIs and licensing the OSes made it possible for hardware manufacturers to find lots of ways to compete on price.

So, although I doubt I'll ever spend another dollar on MS products (and haven't since buying a new computer with Win98 on it), I do have some positive feelings about the company that once was.