The WEB just ate my computer!

Remember those of you who are old enough, that once upon a time computers were not connected by default to the internet.  When things like token ring LAN and Novell Netware were tools that only companies could afford, and when emails didn’t exist and when you wanted to write somebody a memo, you fired up WordPerfect, write it up, print it out on your dot matrix printer, tear off the perforated holed edges, and handed it to your secretary.

Remember back before Steve Jobs (God Bless his soul) and computers were not connected by default?  Those were the days where applications were written for the computer that they ran on and software portability was an arcane and complex art.

Remember back then IBM had the foresight to realize that portability was a thing that needed to be addressed and thus they had big dreams about Java being the interface layer that would make the dream of “write once, run everywhere” come true?

They even developed ‘net terminals’ that were only running JVMs on them so that they could run any app that was a java app.  This thin-clients bandwagon was jumped on by many hardware manufacturers as they saw chance to sell a new hardware platform that could compete with the dominance of Intel, but they were restricted due to the limitations of the JVM, lack of applications and network bandwidth.  The idea was to put all the applications on servers, and then download them through the LAN to your Net Stations to run.  All storage of apps and data were to be stored back on the companies servers.  Clients were dead. Servers were to run everything.

Good ol’ Big Blue with another technology too early for its time


Whatever happened to that?


Simply put IBM, the research firm which they had become had pulled another technological whimsical gizmo out of their hat which was way too early for its time.  The world had nary time to get used to the advent of the World Wide Web, and there was IBM already trying to remove local storage from the computer.  This is bound to fail.  This was done at a time when the world had not become accustomed to software subscription models as yet, nor SAAS, IAAS based cloud computing.  The world was still based around monolithic native applications and segmentation of software by hardware and operating system camps and open source software was still relatively new. The best software was still proprietary ones.

If we look back now, the dream of write once, run everywhere has been realized.  Not by Java, or IBM, but by HTML, and Javascript.  The open internet came buy and ate their lunch.  HTML5, JS, PHP, Ruby, Python, front end frameworks, filled the gap, and made GUIs simple to write.  Javascript is now vastly more popular than Java.  Why?  Was it a failure of object oriented programming? Of compiled languages having good free GUI toolkits? Was it a lack of supporting services such as cloud storage and cloud computing that made storing data remotely so unwieldy?  Whatever the reason, it was a brief glimpse of the potential that would start the advent of cloud based services.  The big difference being that it would not be controlled by established technology companies like IBM or Novell or Oracle, but by internet companies.  Nowadays, machines need local storage less and less, with services like google drive, dropbox, microsoft onedrive.  The conversion over to ‘thin client’ Net Stations is complete, but in a decentralized way, thanks to tech like Linux and FOSS, and companies like Amazon, Dropbox, Google, Mozilla and Microsoft.

Call me old fashioned, but I think I’m still a bit reticent about having a local computer that doesn’t have any local storage, somethings you just need to have locally, such as secure applications or data that you want to stay encrypted under your exclusive control.  But more and more, I’m finding that the data produced through the course of normal daily work, office documents, PDFs, contracts, code, memos, notes, emails and the like need not be local.  These seem to be best stored in the cloud, so that multiple computers at home and abroad and in a pinch, my mobile or tablet can access it.  More and more I’m finding that my music collection is also in this category.  Even family pictures are now stored in the cloud.  How much of our data do we actual control and own?

Did you also notice how much more time you spend in your browsers vs stand alone applications in recent years?  Even Office apps are usable on the web with features that match those in standalone apps.  I think we can safely say the age of buying software in a box is over, and everything now is totally connected to the internet.  Whether we like it or not, all our data is belong to the internet.

This means data privacy is going to be more and more of a heated topic in the years to come.

The internet, is now the TV/Radio/Video Collection/Photo Album/Bookshelf for the generations to come.  I welcome our new robot masters.




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