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What Early Software Was Influential Enough To Deserve Acclaim?

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the cultural-literacy dept.

Programming 704

theodp writes "That his 28-year-old whip-smart, well-educated CS grad friend could be unaware of MacWrite and MacPaint took Dave Winer by surprise. 'They don't, for some reason,' notes Winer, 'study these [types of seminal] products in computer science. They fall between the cracks of "serious" study of algorithms and data structures, and user interface and user experience (which still is not much-studied, but at least is starting). This is more the history of software. Much like the history of film, or the history of rock and roll.' So, Dave asks, what early software was influential and worthy of a Software Hall of Fame?"

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VisiCalc (5, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about a year and a half ago | (#42709961)

'nuff said

Re:VisiCalc (5, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about a year and a half ago | (#42709975)

And if you want to continue:
GeoWorks

Re:VisiCalc (4, Interesting)

OneAhead (1495535) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710053)

Xerox Alto / Xerox Star (Sheesh!)

Re:VisiCalc (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710323)

What about the META-II/TREE-META line of meta-compilers?

Re:VisiCalc (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710463)

(I completely forgot to mention that these had one of the key roles in the development of Douglas Engelbart's "oN-Line System", which some of you may have heard about :-) and which belongs to this list on its own.)

Re:VisiCalc (5, Insightful)

astralagos (740055) | about a year and a half ago | (#42709997)

Indeed. If there's a piece of software that launched the personal computing revolution, it was VisiCalc - the first software business actually _needed_. I'd also throw in: * WordStar - which was the PC world's answer to emacs. If you did text processing on DOS systems, it was done with WordStar or another program which emulated it. * WordPerfect - the word processor, I imagine that without the Windows Hegemony, Microsoft would -never- have been able to kill wordperfect * Bank Street Writer - the first -educational- word processor, I imagine X'ers like myself lived off of this in school

Re:VisiCalc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710111)

^this

Re:VisiCalc (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710189)

Zork.

Re:VisiCalc (2)

theskipper (461997) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710293)

Agree that Zork was influential but, in fairness, Colossal Cave was its progenitor.

Re:VisiCalc (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710239)

VisiCalc was actually credited by a few business journalists in the 80s for starting the whole corporate raider business. They were now able to plug in all those numbers from SEC filings and other sources into the spreadsheet, run simulations of financing and figure a way to take the company over and make their billions.

They also used it to find out if the pension fund was over funded. See, back in the old days, companies would invest the pension in very low risk things like government bonds - at like 3%. The raiders said, "Hey wait a minute! If we put the money in the stock market, it could make 10% a year - because that's what it averaged for decades! They don't need all that cash in their and we can use it to finance the deal and pay our "consulting fees"!"

Flash forward to the '00s, and pensioners are getting their benefits cut left and right or they are just gone.

KKR, Icahn, T Boone, and Bain Capital (of Mitt Romney fame) were and are some of the players.

Now, many of those folks don't have the money that they counted on - their deferred compensation. Another way of putting it is those folks weren't fully paid for their work.

Re:VisiCalc (2, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710413)

Now, many of those folks don't have the money that they counted on - their deferred compensation. Another way of putting it is those folks weren't fully paid for their work.

I find it amazing how little attention is paid to that. Some like to blame pensions for bankrupting the auto industry, but the fact is, until shenanigans like that, they had the pension funds in reserve like they were supposed to. If they don't have them now, it's only because of greed at the top, not something the union did.

Vi, no Emacs! (2)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710283)

VisiCalc

I wonder if we can nominate turing as a wetware piece of a complex software program. Unless I miss my guess, he inspired VisiCalc.

Re:VisiCalc (3, Interesting)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710441)

'nuff said

And as a hardware corollary, the 80 column video card that allowed visicalc to show a useful amount of screen real estate.

!Influential (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42709965)

Nothing Apple has ever done has been influential. All they do is rip off the actual influential people.

Re:!Influential (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710255)

Wow. Never met someone as clueless as you. Nice showing of absolute incompetence, lack of knowledge and total douchebaggery. To quote Wolfgang Pauli (famous scientist) : "Not even wrong".

What the fuck? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42709971)

Whining because they don't teach Mac history 101 in CS programs?

I sure bet the grad student heard of MS Windows, Word and Excel. I bet he's even heard of CorelDraw, Super Mario Brothers and Pong too.

Re:What the fuck? (3, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710079)

Excel was based on the earlier program Multiplan, which the young company MicroSoft developed for the Apple II.

Times change (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42709995)

Why should we waste time and brainpower studying obsolete software?

Re:Times change (5, Insightful)

mikael (484) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710105)

Because once we forget how this software worked, someone else comes along and does a research project, thinks that they have invented something new, patents it and/or names it after themselves. Then they'll start sending lawyers after other people. I've seen this happening with something as simple as 3x3 convolution matrices and widget libraries. What was common knowledge in personal computer magazines back in the 1980's now seems to be stuff that leads
to patent battles now.

Re:Times change (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710375)

Because once we forget how this software worked, someone else comes along and does a research project, thinks that they have invented something new, patents it and/or names it after themselves.

Historically, that also happened in mathematics. Oh, wait, software IS mathematics. And mathematics just doesn't get obsolete. Just sometimes, notation changes (== programs get reimplemented), but the core is still the same.

Re:Times change (1)

Chuckstar (799005) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710139)

Same reason Intro to OS courses often incorporate that version of early AT&T Unix?

Re:Times change (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710165)

Why study history at all?

Re:Times change (4, Insightful)

Leafheart (1120885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710167)

For the same reason we have a Baseball Hall of Fame, a Football hall of fame, or even simpler, for the same reason we study world history. Know thy history, learn from your mistakes, understand what the best things were made off.

Re:Times change (5, Insightful)

gbooch (323588) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710179)

OMG, please tell me you are not old enough to vote too.

We study influential software for the same reason we study the past in any domain: to learn of the forces that shape what is, the human stories that lead to these artifacts, the design decisions and the lessons learned therein. What you see on your desktop today is the current end of a long chain of "obsolete software" that includes MacPaint, and Whirlwind, and any number of earlier systems that bring us to current dominant designs. Economically significant and useful software intensive systems all have such a legacy, and your hubris in so quickly dismissing the value of understanding anything older than your professional lifetime is staggeringly depressing to me. May you never be on any development team that has to grapple with the refactoring of legacy code.

Studying obsolete software? (1)

dgharmon (2564621) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710183)

> Why should we waste time and brainpower studying obsolete software?

You'd be surprised hos so little has changed, yea you get 3d fluttering window effects, but the underling usability of the software hasn't improved by much, you still have to tell it what to do ...

Re:Studying obsolete software? (1)

sphealey (2855) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710399)

Particularly true in the ERP world - 80% of the midrange products out there (and at least one of the big boys) simply took their data structures from ASK MANMAN.

sPh

Re:Times change (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710227)

Those who forget the crappy software of the past are doomed to repeat it.

Re:Times change (0)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710281)

Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.

I like that I'm paraphrasing a historical figure to defend the teaching of a field's history.

Re:Times change (2)

Holi (250190) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710331)

W..w..W - Willy Waterloo washed Warren Wiggins who was washing Waldo Woo. - FTFY

Re:Times change (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710373)

LOL, you fixed it for Dr. Seuss! I'm not sure if that is bold and confident or heretic...

Re:Times change (4, Insightful)

Stormwatch (703920) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710359)

Understanding what made such software good back then might help you produce better software now. Who knows, maybe studying various ancient, obscure GUIs could have averted disasters like Windows 8, Gnome 3, and Unity.

Re:Times change (5, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710377)

You have not gotten the straight answer yet, but the real world economic answer is nothing changes very much, so a well educated individual knows how the newest PR news release about a "new" idea will turn out, given how the exact same idea turned out three times in 1970, five times in the 80s, and twice in the 90s. Even if the outcome is different for tech or non-tech reasons, the challenges, successes, roadblocks, etc, will be the same this time around as the last ten times.

Ah so you're saying that this new language will be a silver bullet which will eliminate programming as a profession because business people will write their own programs, you say? Hmm I wonder if thats ever been claimed before. Naah. If it were you'd have language names like "Business Oriented Language" and stuff.

I've got a totally new idea! We can project manage programming by programmer-hour because the product of programmer times hour is always a constant a given problem. You'd think someone in 1960's mainframe development would have had the same idea, but people back then were pretty stupid so I'm sure my new idea is ... new.

Hey guys, I got a new one. We could assign a noob to work with an old timer and see if the noob learns anything by osmosis. This has never been tried in all of human history so I'm gonna patent it and trademark it and I'm gonna be rich and buy a private island.

To be honest its not as technical as you'd like to think... its kinda like studying ancient fashion to predict what future fashion will look like, seeing as womens fashion is kinda cyclical. So, you're saying after skirts go down, they tend to go up, and vice versa? Holy cow batman! Especially when dealing with trendy style high fashion like UI design or PR.

Electric Pencil (1)

steelscalp (1383757) | about a year and a half ago | (#42709999)

So much better than TECO.

The original Lotus 123 (5, Interesting)

MpVpRb (1423381) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710019)

Written by one guy..in assembly

If you want groundbreaking early Mac software (4, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710025)

I'd say HyperCard [wikipedia.org] would be a better choice

Re:If you want groundbreaking early Mac software (1)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710295)

I'd say HyperCard [wikipedia.org] would be a better choice

Maybe I'm being sentimental, but hypercard had a HUGE impact on my understanding of the possibilities related to computers.

Re:If you want groundbreaking early Mac software (2)

poena.dare (306891) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710367)

I was deep into Pascal and assembly but it wasn't until HC that I learned the UI was where the battle was won or lost.

Also, Talking Moose!

Computers for everyone! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710027)

Atari Basic and Atari Editor/Assembler on a 16 kilobyte Atari 800 with a tape drive.

Re:Computers for everyone! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710137)

Atari Paint and the graphics touch tablet. Very simple principle - any point pressed would change the value of the paddle controller to that point for X and Y.
There was also the light pen from Silica Shop which worked on the same encoding principle.

Heck... (1)

Shoten (260439) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710029)

...they should study things that are currently in use, too. I had a whip-smart friend who was a grad student at UMass Amherst in 2002. I described an approach to enterprise security monitoring that used relationship modeling so that you'd notice when a certain type of machine started interacting with systems that weren't really in its normal sphere of interaction. The approach I had in mind would use extensions to Active Directory. His first question: "What's Active Directory?" Again, this was in 2002.

Re:Heck... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710097)

Active Directory was only a few years old in 2002. It came out with Windows 2000.

For mechanical engineers/designers (4, Interesting)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710033)

Autocad & PowerDraw (now PowerCADD) 2D CAD followed a decade later by SolidWorks 3D for turning concepts into executable designs that were within the realm of price and usability for individual designers.

Re:For mechanical engineers/designers (2)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710311)

Autocad & PowerDraw (now PowerCADD) 2D CAD followed a decade later by SolidWorks 3D for turning concepts into executable designs that were within the realm of price and usability for individual designers.

Yes, 3d studio max had a huge impact on animation. Thank all-things-CAD.

Influential? (4, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710043)

dBase
Word Star
Turbo Pascal

Lets create a list ... (1)

dgharmon (2564621) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710087)

Borland Sidekick [wikipedia.org]
dBase
Word Star
Turbo Pascal

Re:Lets create a list ... (1, Interesting)

mikael (484) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710315)

Crosstalk (the pricy RS-232 comms package)
Kermit (the open-source RS-232 and later network comms package)
Fastback (PC backup utility)
Norton disk explorer (disk drive maintainance)
Brief (another PC editor)
GED (another PC editor)
Fract386 (fractal explorer)
PHIGS (early 3D CAD library)
SRGP (Simple Raster Graphics Package)

Re:Influential? (5, Insightful)

jpiratefish (1690054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710291)

Turbo Pascal changed *everything* It turned Mr. Borland into a millionaire overnight, and completely changed how software is marketed, and changed the way software is developed forever.

Legacy of Turbo Pascal (3, Informative)

MrEricSir (398214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710449)

I'm not sure Turbo Pascal's legacy is as influential as it should have been. Sure, plenty of modern IDEs owe a nod to TP, but what about the compiler? The thing was shockingly fast. I wish TP had been more influential in that regard.

Some interesting info about how Turbo Pascal's speed was achieved here [hubpages.com] .

Visicalc (1)

Zadaz (950521) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710049)

VisiCalc was the first application that made a serious case for general business use. It sold more computers to more businesses than anything.

(See also: Lotus 1-2-3 and Appleworks.)

A few that have grown awful over the years... (3, Interesting)

stewbacca (1033764) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710061)

Here are a few that were great in the beginning but have become bloated and kind of overbearing since:

Word 4.0 for Mac (fast, stable, good UI, nearly perfect)
Photoshop 1.0 and then 3.0 (when they added layers)
Early versions of Excel (for Mac, then later Win95)
FreeHand (when it was Aldus)
PageMaker (when it was Aldus...see a pattern here?)
Aldus Persuasion (notice I didn't say PowerPoint?)
iMovie (compare to any version of movie editing software bundled with Windows ever...no contest)
Honorable Mention: Garage Band (too niche to be mainstream)

Pong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710067)

.... probably the most influential product ever created ... It showed that a computer could be used for more than just number-crunching, and it used graphics instead of lines of text and numbers

Re:Pong (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710447)

pong was pure hardware

PCPaint? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710081)

Wasn't Wolfgram showing off PCPaint like a year before there was any public showing of MacPaint?

3D Monster Maze. (2)

RDW (41497) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710083)

An FPS without any S (or colour, or sound, or high resolution graphics):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_Monster_Maze [wikipedia.org]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKvd0zPfBE4 [youtube.com]

Armed with the awesome power of a Sinclair ZX81 and its 16k external RAM pack, you could run around a maze, chased by a dinosaur. In 3D!

Pagemaker, Photoshop, Illustrator... (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710091)

Made the Mac famous

Second for PageMaker (5, Insightful)

Nova Express (100383) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710133)

Without the desktop publishing revolution, it's hard to see Apple surviving long enough for Jobs to retake the helm.

important bits (3, Interesting)

Mendenhall (32321) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710099)

Algol-60. RT-11. TECO. Hypercard (count this one twice!).

Re:important bits (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710403)

MVS/MVT with a mandatory reading of Brook's book about software development.

Susan Kare (5, Insightful)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710103)

He mentions Susan Kare but I'd like to give another shout out to her work [plos.org] . We are still using derivatives of her designs, and the brief simplicity of them really led the way for a lot of the icons we use now.

Article summary: "I am a Mac fanboi" (4, Interesting)

sideslash (1865434) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710109)

"Why aren't you one, too?"

OK, maybe that's a little harsh. But it's not completely apparent what value such a detailed review of early software programs would add to a computer science curriculum. It's probably sufficient to note the emergence of the GUI as the major defining element here, and let our poor undergrads get back to studying their bi-directional linked lists.

My opinion: it's not an accident that computer science is a more forward-looking than backward-looking discipline. Students will get more mileage out of downloading the latest version of OpenCV or playing with math in Python than sitting through a boring lecture about primitive computer software apps.

Re:Article summary: "I am a Mac fanboi" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710241)

deluxe paint was better anyway.

Re:Article summary: "I am a Mac fanboi" (3, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710431)

Learning history does have its advantages. "Those who don't understand UNIX are condemned to reinvent it, poorly." Same principle applies to other software.

Split Decision (1)

jasnw (1913892) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710113)

Either "Hunt the Wumpus" or Basic.

Software was written before 1980... (3, Interesting)

JohnWiney (656829) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710125)

Watfor/Watfiv. QED and its predecessors. TRofff/Nroff and their predecessors. And lots more.

The original UNIX source code (4, Informative)

kthreadd (1558445) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710141)

Re:The original UNIX source code (1)

udin (30514) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710257)

Even more so because AT&T decided to market licenses for Unix instead of just distributing, pissing off Stallman, who went and started the Free Software Movement in response.

The original MacOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710151)

Or rather, System Software - and not for its under the hood tricks but the GUI. The influence of that system is still with us today. It's a cliché, but it's an inflection point that I believe CS majors should at least be knowledgeable about.

Quake I (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710161)

Used for network testing in many small to medium size businesses.
And Friday afternoon stress relief.

How could they usefully study such software... (1, Interesting)

John Hasler (414242) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710207)

...when the source is unavailable? I can see that these programs might be mentioned as examples of early efforts in a course on UI design, but what else is there to say about them?

Re:How could they usefully study such software... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710469)

sometimes it is known, like in case of macpaint.
and usually you can quite easily deduct if the sw was written in basic or assembler... or otherwise learn from how the sw works how it was written and why(memory constraints and what have you).

I don't think macpaint was really that much used though.

POV-Ray (3, Interesting)

volkerdi (9854) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710209)

This introduced a lot of people to 3-D rendering, and the free-enough license led to widespread adoption.

Freehand, Pagemaker and UltraPaint (3, Interesting)

anavictoriasaavedra (1968822) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710217)

Aldus Freehand, Deneba UltraPaint and Aldus PageMaker. Oh the memories!

Why would CS study history? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710263)

The study of history is a perfectly valid field and has some researchers and courses of study that focus specifically on technological and scientific developments. It would certainly be quite reasonable for influential software and hardware to end up being studied here, same as any other relevant developments from fire and cave-painting to the present.

CS, though, seems like an odd place to roll out history beyond the level of name-checking discovers of algorithms and the like. Much of what is historically influential is either excessively bound to its time(writing a functional business software package in assembly may be impressive; but learning that somebody did so probably won't teach you much about modern software design or even be terribly efficient at teaching the architecture they wrote it for), or sufficiently timeless as to make its historical details a matter of politeness; but not really relevance(it is a polite convention to credit the discoverer of an algorithm or the originator of a concept; but the result stands by itself).

If anything, the expectation that 'Computer Science' would include a dose of history suggests the influence of the fairly lousy state of science education(at least among people not directly on a science track): much lower level 'Science' curriculum is heavily larded with pure history because the present state of the art is too complex or fast moving(and, unfortunately, often because even the historical science is considered too mathematically intimidating and so is taught as historical anecdote instead).

Re:Why would CS study history? (3, Insightful)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710343)

I'll beg to disagree with the idea that history is irrelevant to CS. Protocols, and practices, did not eveolve in a vacuum. Knowledge of how early principles were derived, and why we've migrated to newer approaches, is critical to understanding ongoing changes in a field. Moore's law, for example, led us from extremely limited command line interfaces to today's sophisticated GUI's. But understanding the original command line interfaces is vital to seeing _why_ modern tools aren't all in XML with back end databases.

Don't forget (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710271)

Leisure Suit Larry

You are ALL wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710287)

Early? Influential? Deserving acclaim?

Lady Ada Lovelace's algorithms. That one was easy.

Under-appreciated (5, Interesting)

descubes (35093) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710297)

Microsoft BASIC and later Visual Basic: Unjustly despised, but introduced many to programming (and the very first ones were marvels of micro-programming too). Also interestingly portable at a time where portability was on nobody's radar.

Spectre GCR, a Mac emulator on Atari ST. A precursor of virtualization in my opinion, and a very smartly done one at that.

VMware for making virtualization available to the masses and enabling the cloud.

AmigaDOS for being the first OS with built-in hardware-accelerated graphics and sound.

The RPL system in the HP28 and HP48 series of calculator. Reverse Polish Lisp and symbolic processing on a 4-bit calculator with 4K of RAM? Seriously?

The Minitel system in France, including nationwide phone directory and dubious innovations such as Minitel Rose (porn in text mode at 1200bps, basically).

Postscript and the whole desktop publishing revolution.

NeXTStep (or whatever the CorRect CapItalizATION is), so far ahead of its time that it took years for it to reach its full potential in the form of iOS.

GeOS (already mentioned by someone else)

Mathematica. Just wow. But also forgotten precursors such as TK! Solver.

Lisp, Fortran, Algol, Pascal, Ada, Eiffel, Smalltalk and a whole bunch of under-utilized languages.

Much lower on the name recognition scale, Alpha Waves [wordpress.com] , arguably one of the earliest real 3D games, which also influenced the creation of Alone in the Dark.

Games? (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710317)

Colossal Cave Adventure
Space Invaders
Sargon chess
Leaderboard Golf

Lisp 1.5 (4, Insightful)

rmstar (114746) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710319)

Lisp 1.5 [softwarepreservation.org] was the first widely distributed Lisp sytem (and it includied an interpreter AND a compiler). Many people have completely forgotten about it, but among its contributions were to pioneer dynamic programming languages (as are ruby, python, etc, etc) AND garbage collecting. And many other things. It was staggeringly innovative.

C, C-Kermit, and HTML (3, Informative)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710327)

Learn C to learn how things really work for the last few decades in the kernel and library spaces, learn the original specs of HTML to understand what Hypertext was really for, and learn C-Kermit to learn what configuraiton and control over a limited interface really means.

The Clipboard (4, Insightful)

gilgongo (57446) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710345)

Not so much software as software tool, but if you're looking for the most influential and important thing in software, the clipboard probably wins hands down. Without it, most of the web would not exist, for one thing.
It also has the distinction of being invisible - out doesn't even feed back. Nothing comes close to it for ubiquitous power and influence.

UCSD Pascal and FORTH (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710357)

I'd add UCSD Pascal. It was a Pascal "operating system" that ran on the Apple II and compiled to a "p-code" virtual machine. I don't think it was technologically the first virtual machine, but it was the first one most of us had ever encountered.

FORTH was another important contribution that compiled into a sort of intermediate machine code. It was cool because it was very tiny (a few K) and it let the user build very powerful "words" interactively. FORTH is still around today!

Both UCSD Pascal and FORTH were efforts to synthesize more powerful machines from the 8 bit processors that were commonly available in the 70's.

Re:UCSD Pascal and FORTH (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710479)

I'd add UCSD Pascal. It was a Pascal "operating system" that ran on the Apple II and compiled to a "p-code" virtual machine.

Not just appleII but more or less any p-code compatible machine. Just like Java, it never lived up to its hype so if you wrote it on a A2 it was not as hard as porting assembly but not as easy as simply transferring the p-code and running.

A similar idea is the zcode that infocom adventures were written in... zork1.dat is bit for bit identical across any zcode interpreter, no matter if trs80, apple, or modern frotz.

I'd nominate "Adventure" as a prototypical text adventure.

Wordstar on a Cromemco Z2-D (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710383)

Wordstar was a revolution towards the end of the CP/M days.

On screen help menus, and every function was tied to a ctrl- key sequence.

NC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710387)

Norton Commander

Android Nim (1)

uweg (638726) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710395)

and Electric Pencil.....

He missed the point... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710427)

He's asking the wrong question. Why do Computer Science programs teach about algorithms and programming, but miss the big picture -- the Internet? Computer Science programs aren't much different now than they were 20 years ago, except for the preferred languages. What good are those courses when they don't teach you how to code concurrently, securely, or for multi-tier client/server functionality? Why aren't Computer Science majors coming out ready to design, implement, and develop on a global scale? Business majors graduate with an understanding of what it takes to build a business in today's markets. Architects and engineers graduate with an understanding of what it takes to design and create things in today's world. Computer Science majors graduate without a firm understanding of how to code properly in today's world.

As you can tell, as a Computer Science graduate myself, I'm convinced that much of the Computer Science program is a waste of time. But at least they don't waste time studying and learning about antiquated software. It didn't "fall between the cracks," as he put it. It's ancient history, and no longer relevant.

SPICE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710437)

The SPICE program made most other software possible on later computers.

Early software (2)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710439)

Wizardry on the Apple ][

Directory Opus on the Amiga

TUTOR (MOOC's, take note!) (3, Informative)

theodp (442580) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710443)

TUTOR [wikipedia.org] (also known as PLATO Author Language) is a programming language developed for use on the PLATO system at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign around 1965. TUTOR was initially designed by Paul Tenczar for use in computer assisted instruction (CAI) and computer managed instruction (CMI) (in computer programs called "lessons") and has many features for that purpose. For example, TUTOR has powerful answer-parsing and answer-judging commands, graphics, and features to simplify handling student records and statistics by instructors. TUTOR's flexibility, in combination with PLATO's computational power (running on what was considered a supercomputer in 1972), also made it suitable for the creation of many non-educational lessons - that is, games - including flight simulators, war games, dungeon style multiplayer role-playing games, card games, word games, and Medical lesson games such as Bugs and Drugs (BND).

1994 Message from CS Prof Daniel Sleator to Tim Berners-Lee [archive.org] : It would be possible for one person to write a new game (such as double bughouse chess) without having to write a half dozen graphics interfaces. Many really cool things change from being impossible to being quite feasible. (The PLATO system developed in the 70s at the University of Illinois had some of these properties: simple graphics available to all users, fast interaction among a large pool of users. The result was the development of a number of very popular and engrossing interactive games.)

how to make a 20-something's eye roll (1)

peter303 (12292) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710445)

Tell them stories about punch cards.

"Jumpman" (c64), Archon, & "Barbarian" (Amiga) (2)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710453)

Jumpman: set the standard for 'playability' & 'fun'. I remember making fun of it when I saw the underwhelming graphics, but it had me hooked the first time I played it. Truly, one of the best games ever. Decades later, it's STILL playable

Archon: what can I say? It started where chess left off, hit the ground running, and just *oozed* "epic win" for concept & gameplay.

Barbarian: the game that INVENTED the concept of a "fatality" move

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4Ii_YfJNvw&feature=youtube_gdata_player [youtube.com]

Do I reallyhave to say it? (2)

Jeff Stone (2825651) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710455)

Quake. Then Quake 3.

As an animator (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#42710459)

It's all but been forgotten but Playmation, it later became Animation Master, got me started in CG animation. It wasn't the first animation software but it was the first to run high end code on consumer level machines. I started using it in the early 90s on an old 386sx notebook with 4 meg of ram. At a time when other lower end softwares had barely gotten above chrome balls it was starting to do character animation. After the Animation Master upgrade things got real interesting. A friend had gotten into Lightwave back when it was still bundled with an Amiga board. He claimed Lightwave could do anything Animation Master could do and proposed a weekly competition. I was busy that week and didn't have time to build and rig a model so in an hour I too a stock character and quickly did a shot of a character doing a back flip and a bow. I felt guilty since I didn't do the model myself due to time. Well he proudly showed me a crude landscape rotation. The model was extremely low res and half the polygons were flipped. Well then I ran my shot. His jaw dropped. I apologized for not having time to model anything. It really didn't make any difference because the point was proved since Lightwave couldn't begin to do what I had quickly thrown together. Needless to say it was the end of our weekly exchange of animations. Much has changed but 20+ years ago but Playmation/Animation Master showed what was going to be possible. Years before Toy Story I had the thought of doing an animated feature with Animation Master. What made it impossible wasn't the software it was the state of current technology at the time. That was the age of 40 meg hard drives and there was no easy way to output the film. I even considered saving it shot by shot on floppy disk and shooting it off a monitor onto film. Not too unlike how the first animations were transferred to film but it was still going to cost hundreds of thousands and take many years to finish. The whole point is it would have been possible software wise with Animation Master and it did give me a start. Many softwares have been forgotten over the years like D-Paint and Aldus Photostyler. They all had their issues but they got us started back at a time when hardware was more of the restricting factor than software was.
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