Working With Smart PeopleI've mentioned in past blogs some of the people that I've had the unique pleasure and good fortune of working with. Some of these people were visionary, out-of-the-box thinkers, and viewed technology as a springboard into new and exciting frontiers.
As I worked with these people, their way of thinking rubbed off on me. I think I was already a bit predisposed to thinking like them, but they certainly accelerated the thought processes.
Here are a few of the ways that they influenced my thinking.
Unix vs. Windows vs. PICKI remember that there was a conference held in Canada shortly after Expo 86 (or possibly the same year?). This conference included several key speakers, for an important debate. The debate was a critical comparison of Unix, vs. Windows, vs PICK.
Most PICK systems still ran as full-fledged operating systems, not database shells hosted on another operating system, so giving them a voice, for the organizers, made perfect sense. It was the battle of the operating systems.
I want you to remember that at that time, SQL databases were very new. Most business applications used ISAM databases, a slightly smaller set used multivalue variations like PICK or MUMPS, with PICK being the front runner, and a very small number used SQL of some sort.
In excess of 90% of north american library systems were based on PICK. In excess of 95% of automobile dealer management systems were either ADP on PICK or Reynolds and Reynolds on PICK. Many manufacturing systems were PICK-based. I can name numerous fortune 500 companies that still have PICK-based applications, and PICK at that time existed in a majority, if not all, of the fortune 500. Prime Information, which was PICK implemented as a shell on PrimeOS, was huge in government and the military (the entire NORAD system ran on Prime), and there were many other examples. As a result, ignoring PICK in the debate would have been seen as invalidating the debate. The organizers were possibly unaware of the growing groundswell of PICK variants that were being developed as a shell on top of Unix. Prime Information had forged the way, very early on, as they developed a shell on top of the somewhat Unix-like PrimeOS, but the majority of PICK applications were still running on platforms that provided all O/S services as well as the database, run-time, and BASIC compiler and interpreter services.
So the organizers asked someone from Microsoft, a Unix technology specialist (from AT&T, if I recall correctly), and Dick Pick, to speak. I got to pick up the Microsoft speaker at the airport and take him to his hotel. On the drive over, I told him that I thought the debate was wrong-headed. That, in my opinion, he would see the day when a Microsoft computer would be the user's workstation, that connected them to an application, in some cases running on some version of PICK, implemented as a shell on another operating system, probably Unix (Windows NT didn't exist yet.) He was quite intrigued.
As an interesting note, my current company has an army of Windows users, who connect to a legacy application written in jBASIC (a PICK BASIC variant) running on a version of PICK called jBASE, hosted on Unix servers, with an underlying Oracle Database storing the multivalued, non-relational data, so the reality was even more complex, and more specialized that anyone had dreamed of back in the 1980s!
News and Shopping OnlineThen there were the networks. I remember using networks like PrimeNet, the Internet, AOL and Compuserve. In the day, Compuserve was the big one, especially for commercial use. As I worked with them and saw the slow emergence of visual, video and voice capability, and playing with video editing technology, the potential began to become clear to me.
I remember telling my wife and family that one day she would get most of her news online, that she would buy products online, and be able to share information and communicate with her family, including in remote places, through an online experience. She laughed at the time, but she isn't laughing now! We buy things online, we get our news online. We have a Netflix subscription and watch interesting stuff on YouTube. We buy things on Amazon and Etsy and my wife sells stuff on the Internet.
Interconnected WorldI'll leave you with this.
I remember when someone I knew from Synex, called Chris, went to Microsoft, and helped develop a concept called Object Linking and Embedding (OLE). A few years later, watching the whole OLE and COM world expand, and seeing how web-based APIs were developing, I was working with a group of people who were developing a standard for database connectivity.
I've watched as the web was invented on the Internet. From Netscape Enterprise Server, Microsoft Internet Information Server, Apache Web Server, serving pages to web browsers, and then to pagers, mobile phones, and other remote devices, I've seen the power and flexibility of connected systems.
It was apparent to me that connectivity was going to be a huge and exciting area of work. It was also clear that we were gradually working towards a world were applications would eventually be able to work with each other, even if neither one had anticipated the value of a combined experience.
Applications that tried to play hard-to-get would die a lonely and painful death. Applications and vendors who understood the value of and need for collaboration on standards, would be the winners.
We aren't there yet. Standards need to be developed, then they need to be refined so they actually work, then they need to be adhered to, even while they are extended to support the next big thing that comes along, and it all has to happen at light-speed.
I believe that a combination of Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Social Media, Crowdsourcing, 3D printing, Blockchain, and wearable technology will continue to drive new disruptors. And then there will be the next few "new things" that will blow our minds!
These are exciting times to be involved in technology!