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The most popular article I’ve ever published

Last week I published an article on my software-development blog in which I tell about what it was like at the first software company I ever worked for, starting in 1989. The software industry was very different then!

On Monday it not only made the front page of HackerNews, a wildly popular tech-news aggregator for geeks like me, it was the #1 article there for several hours. It also got shared in several software-development forums on Reddit, and in a couple of widely-shared technology newsletters.

It led to more than 27,000 views of that article, so far! The best day was Monday, of course, with almost 21,000 views.

If you’d like to see what all the hubbub is about, read that article here.

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27 thoughts on “The most popular article I’ve ever published

  1. tbm3fan says:

    Writing software always seemed to me to be just as monotonous as accounting and I did take a class or two in accounting. I stayed in the life sciences and then into health care. However, while at grad school, at UC Berkeley between 1977-81, I spent three years work study (paid job) in Vision Functions on a NIH study regarding diabetes and the effects on vision. Tony Adams, an Aussie transplant to the US, ran that clinic before becoming Dean years later. One day in 1979 a Tandy desktop computer showed up in the labs where four of us learned to use it for that NIH study. Man, was that primitive.

    • Straight programming is monotonous, but modern software development offers a lot of interesting challenges to solve. It’s remarkable how much it’s gotten better.

  2. Well, crap, my RSS reader missed the update of your site name and here I thought you’d just quietly stopped maintaining that blog. I guess I now have something to do tonight.

  3. I’m not a computing person, but I enjoyed your recollections of a simpler(?) time. I was surprised to learn that “We’ll fix it in a patch” was a thing even back then. I don’t remember any patches for the games I bought for my Amiga 500 and Commodore 64 computers. But maybe there’s no comparison between the code for games and code for telecommunication systems.

    • Especially in those days, it was very difficult to patch games because they were often purchased in a retail store and the company that made the game have no idea who owned it. So they had to get it right, right out of the gate.

      • P says:

        Ha! I think having a duel over text editors might be a bit much. That said, I’m also an RPN/HP calculator guy whereas you’re an infix/TI guy. Maybe a duel is in order after all! 🤣

        • P says:

          Haha, I know that, Jim. I’m just messing with you. And your TI has served you well, and continues to be a workhorse after decades of use. I think it’s earned respect. As long as you never abandon film and proclaim digital photography to be superior, I think we can call off the duel! 😁

  4. Andy Umbo says:

    A fascinating article, altho not really an area of interest for me. I thought some of the comments were also interesting, especially concerning how life has really changed under the use of computerization. I was in advertising photography for most of my career, and retail advertising photography for half of it. I watched through the late 80’s into the late 90’s, the stumble of large retailers into web based e-tailing, and how it literally ruined a lot of the creative in my industry.

    The massive amounts of capital needed for equipment, software, and upkeep in the IT department, ate the majority of money out of everyone’s budget. Retailers trying to get into e-tailing went from sending photo teams on location with art directors and models to set the tone and complete the brand image of a store through design and “look”; to shooting bland images in a studio on white. Not that some sort of “magazine look on-line design” couldn’t have been used, it’s just there was no money to do it any more; all went to the IT department just to keep the site functioning and developing! Now most advertising photography is poor quality iPhone stuff, and definitely NOT creative based, and people who were very creative photographers can’t make a living any more.

    Retailing was a busniess that was kept alive for years on a 3-5% profit margin. The massive amounts needed for IT blew that out of the water and was the final nail in the coffin for many retailing outlets like the classic department store. Now I live in a pretty large city where I can’t get a pair of dress pants, same day, or get it tailored or cuffed in a pinch. I have to order it on line, pay for shipping, that makes it more expensive than it used to be when it was at the store, and take the chance it won’t fit, or won’t fint “right” when it gets here, or is stolen off my porch.

    One mans “god” can be another mans “devil”, and it’s interesting to see the joy and fascination in someone at the outset of a new industry, that in many cases, went on to ruin the beauty and creativity of another!

    • It’s been true through history since the industrial revolution that new technologies will come along and disrupt old industries. It is part of what moves fast forward, but it is also very very hard for those who are disrupted.

      • Andy Umbo says:

        Sorry for the late comment, got busy. I wanted to say, I was early to push back against the term “disruptive technology” which has quite fallen out of favor today; mostly because what was supposed to have started out as a “cutsie” term to describe how the introduction of technology can wildly shift how some businesses can do work and comport themselves, but has turned around to be a quite negative term to describe how the unstudied introduction of technological changes can also have a negative impact in how you actually make sales and interact with the customer.

        Disruptive by iteslf is a negative term, but disruptive technology has manifested itself as just that; many times having a negative impact on the end users experience or the customers needs, in service to something that makes the “back office” business easier for the owners.

        The stats aren’t compiled yet, and the history not written, but I’m sure we’ll read in the future on how disruptive technology disrupted a lot of business right into bankruptcy.

        • No industry has a God-given right to exist forever. And more than just technology can destroy an industry. Tastes and needs change. The breakfast cereal industry has struggled for a couple decades now as people decreasingly sit down at home for breakfast.

  5. DougD says:

    I’m not a software guy, but imagine a software manual written by someone who knows something about the program, and has English as their first language.
    For years our training on new systems is delivered by a Power Point reading Finn 🤨

  6. Great post! Makes me feel old, my first computer which I used in my building business in the ’80s was a Sega – a competitor to the Commodore 64. I paid extra for the floppy disk drive so I would not have to use audio cassettes for data. Then I had an Apple Mac II, I remember using the beta version of Internet Explorer, which was a big advance at the time. A 28,800 modem was the fastest connection I could buy. The world is changing at a phenomenal rate!!!

  7. That was a fun read, and congratulations on the notoriety. In the 80s I worked with a lawyer who was a serious computer nerd. We may have been the most over-computed 6 lawyer firm in the country with a Fortune mini computer with terminals for everyone and running everything through Unix.

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