Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Ten Applications That Changed Computing

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the where-are-emacs-and-TeX dept.

Software 437

bfire writes "The term 'killer app' gets tossed around quite liberally these days. Nearly every piece of software released seems to be pitched as having the potential to send shockwaves throughout the IT world. In reality, there have been precious few applications which have truly changed the computing industry over the years. This article lists some of the top ten true killer apps that changed computing, from Phil Zimmermann's gold standard in encryption, PGP, to Dr Solomon's groundbreaking anti-virus toolkit, to Mitch Kapor who took the idea of VisiCalc for Apple and created Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS." Typical for top-10 lists, the choices seem pretty arbitrary — what changed your corner of the computing world?

cancel ×

437 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

MS Paint (5, Funny)

ciderVisor (1318765) | more than 5 years ago | (#28161953)

MS Paint

Re:MS Paint (5, Funny)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162055)

No way man.. Solitaire!

Re:MS Paint (4, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162159)

I remember going to the Harvard Coop the week that the Macintosh was introduced, and seeing people jammed around them, trying out something that was unlike anything most of us had ever seen before.

It was MacPaint.

What made it different is we'd never seen that combination of abstraction and direct manipulation before. Some of us knew what a light pen was, and had some vague idea you could do things like manipulate a model of something, but the thing about this app was that it presented analogies you could manipulate. They weren't literal models (like Microsoft's amazingly misbegotten "Bob"). They were things boiled down to the essence off what might be usable for the task: palettes that weren't palette shaped; "windows" that contained scrolling surfaces that were somewhat like a sheet of paper. And there were other things that were, well, new, but somehow logically fit with these idealized analogies: drop down menus, and scrollbars for example. They were easy to grasp (both literally and figuratively) because they were a kind of meta-analogy; they were simple mechanisms you could figure out because they somehow worked on the same principles of the things that were analogies. They were like analogies that didn't refer to anything we knew, but we kind of grasped they style of the thing.

Re:MS Paint (5, Funny)

spydabyte (1032538) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162679)

Yeah, we can definitely see that you grasped this product quite well in your very concise description.

Re:MS Paint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162423)

Why is it rated as funny? I think MS Paint is quite useful. I am a Mac user and cannot draw a simple picture after I have (re)installed the OS (I am using Tiger, I don't know Leopard or *Slow* Leopard)! Sure I can download Seashore, but why don't Apple just include a free image editor?

Norton Desktop for Windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162435)

This did more to make an ol' crusty Windows pre-95 desktop to soar, and I still use it.

Please, buy my product(tm).
-Video Professor

The most important, and most unrecognized (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162471)

RSA

The boot-up splash screen (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28161957)

Rather than seeing all the techie stuff scrolling by the screen, I think the Windows NT splash screen with its "loading" progress bar did a lot to NOT scare people who were normally scared of computers.

Re:The boot-up splash screen (3, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28161979)

Um, you mean like the Mac?

Ah the days of watching the Extensions loading.

Re:The boot-up splash screen (3, Funny)

Chris Tucker (302549) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162297)

"Ah the days of watching the Extensions loading."

I found the march of Extensions and Control Panels imbued an almost Zen contentment as each one of those little gems added more and more usefulness to the Mac OS.

And with enough of them, you had time to grab an extra cup of that sweet, sweet office coffee as the machine booted for the first time in the morning.

Re:The boot-up splash screen (5, Interesting)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162619)

1. WordStar/WordPerfect/Word
2. Visicalc/SuperCalc/123/Multiplan-Excel
3. AutoCad
4. dBase/Oracle7/MySQL
5. Duke Nukem/Wolfenstein 3D/Quake
6. Zelda.....WoW....etc with a branch to Second Life
7. Mozilla/Apache/Tomcat/II6 ad naseum
8. C/Java/php (note the absence of VB)
9. Napster/xTorrent/Amazon/iTunes/eBay/and other Business Distribution online apps
10. McAfee/Norton/AVG/etc.

Ten is too short a number for categories, but these IMHO all started billion dollar industry segments

Trolls permanently buttplugged (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28161959)

-1 [goatse.fr]

Re:Trolls permanently buttplugged (3, Interesting)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162241)

Change can be good or bad, here's my top 10 list:
AOL
Cygwin
Exchange
MS Office
MySQL
phpBB
Quake/Unreal/Half Life
The Sims/World of Warcraft
Win95/X .NET

Re:Trolls permanently buttplugged (5, Insightful)

ale_ryu (1102077) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162437)

You forgot the controversial and short lived napster (I know it's still around but it's not the same anymore). napster completely changed the file sharing world.

Redefining Addiction (1)

DJLuc1d (1010987) | more than 5 years ago | (#28161961)

World of Warcraft... Who needs to leave the house anyways ?

All on one page (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28161973)

All on one page printer link: here. [itnews.com.au]

Tie for first... (4, Insightful)

viyh (620825) | more than 5 years ago | (#28161977)

For me it's either "vi" or "screen".

Re:Tie for first... (5, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162601)

Seriously.

I leanred ed on a teletype. vi changed everything.

Shape table on the Apple were the next big change in my life.

Although I am sure 123 and all the clones are interesting, and Excel does deserve a place of it's own, visicalc changed the way I think.

Same thing for Mathematics.

I am not going to say anything about WYSIWG editing, because I truly think that combining content and presentation is a bad thing. It was a good idea, but it shouldn't be done on a regular basis. For any non trivial project, content and presentation has to be kept separate. I blame the fact that it isn't for all the bad code in the world.

Autodesk inventor was an excellent way to migrate from the drawing board to the computer. However Solidworks and later Inventor actually provided the means by onw which should draw on the computer. There is no reason to pretend that the computer is a drawing board.

It is kind of the same with C++. Lets us look at coding by modeling the world, but does not hide the code of the model behind arbitrary gibberish.

Anti virus software is very important because it allows us to used the cheap PC. Without it we have to buy the drones expensive computers.

Re:Tie for first... (2, Funny)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162699)

emacs has a mode for that!

For me it's compilers (5, Interesting)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 5 years ago | (#28161981)

The earliest C and Pascal compilers on a home computer really changed the landscape of who had access to serious software development tools. I believe this is what made the difference and created a vibrant Shareware scene.

Re:For me it's compilers (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162553)

True enough. I'd also put Norton Guides or the ORIGINAL Norton Utilities ahead of Norton Anti-Virus. Basil's CopyAll and Ripoff 9 changed things in the anti-piracy scene, rendering most copy protection obsolete and forcing vendors to make software people were willing to pay for. For a while.

Zork I, Wizardry and (gasp!) Microsoft Flight Simulator changed the expectations of the gaming market, and ultimately the gaming market dictated the hardware produced.

Superior Software Speech! was the first serious attempt at an all-software speech synthesizer. That, in turn, started opening the computing world to whole new markets. (There would be no car navigation systems today without these kinds of pioneering efforts.)

Although RiscOS isn't technically an application, it did shatter the mythology that home computers could not multi-task or be user-friendly.

Re:For me it's compilers (2, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162559)

Oh, and MUD I. Without which, there would be no MUDs, MUSHes, MMORGs, or much of any other gaming online.

Re:For me it's compilers (2, Insightful)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162705)

Nope, the compilers that revolutioned compilation were Borland's Turbo compilers (and Megamax compilers on 68K platform).
Compiling took only a few seconds, even on the slowest computers.
Before that, it was painful to compile even the smallest piece of code.

TurboPascal also provided an impressive debugger, compared to Microsoft's Debug at this time.

Later, Watcom introduced 32 bits compilation on PC.
And it seems that Delphi was the leader before MS bought all the team to create .NET.

Lotus 1-2-3? (5, Insightful)

gilgoomesh (966411) | more than 5 years ago | (#28161985)

The article gives the nod to Lotus 1-2-3 over VisiCalc? Great -- award the theives and ignore the innovations that *actually* changed the world. Nice job.

Re:Lotus 1-2-3? (1)

HateBreeder (656491) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162069)

There's an earlier (#7 i think) mention of Microsoft Office.... I thought Excel was part of office, making either point #3 or #7 redundant.

Re:Lotus 1-2-3? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162205)

How did they ignore VisiCalc?

internet explorer (5, Insightful)

postmortem (906676) | more than 5 years ago | (#28161999)

activeX malware and exploitation worms made huge difference in our lives

Re:internet explorer (5, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162063)

Bonzi buddy.

How did people live before they had a malware purple ape on their desktop?

Re:internet explorer (5, Funny)

superslacker87 (998043) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162337)

Oh the days of ignorance and when system administrators didn't bother locking out the computer from installs. I installed that at work back in 2000 and was on Amazon surfing for a book called The Multiorgasmic Man: Sexual Secrets Every Man Should Know. Bonzi Buddy popped up and naturally my speakers were blaring and decided to tell the entire cubicle section I was in what I was looking up.

Re:internet explorer (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162557)

They were too busy dealing with the Cascade and Headbanger virus to care.

Re:internet explorer (1)

auLucifer (1371577) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162589)

I remember back in the mid-late 90s before bonzi buddy became the little purple ape. It was a series of short animations staring a squirrel, or something similar, that would interact with your desktop. He'd suffer relationship issues, duke it out with a regular adversary and play with your mouse (I think. I'm sure some of the episodes were interactive). He never asked for your personal details, never contained viruses and was nothing more then an animated series.

Ah those were the days

Killer? Really? (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162007)

The term 'killer app' gets tossed around quite liberally these days. Nearly every piece of software released seems to be pitched as having the potential to send shockwaves throughout the IT world. In reality, there have been precious few applications which have truly changed the computing industry over the years.

Gosh, all this time I thought the term "killer app" meant that it was on course to unseat the long disputed champion of that application realm--you know, kill something. Prime targets being those applications that rested on their laurels as king of the hill for far too long. I guess I was wrong. I suppose there's no point in continuing to complain [slashdot.org] that 'killer' is just a marketing word used exclusively to generate hype but, sure, let's throw it retroactively over the apps that historically impressed and 'wowed' us the most.

Re:Killer? Really? (2, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162275)

Yeah, I'm afraid you're wrong. Sorry. When the term popped up about 30 years ago, "killer app" referred to an application that was so remarkable and must-have that it "made" the platform it ran on. VisiCalc was the killer app for the Apple II; Lotus 1-2-3 was the killer app for the DOS/PC platform; Space Invaders was the killer app for the Atari 2600; Pagemaker was the killer app for the Mac; etc. What killer apps "killed" were competing platforms, such as 1-2-3 killing the Apple II and TRS-80 in the business market.

Re:Killer? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162393)

Great, I hate the term even more ... so full of hype it kills entire platforms. Lame.

Re:Killer? Really? (4, Funny)

russlar (1122455) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162409)

I can't speak to a "killer app", but I think we can all agree that there is a killer filesystem! [wikipedia.org]

Re:Killer? Really? (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162575)

-1, Spamcruftisement [wikipedia.org]

I'm outraged (4, Funny)

goldaryn (834427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162029)

Whither, Mavis Beacon?

Re:I'm outraged (1)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162473)

I love mavis beacon. 45WPM by the 2nd grade!

Number One is Correct (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162039)

If they're saying it bought about the World Wide Web, aka the internet (to most nontechy people). I wouldn't say it wasn't inevitable without mosaic, but since it was first, it probably can be credited with making the computer a must-have device in the home, perhaps even superior to the TV in time to come. That surge also probably helped bring the computer prices down to what we have now instead of looking at $1500-2000 systems as midrange/economical, as well as allowing niches like netbooks and smartphones.

When decades of history pass, the memorable inventions that changed the world will personal computer (not strictly the PC as known today), then the WWW (via Mosaic), and I daresay wikipedia in chronological order.

There are a lot of other important apps, but none that touched so many lives directly and in a positive way.

Re:Number One is Correct (1)

ciderVisor (1318765) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162243)

I think it's easy to forget just how amazing Yahoo was initially. A huge tree of knowledge that could be expanded by Joe Public. The main difference between it and Google (or Alta Vista before it) was that it relied on human editors rejecting crap links rather than automated spiders and clever algorithms.

Is there room today for an ad-sponsored user-submission, human-edited Yahookipedia ?

I miss the old Yahoo categorized listings. Do they still exist in some shape or form ?

Re:Number One is Correct (1)

Random Destruction (866027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162569)

I miss the old Yahoo categorized listings. Do they still exist in some shape or form?

They sure do! [yahoo.com]

Re:Number One is Correct (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162253)

I daresay wikipedia

Meh. Wikipedia is only interesting in that it's a big part of the centralization of content on a few big websites, and the general relinquishing of control over your own stuff that is the key to "Web 2.0" user-generated content. The Web is a very different place now than it was in the late 90s, when the good information was mostly on .edu sites which you found through shitty search engines, and everyone carved out their own little fiefdom on a GeoCities page. In some ways, I miss that.

Wikipedia gets really interesting if you look at the other languages, which are mostly independent of the English Wikipedia. The German one is particularly high-quality, with less fancruft bullshit and more serious information, particularly on history and science. Nonetheless, each one is controlled by its own mostly anonymous group of wankers who control information as it suits them in a manner which is very much obscured. It's a nifty tool for now simply because it's convenient and mostly accurate, but it's not the way forward.

Something more like a traditional encyclopedia, with a clearly identified expert or two acting as an editor of each article, would be far more interesting. There are, for example, vast swaths of historical research barely covered by Wikipedia, English or otherwise. I rather suspect that most people qualified to write about such things are entirely uninterested in slapping up a decent article, just to see it deleted, vandalized, or incorrectly edited by the self-appointed mob. There's a ton of information out there in books, information which should be on the web, but will never be in Wikipedia.

Instant Messanging? (5, Insightful)

Ryan Stortz (598060) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162077)

This article seems to have forgotten some of the biggest players in the social revolution of the business PC.

ICQ (and later AIM) should be on the list. How many people here can still remember their original ICQ number? How many are running something similar right now?

Re:Instant Messanging? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162249)

You're right, ICQ for sure.

64930086

haven't used that for about 10 years but can still remember it clearly.

Re:Instant Messanging? (1)

crafty.munchkin (1220528) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162285)

Oh god. I can still quote my ICQ number and I haven't even logged in for something like 10 years!

Re:Instant Messanging? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162343)

Remember it? I'm still using it.

talk (1)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162355)

I still prefer good old fashioned talk to modern instant messaging.

The old days.

IRC? (3, Interesting)

Animaether (411575) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162383)

Granted, the earlier networks didn't have NickServs so you had to /whois to semi-make sure the person you were talking to was actually the person you think you're talking to, but in terms of instant messaging, IRC is certainly by far a predecessor to all of the IM apps.

and I'm guessing there were near-instant messaging utilities for BBS's back in the day; I know I chatted with a SysOp once through... Terminat, I think?
Ahhh, Bi-Modem protocol... no carrier indeed.

Re:Instant Messanging? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162449)

> ICQ (and later AIM) should be on the list

They shouldn't, but IRC should.

Re:Instant Messanging? (1)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162695)

Not gonna lie, I'm logged into ICQ right now. It's not my original number, though, and NO ONE ever uses it.

More recent ones (5, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162085)

1. Firefox, it showed that it was possible to reopen the browser to innovation and standardization after the rise of IE.

2. Ubuntu (yes, its not an application), it gave Linux to the masses and made it, for the first time in many years, to get a popular brand of computers (Dell) preinstalled with something other than OS X or Windows

3. BitTorrent, Limewire, (the original) Napster and other P2P technologies, took out the last hurdle in independent content distribution, bandwidth.

4. Skype and other VOIP technologies, let people abandon phone companies for the first time while letting them talk to landlines and cell phones alike

5. AIM, MSN, IRC and other IM services took e-mail and made it much better

Re:More recent ones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162153)

I don't think you understand what a killer app is

Re:More recent ones (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162311)

5. AIM, MSN, IRC and other IM services took e-mail and made it much better

Say what now?

So the problem with email is that it wasn't fast enough, but that the telephone was 'too realtime'?

Or was the problem with email that we didn't have to create accounts with the provider of the people we wanted to talk to?

Or was the problem that we didn't have enough smiley icon sets in our lives?

Seriously, how did IM make email better?

Re:More recent ones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162373)

You can't type backspace on a real time phone call. Besides, if it wasn't for IRC we wouldn't have one of the most prime humor engines, bash QDB [bash.org]

Re:More recent ones (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162397)

Email was too slow, and being on the phone with multiple people all over the world simultaneously was too impossible.

Re:More recent ones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162539)

1. Firefox, it showed that it was possible to reopen the browser to innovation and standardization after the rise of IE.

No, Mosiac. I love Firefox and all, but did it really break new gorund in the same way as Mosiac?

2. Ubuntu (yes, its not an application), it gave Linux to the masses and made it, for the first time in many years, to get a popular brand of computers (Dell) preinstalled with something other than OS X or Windows

Yes, it's not an application.

3. BitTorrent, Limewire, (the original) Napster and other P2P technologies, took out the last hurdle in independent content distribution, bandwidth.

BT yes, the rest did pave the way but were flawed. Also, what about IRC and DCC?

4. Skype and other VOIP technologies, let people abandon phone companies for the first time while letting them talk to landlines and cell phones alike

I'll give you this one.

5. AIM, MSN, IRC and other IM services took e-mail and made it much better

Not compared to SMS (honourable mention in the piece). Far more ubiquitous to the public (in Europe at least). Genuinely changed the world.

Remember, Slashdot does not have a -1 disagree moderation, and no, troll, flamebait, and overrated are not substitutes.

Yes, but there is (-1, Overrated). Mod this karma whore down.

SSH (3, Insightful)

TCM (130219) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162091)

SSH

Re:SSH (4, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162155)

The ultimate irony of OpenSSH was that it came along at almost the exact moment when it was no longer all that important. Everyone used telnet or rsh before OpenSSH became a killer app. People used OpenSSH primarily out of a fear over password sniffing on broadcast ethernet. Before that, switched networking had taken over. No-one was using T connectors and terminators by then.. and switching hubs were cheaper than broadcast hubs for UTP and active ARP attacks hadn't been demonstrated. Still, its amazing that such a good implementation of ssh came along when it did.

Re:SSH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162269)

SSH

you shut up!

Re:SSH (4, Funny)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162659)

Sorry, we'll keep it down.

Bit torrent .. duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162109)

Crap list. Bram Cohen invented the bit torrent protocol which has changed my life

Internet Explorer (1, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162113)

My ISP uses Intuit for payment and last month I could pay with Firefox on Linux but this month I have to use IE (and IE6 in IES4Linux doesn't work.)

Die, Microsoft. Die.

What, they don't want your money? (1)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162151)

What do they tell you if you tell them you can't use IE?

Re:What, they don't want your money? (1)

jonnycando (1551609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162247)

They shall probably say "duh" not realizing there is anything else. As the chorus harmonizes...."Die Microsoft Die!"

Pagemaker over both Photoshop and Quark Xpress (5, Informative)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162139)

While their comments about Photoshop and Quark are more or less valid, they overlooked an app that was more important than both of their claims: Pagemaker. Photoshop may have saved Apple in the 90s, but that never would have been an issue if Pagemaker hadn't put the Mac on the map to begin with in the 80s. Pagemaker was to the Mac what Lotus 1-2-3 was to the IBM PC: the sine-qua-non reason to buy one. And although Quark came to dominate the desktop publishing industry (for a while), that honor would be beside the point if Pagemaker had not created practical DTP to begin with.

Re:Pagemaker over both Photoshop and Quark Xpress (4, Interesting)

samkass (174571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162233)

Agreed. PageMaker on the low and and later FrameMaker on the high end virtually drove the entire industry for awhile. In fact, Photoshop may not have had a place to live if PageMaker hadn't created a zillion newsletters to put photos in. After all, the professionals could afford LetraSet ColorStudio, which was Photoshop's functional predecessor. But at a few thousand a pop, small shops couldn't afford ColorStudio to adjust the photos going into the PageMaker newsletters, thus the "low-end" Photoshop was born.

Re:Pagemaker over both Photoshop and Quark Xpress (1)

christurkel (520220) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162531)

FrameMaker was a game changer for me -- to bad it was withered to one platform now.

Re:Pagemaker over both Photoshop and Quark Xpress (3, Funny)

writermike (57327) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162655)

I can tell you it affected my life a great deal when I worked in prepress (commercial printing). Everyone called it Ragemaker.

Seriously? (1, Insightful)

rampant mac (561036) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162171)

In the last 20 years, the web browser has done the most to change the way we use computers.

Re:Seriously? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162259)

Well, if you RTFA, you'd see that the number 1 application is precisely a web browser. Unless you are being sarcastic~

Re:Seriously? (1)

alannon (54117) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162323)

Did you read the article? Did you look at what #1 was? I encourage you to look again.

Re:Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162519)

Did you read the summary? Did you see the part where it asks people to list what changed their corner of the computing world? I encourage you to look again.

Re:Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162603)

In the last 20 years, the web browser has done the most to change the way we use computers.

Yeah, otherwise this forum would be called something like alt.altrecsoc and we'd be using threaded news readers, volunteer moderators, and killfiles.

All the web has really done is replace other functional media for all the same things we used computers for: communicating with friends, family, and businesses; looking up reference information published by others; etc.

I guess I have the minority view that the web (particularly HTTP and HTML) is more coincidental than necessary for the expansion of computers into society. It was really just the lucky one to arrive simultaneously with the big expansions of networking as a commodity business. There was already a huge upswing in connectivity between customers and businesses and researchers due to e-mail, usenet, FTP, subsidized internet capacity, and accelerating modem speeds for the end-user connections.

Hell, I can remember downloading Postscript catalogs and papers from commercial and university FTP servers, providing nice compact yet perfectly typeset materials to view with Ghostscript or print locally. In my memory, it was Altavista which really kicked off the modern web in terms of starting to find things via search instead of via references in topical newsgroups and e-mails. And Altavista was first and foremost driven by the desire to demonstrate the power of 64-bit DEC Alpha servers running large databases with huge (for the time) amounts of RAM. It could have supplanted gopher and archie instead of crawling HTTP... it was a truly qualitative leap based on the amount of RAM in the server allowing a brute-force service that previously sounded impossible.

"hello world" (5, Funny)

scotch (102596) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162175)

No matter how you measure it (number of copy cat programs, efficiency and failure rates, importance to computer science), this program tops them all. Where would we be without it?

Re:"hello world" (2, Funny)

i_ate_god (899684) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162369)

We would be at foobar...

Dark Castle and Oregon Trail (4, Interesting)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162209)

Those two games introduced me to computers (in my elementary school classroom). I had no idea before that.

EDLIN (1)

badc0ffee (969714) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162229)

I would rather use console switches in binary, but I used a early line editor (years ago) to write my own editor. Besides, rumor has it, EDLIN was the only program actually written by Bill Gates.

Turbo Pascal (5, Interesting)

JoeD (12073) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162245)

In a day when serious compilers cost $300 or more, most people used the free Basic that came with DOS.

Then Turbo Pascal came out at $49.95, and proved that there was more than a niche market for compilers.

Photoshop (0, Redundant)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162283)

I use it almost daily. Every time a new version comes out, it's noooooooooooooooooo....I just got use to this version! CS4, took a little while to find where they rearranged everything.

mozilla netscape navigator (1)

jeremycobert (795832) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162301)

my family thought AOL was all there was until i bought a copy of mozilla and got to show them the whole web that they had been missing. i bought a book about the internet (it may have been internet for dummies). a local ISP finally got a connection and we dropped AOL around version 2. thank you mozilla. it still makes me chuckle thinking about buying netscape... good times.

TJ-2, Spacewar, RS-1, FORTRAN, MacWrite (4, Interesting)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162315)

1) TJ-2. Written by Peter Samson for the PDP-1, it is at least a plausible candidate for "first word processor." It used a text input file, with command reminiscent of later word processing program "dot commands," although the commands were identified by an overbar character rather than a period. It produced two-column output with justified lines, and had provision for hyphenation. Because the PDP-1 facility had output equipment based on IBM electric typewriters, the output was "letter-quality." It showed a generation of hackers that computer software could be used to edited and print finished-looking text.

If not TJ-2, then TYPSET/RUNOFF, which must have been used by tens of thousands of people at universities to perform what today would be called "word processing."

2) Spacewar! Another PDP-1 program, a plausible candidate for "first video game," and certainly introduced thousands of people to the idea that computers could be used purely for fun. A somewhat subversive idea, since commercial facilities rented PDP-1 time at something like $60 per hour.

3) Bolt, Beranek and Newman's RS-1, or perhaps its antecedent, Prophet. It was not a spreadsheet, but it was, nevertheless, an easy-to-use and powerful system for medical and scientific research calculations, with "tables" as its fundamental data type, and flexible vaguely SQL-like commands for extracting data from them and performing statistical tests and calculations on them. I don't know whether Bricklin and Frankston ever saw it, but I suspect that it was "in the culture" and influenced Visicalc in a very general way.

4) FORTRAN. Unlikely as it sounds, it was a breakthrough in computer ease-of-use. Long before computers started to make headway amount the general population, they first had to make headway in the scientific community among people who were not computer experts. It was FORTRAN that brought computing within the grasp of the average scientist. It also, oddly enough, became a breakthrough in portability and the loosening of IBM's monopoly power, at least in the academic community.

5) MacWrite. Or, if you prefer, the earlier Gypsy word processing program for the Xerox Alto. Gypsy was probably the first WYSIWYG word processor that could display multiple fonts and images. MacWrite was the program that first showed hundreds of thousands of people to that style of editing. In my case, I was utterly blown away by the ability to create superscripts that were actually in smaller type than the main text.

Before MacWrite, WYSIWYG meant only that the word processing commands could be hidden, and that lines on the screen broke at the same places as the printed copy. Before MacWrite, I never saw a system that show justified text as justified on the screen, or that showed multiple columns on the screen, or showed headers, footers, and footnotes in their proper places on screen.

Satan. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162321)

SATAN (SANTA) by Dan Farmer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Farmer) most certainly changed the face of computing security.

My personal list: (4, Insightful)

drolli (522659) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162329)

-Borland Pascal: One of the first complete affordable OO IDE environments with well organized UI elements
-matlab: finding the eigenvalues of a Schroedinger equation numerically takes roughly three lines of code
-macsyma/maxima, mathematica: automate handling of symbolic expressions
-perl: the web 2.0 language before web 2.0 was named web 2.0
-emacs: Still the most feature-rich editor. The number of "emacs-like" clones which try to capture its core functionality without the bloat is impressive.
-tex/latex: If you make a book, there is nothing better.
-man: i think there was a time when manuals came on paper only
-gopher: the web before the web.....

Not a program, but... (1)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162365)

Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

Not an application, but... (5, Funny)

SmlFreshwaterBuffalo (608664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162395)

Clippy definitely changed my life. If not for little Clippy, I would still be trying to format that letter. I think everyone here can agree that the ability to detect when a letter was being written was nothing short of magic.

Industry Changing? (1)

bokmann (323771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162405)

I'm sorry, but for something to be considered 'industry changing', we should consider the first instance of an app with that capability... for IT is the app that truly 'changed the industry' to the point where it spawned imitators that may be more successful.

By that standard, Visicalc, PageMaker, and MacWord absolutely need to be on this list.

COBOL (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162493)

was the original application that changed computing and led to the explosion of use by average corporations in the 60s and 70s (and beyond).

I'm surprised no one mentioned... (1)

viyh (620825) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162501)

Quaterdeck Mosaic. It is, afterall, what brought the web to the masses.

Engineering applications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162525)

maybe im partial because of my field but i think there deserves to be a mention of engineering and drafting software or at least a calculator or CAS if they are going to mention minesweeper. Maybe computers changed engineering more than engineering apps changed computers but i think there needs to be one on the list.

#1 going away - Netscape Navigator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162535)

I did RTA and note that they debated among themselves Mosaic vs. Navigator for the top pick, as some of the key players (Andressen and Bina) were involved with both. But it was the introduction of Navigator turned the world upside down. That's when the world took notice of the Internet. Bill Gates wrote his first book "The Road Ahead" in 1995 and scarcely mentioned the Internet - ditto for the initial rollout of Windows 95. He wasn't the only one who missed it. Then Navigator hit the streets, Internet usage started skyrocketing and Gates had to backpeddle with his famous memo to the troops, kicking off the browser wars The dot com era began, giving us dynamic companies like Amazon, Yahoo, eBay, and Google (along with hundreds of others mercifully consigned to the dustbin of history). And incidentally, possibly rescuing Bill Clinton's presidency, which until then had been mired in tactical mistakes, the health care task force fiasco, and the gays in the military PR blunder.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162543)

What a bunch of newbies ...
1. Assembler - no more machine code
2. Fortran - no more Assembler
3. Cobol - still manages your bank account and your taxes
4. CICS - showed that online systems could handle lots of transactions
5. TPS - may still do your airline reservation
6. SAS - showed that statistics could be fun
7. Mark IV - look it up
8. SAP - showed ERP could be fun (sort of)
9. CATIA - designed that plane you flew in and probably some of your car
10. Oracle - databases for the masses

ubuntu (2, Informative)

kloffinger (837670) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162593)

they listed ubuntu, but oddly it's also on their "disappointing technologies page" see? [itnews.com.au]

MS Windows (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162607)

MS Windows would be the ultimate killer app. MS killed so many apps, it isn't even funny.

Locksmith (1)

billybob_jcv (967047) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162633)

It forever changed the way software would be packaged and sold, and reminded the software companies that the higher you price the package, the more likely it is to be broken. It also directly led to other incredibly popular commercial programs such as Copy II PC and CopyWrite. RIP Omega Microware. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,953342,00.html [time.com]

My top software (1)

j_kenpo (571930) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162645)

Doom
Turbo Pascal
Ethereal
Red Hat Linux 4

For one reason or another, those apps changed my entire computing landscape.

PGP (5, Funny)

burris (122191) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162653)

I'm so glad that PGP has been honored on this list. Let us take a moment to reflect what life would be like had Zimmerman not put his freedom on the line to write PGP.

1. Without PGP, almost everyone would send their emails in the clear. Today, cleartext email is the exception, not the rule.

2. Without PGP, emails, blog posts, and the like would be unauthenticated. Today, with the ubiquity of digital signatures and the public's expectation that they be valid, its virtually impossible to impersonate someone else or misquote them.

3. Without PGP, huge volumes of personal data aggregated onto easily transportable laptops and DVDs would be vulnerable to petty thieves. With the strong encryption tools in wide use today everyone can rest assured that their personal can't fall into the hands of some crackhead who broke the window of a bureaucrat's car.

Clearly, PGP has changed computing. No no, PGP has changed the WORLD!!

No VI, No baSH, No (yuck) windows or X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28162677)

Wait a minute... Minesweeper gets honorable mention, but no mention of VI, or any unix Shell or wordstar or (yuck) windows or x-windows.

How many users would have played minesweeper without a GUI.

What a crock.

What did Shaun Nichols Iain Thomson major in ? Literature, PostColonial Romanticism, Journalism? It had to be something bereft of basic cause-and-effect reasoning skills.

The only reason I use a computer (1)

IsaacD (1376213) | more than 5 years ago | (#28162681)

is because of porn.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>