Voyagers Last Voyage

I remember seeing an amazing documentary called painting with numbers. It covered the beginnings of computer graphics. It was around the time when the “Space Race” was in its final days. Modern warfare stimulates technological development tenfold. During the time of the cold war, hindered by MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) the “Space Race” provided the modern equivalent of the technological advantages usually confined to the hot wars that preceded it. It did this with only 13 lives lost. Despite the fact the lunar module had only 2 “486” computers on board the technological spin offs lasted for decades afterward. It also left us with the much feared millennium bug awaiting us at the centuries turn. Didn’t that turn out to be a “whimper” rather than a “bang”?  Nevertheless the Space Race was the political sharp end of the Cold war.

Who would get there first? Dogs and monkeys died for the cause. Did the walk on the moon advance our scientific knowledge of the solar system? Not really. Behind all this the NASA project with the potential to advance our knowledge of space, was the Voyager project.

It was not sexy. It was having trouble attracting corporate funds. Even the tax payers were tired. The moon shot had drained the purses of NASA’s big business contributors. Those pesky Russians had got into space first but the US of A got to the moon first and declared themselves winners of the space race and no humans have ever been back since. The Voyager project languished in its aftermath.

In an endeavour to advertise the NASA project some of the first computer graphic artists at Utah University were commissioned to produce a fly by animation showing Voyagers projected journey through our solar system. At the heart of this computer graphic animation was a man considered the father of computer graphics, Jim Blinn. The amazing thing was that the graphic artists were updating their artist’s impressions of the planets with the real details as the images started to come back from Voyager’s cameras. I think it was Jim Blinn in an interview in the documentary who said that in one of the areas on Mars they had put dramatic mountains and valleys only to find the real images showed only long flat, dead and boring plains. They left their impressionist mountains in. They projected the dismay of some future Martian explorer in a “wtf” moment with his Martian map.

This month on September the 12th, Voyager left our solar system. This wonderful little (722 kilogram) space probe on its 36 year long journey is the first manmade object to have left our solar system for the dark depths of interstellar space.

Voyager 1’s departure is an incredible achievement in the context of space exploration. It has covered about 19 billion kilometres since its launch, due largely to the sling-shot action of other planets.” – Warrick Couch (Director of the Australian Astronomical Observatory.)
“Not even NASA expected the craft to withstand the harsh environment of space for 36 years, much less bring fascinating results back of the kind of environment that exists beyond our solar system.” –  Astrophysicist Alan Duffy (Melbourne University)

Launched on the 5th September 1977 Voyager I had on-board software with less than 40 KB of memory. A 16 GB iPhone 5 has about 240,000 times the memory of the Voyager spacecraft. Designed by pencil and paper in a pre-computer age this amazing little space probe still transmits data back to Earth using a 22.4 Watt transmitter, the equivalent of a refrigerator light bulb. Those signals take 17 hours at the speed of light to reach Earth.

“It’s amazing it’s lasted as long as it has. I don’t know how we could have done things much better than they were done. I mean things do wear out, and we’ve had to switch to some of our backup systems, but fortunately we have backup systems. That was part of the wonderful design of Voyager.” – Edward Stone

The probes plutonium power supply will not run out until somewhere between 2020 and 2025. The darkness of interstellar space renders the on-board cameras useless so they have been turned off.

Si-Fi writers have made much of the gold plated disc placed on the probe. The predictable not very imaginative scenario goes: Aliens find the disc, follow the probes pathway back to earth and wipe us all out. The audio visual disc contains photographs of our life forms, spoken greetings from already forgotten world leaders and a medley of the sounds of earth. This includes a version of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode” which is ridiculous in itself but may well keep any self-respecting alien well and truly away. Even when its power supply shuts down it will continue on and in 40,000 years from now approach our nearest neighbouring stars.

Voyagers solitary one way journey was followed by other Voyager and Pioneer probes the last being the New Horizons spacecraft, launched in 2006. Not only have all these probes given us amazing science and photographs of the planets within our solar system they will eventually help answer the disputed question of where in fact does the solar system end and the unknown begin?

For someone like me who bought their first computer in the 70’s and eagerly awaited each weeks “Star Trek” episode, Voyagers journey mirrors our own journey of discovery with technology into a world now we could never have imagined in 1977. I don’t care if Voyager I turns out to be a modern message in a bottle on an endless sea never to be found or if it brings back a ravaging alien race bent on our destruction, I have nothing but admiration and respect for the designers and operators and commend them on the success of their brainchild as it now leaves us behind for the great unknown.

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Is My Myth Your Myth?

The two main things I’m flogging with my blogging is my love of teaching and being a foundation member of personal computing. In this post I want to find out if your technological myths are the same as mine. When we first started in this industry we told ourselves that people are more important than computers. Well that has worked out … not! How many times have you been on the wrong side of some public service counter with some pimply teller telling you that the system won’t allow you to do that? But I’m the human you scream, make the system do it. I am more important than your glitchy program code! Hands up those where that’s worked.

Technology was going to save us time. Our time saved turns out to be like a vacuum. The moment you get some free time someone comes along who wants to fill it and does. In the future computerised world people will have to be paid not to work declared the futurists of the seventies. Those Alvin Foffler’ised idiots told us to expect heaps of leisure time and our biggest problem would be coping with too much leisure time.

Future offices will be paperless offices. LMAO! It seems to be a generational thing. Those of us born before screen reading can’t see the mistakes on screen and totally lose the place on scroll. You walk past their work cubicles to see the document on the screen but they are sitting back reading the hardcopy in their hand with a pen to correct. The screen born generation of kids can’t get why Dad can’t scroll and stay with the plot and with spellcheck why know how to spell anyway? They are spellcheck savvy but context ignorant. They often have a problem realising that a universal skill like reading has been, and always will be, best learnt by rote, repetitive doing, so that it becomes an intuitive skill. No matter what your generation, auditors don’t have a generation they are everywhere and every when, they are timeless and demand hardcopy.

Email will be a wonderful, effective tool in administrative management. The adage that if you computerise a mess all you will get is a computerised mess applies to not planning an efficient email strategy in any private or public sector enterprise. If you have a planned strategy and everyone has a deal with it, delegate it or delete it attitude, it is a very effective management tool. If not, you need the “scream tray” strategy. Make a folder in your In-Box called Scream. Anytime you get an email telling you to do something from someone who needs to be seen to be seen delegating it, put it in the scream tray. If somebody does scream you do it quickly and professionally. If no one screams within your statute of limitation timeframe, delete it.  Save them up and have a semi religious experience by deleting them all at once.

Sometimes technology substitutes reality. Declining an invitation to check out the elephants on a Thai Holiday a friend went to an internet café instead to Facebook everybody on what they had been doing while on holiday. Not doing it in order to record it and in so doing not living it. They were happy that the photos got uploaded.

Don’t write down your passwords.  You do don’t you? I’ll bet you don’t remembering all your passwords to everything. You have a little black password book. I’ll bet a “London to a brick on” that you do. It’s in a secret place in your desk drawer. You might even have an application that needs a password to get to all your other stored and encrypted passwords. You live in fear of forgetting the password to all your passwords so you have written it down, but that’s ok because it’s in a secret place. You have bought online one of those lead lined credit card holders for your new PayWave credit cards just in case one of those Ukrainian swipe thieves might be passing by while you are innocently shopping and get all your money.

Technology will make everything easy. Technology will make you look like an idiot. Nothing will make an “eggroll” or a “tool”(aussie slang: tool – fool) of you like technology will. Admit it; your computer wouldn’t turn on. You opened the case. Wriggled the connections, took a few cards in and out, got elbow deep in chips like you knew what you were doing, then looked across to see someone had unplugged it from the PowerPoint. You looked around to see if you had been caught out didn’t you? You were made a fool of by an object. When as a little kid I first saw my old man swearing at and kicking the crap out of an inanimate object, I was seriously confused. I mean he was the adult right! I’m the kid and he’s the one kicking the crap out of a thing. It’s dead already. I didn’t understand then. I understand now. I’ve done it many, many times, mostly with computers. Throw a PC out a window. It feels just great, like the smell of electronics in the morning.

These are my main technological myths. Have I missed any ……. Oh yeah …. Read the Manual.

My Jobs Retraction

In a previous post I made the comment that the only real contribution Steve Jobs had made was making single songs available on ITunes. I have lamented the fact that he abandoned the open architecture approach to the early Apple II and IIe when he designed the Apple Mac in 1984 as a closed system. I begrudgingly gave him credit as a fine designer and marketer with a great eye for a product but I always gave Wozniak the credit as the computer guy. Many comments have been made in biographies about the difficulty working with him, his micro-management, obsession with detail and willingness to find fault in others.  I must admit however his Stanford Commencement speech in 2005 I found truly inspirational:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle”

Another gem from the same speech:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary”

An article published today has given me pause to reflect and to change my opinion of Steve Jobs and his contribution to the planet. He was a truly generous man. My father always taught me that the sign of true generosity was to give in such a way as to never reveal your identity to the recipient of your generosity. In my Fathers estimation this was the only true generosity. Steve Jobs did not even tell his biographers of his generosity to hospitals and AIDS research. It has only been in a recent interview given by his wife to the New York Times that the couple’s contributions have been revealed:
“We’re really careful about amplifying the great work of others in every way that we can, and we don’t like attaching our names to things,” said Mrs Powell Jobs.

I am gratified to learn this about him. I humbly submit my Jobs retraction.

 

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Whatever Happened to the Interface?

In the last ten years everything in computing has gone nuts. I can hire an 8 core processor for $20 an hour if I want to do some serious neural network data mining. I can get a graphics card and screen combination that can reveal a black head on Paris Hiltons nose from 40 paces. If you look at this table a 12MB Hard Drive in 1955 cost $74,800.00 while in 2013 a Seagate 3TB Hard Drive is $140. When I ask students why is this so they can’t tell me. The closest I get is “Well the technology got better”. Well duh!! That’s bleeding obvious. How did the technology get better? Answer me in the comments section and you will get five marks. But what happened to the interface? Why are we still stuck with the one screen, one keyboard and one mouse user interface?   

The keyboard is a joke. You do realise the QWERTY keyboard was the solution to a physical problem that hasn’t existed since the 60’s. A really fast typist on an old typewriter could go so fast they could cross the metal bars on each key and jam up the typewriter. Solution, separate the most commonly used keys into a totally illogical sequence called QWERTY. For the last million years, stayed and stodgy education systems still teach how to type on a keyboard designed to solve a  problem that no longer exists. There was a keyboard called the Dvorak keyboard perfectly suited to the new electronic typewriters and computers but you see if you can buy one in your local computer store let alone find an education institution that will teach you how to use it. We actually shouldn’t need keyboards anymore.

The mouse was another joke. It was introduced to solve a sales problem as far as I’m concerned. In the 80’s someone would walk into your computer store see the keyboard on a computer and say “There is no point me buying a computer because I can’t type”, then walk out, no sale.  With the introduction of the mouse you had a better chance of closing the sale. “You don’t have to know how to type Sir, to use the computer you can just use the mouse it’s really easy, trust me”. No it’s not. If you have taught as many introductory computer classes as I have you will know that learning to use a mouse for the first time is by no means easy. Someone will call for help and you will go over to find them holding the mouse at the edge of the desk. “I’ve run out of desk, what do I do?  Let’s not even go into the double click dilemma. Take it from me, before you start teaching your introductory class go to every computer and increase the double click rate. It will save you from a world of hurt. You won’t get torn apart by a crazed group of irate pensioners. Kids born after 1983 can’t understand why anyone would have a problem using a mouse.
Don’t get me wrong the mouse is the preferred weapon of choice for many applications. I wouldn’t want to be doing a Photoshop touch up by keystrokes. But the myth that the mouse is easy to use is just that, a myth. Back in the day when people were faster than processors and keyboard shortcuts were still available on you average menu bar I would gladly give you a race and put my money down. You use your “clicky clacky” crappy mouse and I will use my keyboard shortcuts and win every time.

Great idea Microsoft to release a touch screen operating system great for smart phones and tablets but useless to anybody with a traditional desktop or laptop non touch screen computing solution. The first thing I did when my “Buddhist godson” showed me Windows 8 on his laptop was to try to touch and drag on the screen, a senior moment I know!  With his cheeky quizzical smile he replied “It’s a laptop Uncle Pete it doesn’t have a touch screen”.  “Well what good is it on your laptop then?” My reply.
The fact that Microsoft has recalled Windows 8 for modification after user complaint indicates it’s still a solution looking for its problem it terms of a true, intuitive, ubiquitous and universal touch screen operating system. When my young mentor took me for a gamers run through Windows 8 on a tablet on the other hand, I liked it, I was impressed, it was neat and simple, and when in doubt the classical window was easy to get to. Then again Touch screens are fine unless you have big fingers and wear glasses. We deserve more given the advances in all other areas of personal computing except user interface design, seemingly frozen in a technological time warp.

Where is my virtual reality head set? Is it a gamer’s version of Google Glasses still to be invented? Where is my “Minority Report”, six degrees of freedom hand gesture interaction with a smart glass human machine interface? Where is my everywhere and every when, universal User Interface, my spatial operating environment?

The “Minority Report” was an art-house movie directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 2002. To reflect the technological world in 2054, Alex McDowell lead production designer commissioned John Underkoffler at the MIT media lab to lead a team to design the interfaces that would appear in the film. They took on the design work like it was a research and development project. The scenes with Tom Cruise using the interface are a Sci-Fi classic. The result still stands today as a believable and achievable future interface.  It’s like a defacto standard for what we should have had already. 

The new Xbox Kinect 720 approaches release to enhance our living room entertainment interface and has established a dedicated following. Yet the new version will recognise just the opening and closing of your hand and not the six degrees of freedom illustrated by Underkoffler.  Microsoft IllumiRoom seems a cheap eye candy alternative to the real thing. Controller design still seems to involve long term arthritis of the thumbs, nothing really new. Some arcade parlour virtual rooms like the Ultimate Battlefield 3 Simulator that shoot you back with paintballs has some novelty value for first person gamers but little application in everyday computing.

An exciting possibility emerged in 2010 showcased by Tan Le at TED of the Emotiv system.  A brain computer interface allowing the user to think commands into a computer. Tran Lee a refugee from Vietnam, escaping on a boat at four years old going on to become Australian of the year and CEO of the Emotiv Company is someone all Australians can be proud of.
I didn’t know that each person’s brain has unique cortical folding like a fingerprint. Emotiv solved this problem to bring to the market this amazing headset.

Perhaps it’s a combination solution that will bring us our virtual reality in reality. The Emotiv EEG headset combined with Underkoffler’s gloves and Google glasses. Whatever it is its way behind schedule.

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Exactly Who Were the Pirates? Part 3: Movies

Tom Cruise co-produced “The Last Samurai” in 2003. Apparently Tom spent over 3 million dollars to try and prevent illegal copying of the movie for at least the first most important weekend of release.  Back in 2003 Twitter was yet to be invented and could not make or break your movie in the first 24 hours of its exposure to the “Twitterverse”
He serial numbered the 800 odd complimentary copies sent to the voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who would decide the OSCAR nominations. He placed observers with infrared glasses in all the movie theatres showing the movie on its first weekend to stop the camcorder recordings. Finally he employed a number of observers to monitor the major file sharing websites to determine if and when the movie first appeared for illegal download. Despite all his efforts the first illegal download appeared Sunday lunchtime. What’s more he was betrayed by one of his own. It was one of the complimentary copies given to a voting member of the Academy.

Recently season three of the “Game of Thrones” broke all previous records for illegal downloads despite simultaneous release around the world. In one of the recent episodes, bit torrenters were perplexed at why on so many file sharing websites the numbers of seeders and leechers were listed as zero. It turned out it was because so many people were making it available so fast they couldn’t keep up the number count of the computers willing to share.  

My first exposure was when a friend came home from a Bali holiday and left me a few movies to watch. First I wondered why there were so many regular looking rocks on the road in the foreground. Wait a minute, I wondered how come the rocks were laughing until one of them got up and walked out to buy popcorn. So this is why the movie cost $2 in Bali. Now it’s an entire art form with 50 file types depending on how it was knocked off, touched up and quality enhanced. “It’s just ok, the sound needs to be better synced” says Freddy on the forum; under the button he clicked to steal it. All those trailers on your hired DVD’s about how copying is just like car stealing is really taking its toll on the guilt area of your average human brain isn’t it?   

First attempts in defence by the industry started trying to fine the individual. The reason Derek stole it in the first place is probably because he doesn’t have any money to buy it. Fining him $100,000 when he is going to plead hardship and pay it off at 20 cents a week would be a wicked deterrent to some Mr No Name on the other side of the planet. Gee, I better not do that because of what happened to Derek! Take this approach to its logical conclusion and you would have to have a special court to handle the huge number of cases.
“Wow man, bummer, do you have to appear in the Copy Court again?”
“Yeh man I gotta lotta copy fines from the Copy Court, they are adding up, but if you’ve got nothing , no one can take nothing from ya, hey?…. dude”

The latest attempt, last week, trumpeted as a breakthrough announced the introduction of the Copyright Alert System (CAS). Your favourite Internet Service Provider (ISP) is being invited to sign onto this system and agree to lose money. Derek again, who is paying $150 a month for 500GB and a plan, is going to be put on a “six and you’re out” penalty system. Toothlessly escalating from an email warning to “We will slow down the user’s bandwidth or, in some cases, terminates service completely” the last ditch, final nasty email. After Derek’s first or second email warning, he will have purchased, downloaded and installed a virtual solution to conceal his identity, while suffering a slight drop in the download speeds of his illegal downloading activity. So Good luck with that!

The only movie release’s to entice me into a picture theatre recently have been 3D experiences on a seriously big screen with bullet surround sound. The whole row I was in ducked down when the rabbit threw something at the screen in “Alice in Wonderland”
So industry if you want some feedback from the “Geek Kid Downloaders”, listen up.

Stop being greedy, give your movie its six weeks in the sun in theatre, but make it worthwhile going. Give us an interactive experience on our devices in the theatre of communal fun and discovery. Make it a virtual “During and after” theatre experience shared in true cross media formats designed by good gamers that’s fun, unique and engaging.  We will pay good money and even physically travel somewhere to see it.

My 8 Mb Hard Disk Drive in 1987 cost $800 while a 1TB external drive costs me $80 today. Storage for your average “Geek Kid Downloader” is not a problem but why bother as there are not too many of the movies they download they want to keep.
Provide them a mini dollar, pay for view, pause n talk, watch when they want, high definition option on the big screen giving them an in your face lounge room experience then they will pay. Take away the need to download by a why bother its simpler to pay business model. Do you understand how many honours graduate, net enabled, device carrying really smart Indian and Chinese kids are coming down the demographic pipeline you idiots? Even charging 20 cents a movie you will make more money than you probably deserve. It provides you ample opportunity to put a lot more money back into the industry to foster and encourage the talent that follows.

To survive, the traditional Film Industry of the big studio model more than ever needs to encompass what it means to practice the art of multimedia. Otherwise they will get overtaken by the YouTube and Netflix type of cross media, communal focus companies that are thriving. These are the new tech “GoPro” type high innovation companies who no longer need any of the old movie making methods or techniques and are only just vaguely interested in a distribution network on its path to redundancy. It could be, like in the Music industry, the only thing they will have left to sell is a back catalogue.

Exactly Who were the Pirates? Part 2: Music

Being a PC owner since 1978 and teaching computing for 28 years I have seen a lot of changes. When I’m asked what have been the most significant changes outside the technical ones inside your computer case the obvious one of course has been the internet. The next one I quote is often a surprise to most people. The CD, yep the humble old compact disk now disappearing if not disappeared. Just before the CD’s release if you purchased Microsoft Office it arrived on 35, 3.5 inch Floppy Disks. What odds do you think on one of those disks being dodgy? Do you think Microsoft let you send that one disk back to be recopied? No, you had to send them all back to get the one recopied. Seeing it was Microsoft’s fault you would think they would pay the postage. Think again.

Then appearing on the shelves of your local computer store you had a medium that could hold 630 Mb instead of 1.4 Mb and the world changed. Despite the serious initial cost of your CD player, a new word “Multimedia” opened all sorts of exciting possibilities. Even though you had to pay $35 to get an average 14 songs only two of which you liked, it was still great because it could be mobile. A thing called a “Walkman” arrived and you could ponce about, a one person walking fashion statement. “Does yours skip?” “No does yours?” If your CD got scratched you could attack it with toothpaste and all was sweet.

Those of us that started seeing wonderful multimedia applications and new terms like “Infotainment” for our PC’s started asking, but wait a minute where is the music industry in this? Particularly after we saw the “Rolling Stones” release Voodoo Lounge in 1994. Not only did you get the traditional 14 song format on your PC you got a virtual experience that blew us all away, video clips, bios, interviews, a pre internet, internet on CD. We couldn’t wait for the next one but it never came. The Record Labels weren’t going to mess with their margins and thus signed their own well deserved death warrant. They just didn’t know it yet.

At this time a pre internet rock band would have been extremely lucky to get 15c in every dollar earned and only after recoupable expenses by their recording labels were recovered. Their every moment dominated and ruled by the executives and the suits of the Label, formula bands were born. We have all heard the stories.  We the consumer had no product choice. We bought a CD with just songs. Take it or leave it.

Then along came Napster. Sean Parker did not create Napster to help people pirate music he did it to help a mate, as you do. His college roommate was into some obscure punk kind of music sounding like two galahs copulating. There were only 163 of these musicians in the world. He came up with this great sharing application to bring these muso’s together. Others applied it to illegally sharing music. Don’t blame Metallica, being gouged themselves they were only trying to protect what little profit they were allowed by taking legal action to shut down Napster but it was already too late. File sharing was a genie never to go back in its bottle.

Next nail was ITunes. As far as I’m concerned this was Steve Jobs only real contribution to our Industry. At last we could buy just the two songs we wanted off the album. Only off him of course.
This has left the music labels with just Best of’s from back catalogues to distribute to CD stores going broke. Even MTV is dead, just teenagers who haven’t discovered good sex yet gyrating as though they have, jiggling to junk music.

Now that the back of the music industry has been broken, the leeches’ done and dusted nothing but exciting times are ahead for young musicians. Fan based marketing has arrived. Like a medieval troubadour in a global village. Play, put your hat on the ground and we will put money in it. We will support you, we will sell you, we will spread you through our social networks and we will do that for free because we love your music and want to see you succeed. Give us your best song to listen to on your website and we will see you get double in return. Even all those copying you will advertise you by doing so and will finally turn up to a gig and pay at the door. To see you perform, because that’s what you should always be, a performer.

Exactly Who Were the Pirates? Part 1: Software

It’s only those of us pre internet computer literate people who probably remember the rip off world that was offered us by software houses, music labels and movie studios. Now they all continually bemoan the rampart worldwide piracy of their products from the internet with a holier than thou morality. Maybe, just maybe they are getting what they deserve, long overdue payback.

Let me give you an example. I had to buy “Snake” for my Apple IIc for $80. I’m not kidding, the one you get for free on the cheapest mobile phones now. I had to buy it sight unseen, no try before you buy allowed. No demo. Even though I bought it I didn’t own it. I had only bought the right to use it. Name me another product on the planet that even though I have bought it I don’t own it. The arrogance of it is astounding. Therefore I couldn’t ever sell it second hand. You were forced to believe the advertising, no return to the store by an unsatisfied customer possible. No money back guarantee. A little sticker on the cellophane wrapping informed you that once you open the box you had automatically accepted the conditions of its purchase. Take it or leave it.

Was it any wonder people started to pirate Software? Not everybody who pirated the software actually wanted a copy of the software. Another one of my heroes, Steve Wozniak talks about this in the wonderful documentary series “The Virtual Revolution”. He is a self-admitted Hacker and proud of it. We like him went to computer user clubs, unpacked and set up our “Apple” PC’s loaded a Hexadecimal Editor while someone introduced the new software release of the evening. It was predominately a male thing, a competitive status seeking exercise. The first one to yell, “I’ve cracked it, they’ve used this encryption technique” was the winner. As we packed up at the end of our evening someone would say “Does anyone want a copy of this software?” Honestly very few people would. That wasn’t the point. It was an “Everest” thing. It was there and you climbed it. It was also that old military analogy: If no one invented an armoured fighting vehicle there was no need to invent an anti-tank gun, every weapon automatically invents its counter.

The one thing you could depend on when purchasing pre internet software was it would be relatively bug free. It was risking commercial suicide rather than an ethical decision on their part to take the time and expense to debug the product before release. Now even though we get trials and demos to try before we buy they will just release it bug ridden and let the market place debug it for them to save money and time. Except many game developers who will release “Beta” versions and invite loyal players to help them get it to the market bug free. That’s cool and ethical. Gamers mostly are.

The pre internet alternative to buying software sight unseen was “Shareware” A digital honesty box system provided by Bulletin Boards. I used PC-Write for many years. It was a fantastic word processor. I paid my $20 after using it for 30 days and got for my money what today would be considered enviable help and support. The sad and sorry crap now called Freeware (anything but) is not Shareware. It pretends to be but it’s more an “opt-out” entrapment method hidden in some unnecessary installer software you have to download first. If and when you finally get your “Freeware” its odds on you have some useless add- ons on your browser bar because you didn’t realise you had to opt-out. Its malware by another name. Even those tried and true old shareware sites are doing it. Shame on them.

If the software marketing model remains as such, will software piracy continue to flourish? Yes.
Will cloud technology converting your PC into the old dumb terminal of the past with an annual license fee for software work? No.
Do you know anyone that hasn’t downloaded software illegally at least once? My Grandmother (She didn’t have a PC)
Do you know anyone with serious guilt issues over their illegal software? No
Do I have any illegal software on my PC? No – As a Teacher I get a popular software package I need for $85 while you will be paying $2,887
I invite you to draw your own conclusion.

Stay tuned for: Exactly who were the Pirates? Part 2: Music