Software Time Line

The software (operating systems, languages and office software) I used personally from my office between 1967 and 2017 starting with Computer Time-Sharing and then moving onto first generation microcomputers, MSDOS to Windows Computers. Moving from a computer where I could use 15k of RAM to a Windows 10 computer with 8 Gig of RAM. I look at this from the viewpoints of Operating Systems, Languages and Office Software. I explore my own software and discuss how office software has improved productivity separately.

Operating Systems

A computer's operating system manages the hardware and software. Thus it manages instructions from the keyboard, mouse, software, manages memory and use of the microprocessor, display etc.

Time Sharing

<> example here.

First Generation DOSs

Each early microcomputer had it's own operating system with a basic system and, if appropriate, a disk operating system (DOS). The basic system was stored in read only memory (ROM) and allowed the computer operate at a very basic level (responding to keyboard commands, displaying on screen and storing and retrieving software from cassette tape. If the computer used floppy disks, DOS had to be loaded from a disc. To do this the basic system had routines to allow DOS to be loaded from disk.

MSDOS

MSDOS (MicroSoft Disk Operating System) was originally for use on the IBM Personal Computers but the proliferation of compatibles meant that it became the standard operating system. For me this was a major advantage as before this time I had to have several versions of each simulation - specifically one for Tandy microcomputers and one for Apple microcomputers. Also, a big plus was that the Tandy PC clone could read Tandy Model III disks and had software that helped translate between Model III basic and MSDOS BASIC.

Windows

Late in the 1990s I moved on to using Windows and have used all generations from Windows 98 onward.

Windows 98
A reasonable version of windows.

Windows ME
The "millenium edition" was so bad I eneded up uninstalling it and returning to Windows 98..

Windows XP
An excellent operating system - I still have computers running it for legacy applications. But, for security reasons, I do not access the Internet from these computers..

Windows Vista
Aweful.

Windows 7
A reasonable version of windows.

Windows 8
I refered to this version as Windows Hate.

Windows 10
OK (just)!

.It seams to me that MicroSoft alternates between Ok and aweful operating systems. Also, their numbering system is odd - before Winows 98 there was Windows 3.(and 3.1) Now we have 7, 8 an 10.

Languages

In 1967, in order to do anything useful you needed to write your own programs and this lmeant that I had to learn how to program and I learn BASIC and Algol (and subsequentlyly Fortran and HTML)

BASIC

BASIC (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) was the first language that I learnt and have used ever since. Since then I have graduated from Time-Sharing BASIC, through GW-BASIC, Borland/Power BASIC to VB6.

Time-Sharing BASIC
The original version was a compile and go language. That is to say, after loading the program when it was run the source code was compiled into machine code and run. Later, it was possible to separate the compile and execution stages. That is to say the source code could be compiled into machine code and saved. Then when the program was run the save machine code was loaded and executed.

GW BASIC
This was an interpreter. That is to say as the program was run it was translated on a line-by-line basis into machine code and executed.

QuickBASIC
It was soon apparent that interpretive BASIC was slow and error prone and so I decided to move on to Microsoft's QuickBASIC. Unfortunately (like a lot of Microsoft software) the initial version was buggy and many of the features that I wanted to use did not work. ADD COST????

<Quick Basic Manual Cover)

Borland/Power BASIC
After my experience with QuickBASIC I moved on to the Borland/Power BASIC Compiler
costing ????. This worked perfectly out of the box and was a superb MSDOS compiler - easy to use, with extensive features with powerful debugging. The only downside was that memory size was limited to the standard 640k Bytes and the compiler could not make use of extended memory. Although I stopped developing programs in Power BASIC in the late 1990s my purchase register accounting software still uses it.

VB6
In the late 1990s it became apparent that I needed to change my simulations into ones that ran in Windows rather than in MSDOS and after exploring the options moved on to Visual Basic (VB6). When it came to creating or transferring the simulation models VB6 was fully compatible with Power BASIC (and earlier versions of BASIC). However, the user interface, display etc was very different. But I created a platform that contained the functions that were common my simulations the move to VB6 was not especially time consuming or onerous. In fact, commonly, it tok less than half a day to move the MSDOS models into VB6.

Visual Basic.NET
In the naughties VB6 was replaced by Visual Basic.NET. As is normal Microsoft practice this is not upwardly compatible with VB6 - you have to spend a huge amount of time learning to use the new software - basically Microsoft's approach is "if it is not broke - break it". Happily, VB6 software still run on the latest platforms (including Windows 10).

Algol

Initially, Algol (Algorithmic Language) had more features than the original version of BASIC. But, it was much less user friendly and it's error messages were very cryptic. I remember well the message "Trouble near line 300". The only thing that I could be sure of was that the syntax problem was not in line 300. It was somewhere else in the program and, probably, caused by a misplaced space or other character.

FORTRAN

While working for Honeywell's Network Information Systems I was forced to learn Fortran - not because it was any better than BASIC but because it cost more for clients to use and so its use was encouraged!!

HTML

Although I use an application's package to help create web pages on occasion I revert to the HTML (HyperText Markup Language) to deal with specific needs.

Applications

I wrote two articles for Marketing magazine. The first ("The Electronic Chip and the Marketer", October 1978 ) explored how the chip would impact product design and the second ("The Microcomputer and Marketing", January 1979) explored how the microcomputer could help marketing and forecast "a micro computer on every desk". At that time and for several years I asked middle and senior managers when they would have a computer on their desk - the universal reply was "Never, we have a data processing department".

Word Processing

In the late 1970s I wrote a book published by Cassels (How to Pass Exams in Data Processing) in the traditional way - using pen paper and a typewriter. Each day I managed to write about 1000 words. This book was well received and in 1980 Cassels asked me two write a second book (Data Proccessing) and as I now had my own microcomputer I decided to use this to write the book. I used a word processing program called Scripsit. It improved my productivity substantially from 1000 words a day to about 2500 words per day. But this underplays the impact on productivity and quality as using a word processor mean that I could review, revise and hone my writing. However, a character only screen display of 16 lines of 64 characters was limiting. Scripsit, cleverly made use of control keys to insert and delete text, etc. Cleaverly, decals were supplied to stick on the key fronts of the keys in question.

 

Desk Top Publishing

I imported Desk Top Publishing software from the USA (Dot Print) that had a range of fonts and font sizes, proportional spacing, left and right justification etc. But the quality of print from a dot matrix printer was not high. Then I had a flash of inspiration and realised that if I printed double size on A3 paper and then used my local copy shop to reduce this down to A5 the jaggedness disappeared and I got (reasonable) quality. (It was only in 1987 when I bought my first laser printer that I got good quality.)

1981 Desk Top Publishing Example

Spread Sheets

Although I develop my business simulation models in a high level language (BASIC), I use spreadsheets for small personal models and to help design my simulations.

Initially I used VISICALC (the first spreadsheet program but eventually I moved on to Microsoft Works and eventually Excel. It is worth mentioning that Honeywell made a lot of money in the 1970s from it's TABOL tabular financial reporting language.

<visicalc picture here>

Presentation Software

Since 1967 the way one made a presentation has changed hugely - from chalk board to PowerPoint. - from chalk to cheese!

Blackboard/Whiteboard
Up to the end of the 1970's the entry level presentation system was a blackboard that you wrote on with chalk. One step up from this was the whiteboard that you wrote on with the right felt pen. (If you used the wrong pen what you wrote could not be erased and had to be washed off.
)

Overhead Transparencies
Rich organisations used overhead transparencies rather than a blackboard or whiteboard. I say rich because you needed a graphic artist to create your transparencies and this continued into the 1990s. Up to the end the end of the 1980s next to my office at an Enterprise Centre was a graphic artist who made most of his income from making Overhead Transparencies for companies. One of my first use of Desk Top Publishing software was to make overhead masters (that were then photographically made into transparencies). However, when I got a Laser Printer I printed the transparencies directly.

<overhead projector picture here>

Presentation Programs
The availability of PowerPoint and price drops for display hardware eventually forced the demise of overheads in the late 1990s, early naughties. (I threw out my Overhead Projector in 2010.)

I've found PowerPoint a step back compared with overheads. Yes, PowerPoint slides are beautiful with clever reveals and quick to produce. But, the presentation is inherently linear. Although you can have pre-planned branches using hyperlinks, this is not the same as being able to discard overheads or change the order in response to audience needs. Also, with overheads it is easy to expand on a subject by writing on the overhead. (Yes, I expect there is possibly a way to do these things using Power Point but as most of the time the participants working on my simulations are participating I have never wasted too much time learning about all PowerPoint features).

Browsers

lHaving got used to Internet Explorer, I am loathed to use other browsers such as Mozilla Fire Fox, Google Chrome or, expecially, Windows Edge. Also, each has it's own set of cookies so if you save user names and passwords with one browser it is not acessedable by another. elp design my simulations.

2017 Jeremy J. S. B. Hall

Most recent update: 24/03/17
Hall Marketing, Studio 11, Colman's Wharf, 45 Morris Road, London E14 6PA, ENGLAND
Phone +44 (0)20 7537 2982 E-mail
jj3r3m7@ancientgeek.uk