TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Priesthood
Volume Number:11
Issue Number:1
Column Tag:Inside Info

It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Like This

The people lost. The priesthood won.

By Chris Espinosa, Apple Computer, MacTech Magazine Regular Contributor

My introduction to computers was back in the days of timesharing, when the closest I got to an actual computer was a Teletype® terminal at the other end of a 110-baud modem from an HP 2000-series minicomputer running BASIC. When I saw my first Altair, IMSAI, and Apple I computers, and saw that I could have a whole computer to myself, it seemed like the best possible way to do computing: take away the wires, connections, logins, system builds, IPLs, and layers of software isolating me from the thing that did the computing.

One of the most important books I read in those days was called Computer Lib, written by the hypertext visionary Ted Nelson. The topic (if a book composed of clippings, hand drawings, old photos, illustrations copied from Wizard of Oz books, and other flotsam could have a topic) was that computing was a democratic force; that smaller, cheaper computers could have an effect on technological society like the Colt .45 had on the society of the West; and that it was possible - and necessary - for non-technologists to understand computers now.

The combination of Nelson’s subversive ideas and the power of the personal computer were a volatile combination. A lot of people in the early days of personal computing had strong anti-government, libertarian, individualist ethics. The early hacker movement was motivated by the same sentiments. And of course, a lot of these people were entrepreneurs too. Some were corporate refugees, some classic go-getter small businessmen, and others (like Steve Wozniak) just people with good ideas told by others that they should build a few of their boxes and sell them.

If there was an enemy working against the democratic force, it was The Computer Priesthood. This ringing phrase from Computer Lib encompassed all the bureaucrats, technocrats, stuffed shirts, corporate types, and gatekeepers who Kept People Away From Computers. Nelson printed urban folk legends about high schoolers tweaking them. Crackers broke into their systems and annoyed them. And the entrepreneurs of the personal computer movement built an industry with the specific purpose to take the power away from them and distribute it to the people.

Well, the people lost. The priesthood won.

They won in that the personal computer industry is controlled by and dominated by the influence of people who value complexity. The culture of problem-solvers, who revel in complexity that makes them needed, won out over the culture of simplifiers, who try to eliminate complexity and move on to other things.

The problem-solvers were institutionalized in the mainframe and minicomputer installations, and originally rejected personal computers because they were “toys.” The damning trait of toys is not that they’re not useful, but that toys don’t require system administrators, and help desks, and technical support, and training, and repair, and reviews, and seminars, and the rest of the multi-billion-dollar decision making infrastructure that was already in place in the mainframe and mini markets. Because Altairs, IMSAIs, and Apple IIs didn’t need any of these, they were not worth paying attention to.

Then came DOS, VisiCalc, and Novell. When individual personal computers streamed into business, education, and government in enough quantities to really be useful, the infrastructure latched onto the place where it found it could add the most value. And that was the incomprehensibility of the operating system to the mere mortal. Ordinary people could understand spreadsheets and word processors, and could make a purchase decision, learn to use one, and get work done. But OSs, system configuration, IRQs, DIP switches, CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files got beyond the ken of the ordinary computer user. Users didn’t need the OS or understand why it was there - but they were convinced that they needed someone to manage it for them, and the priesthood could live.

If you’re in the Silicon Valley you have a chance to see the priesthood up close. It’s bigger now than it ever was in the ‘70s, and it proudly coexists with the techno-laity. Metropolitan daily newspapers carry ads for IDE drives, math co-processors, and local bus adapters as if they were potatoes or toilet paper. Weekly business newspapers carry articles that give step-by-step OS tuning instructions.

This is madness! There are a lot of other contemporary, high-tech systems that have popped up in the last 50 years without this happening. Do you need to have your cellular phone reconfigured every time you want to talk to a new person? Have you seen any ads in your daily paper touting the best selection of distributor rotors, fuel pumps, and timing belts? Do you know of companies who have a 30-person help desk to help employees use the copiers and elevators?

The real tragedy of all this is that all this serves to reinforce, not defeat, the priesthood. Because we need them to help us make our current systems work, we entrust them to make decisions about the next generation of systems - and it is extremely unlikely that they will choose simple, useful, uncomplicated systems that will make them powerless and unnecessary. So they drive manufacturers to continue to develop systems in the vernacular of the priesthood. This is not out of greed or guile - it’s all they know.

Unfortunately, this spills over into areas even the priesthood doesn’t control. The current pathetic state of home computers is due to design decisions made on the business side of the house. In reality, Apple II ProDOS or the Amiga’s OS were both much more appropriate operating systems for the home than Mac or Windows. But Apple, Microsoft, Compaq, and IBM had to serve the emerging home market with a product derived from the business line - and the pundits, columnists, and IS managers dictated that those systems have support for features that home users never use. So Packard Bell bundles Windows for Workgroups with every home computer, and Apple ships a Wide Carriage LaserWriter driver on every Performa.

I’m afraid that the current generation of personal computers, and all their spawn, are hopelessly corrupted by the needs of the priesthood to perpetuate complexity. I had hope for the PDA generation, but from what I have seen of Magic Cap and Newton, they’re both ripe for layers of Corporate Purchase Requirements. The only platforms I see that are so far untouched by the pundits and IS managers are Sega and Nintendo - and I wish them well.

 
AAPL
$99.18
Apple Inc.
-1.57
MSFT
$45.90
Microsoft Corpora
-0.46
GOOG
$568.27
Google Inc.
-9.09

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Cocktail Family License (5 Macs) 7.6.1 -...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
Cocktail 8.0 Beta 2 - General maintenanc...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
QuickBooks 2015 16.0.0.1352 R1 - Financi...
QuickBooks 2015 helps you manage your business easily and efficiently. Organize your finances all in one place, track money going in and out of your business, and spot areas where you can save.... Read more
Mac DVDRipper Pro 5.0.1 - Copy, backup,...
Mac DVDRipper Pro is the DVD backup solution that lets you protect your DVDs from scratches, save your batteries by reading your movies from your hard disk, manage your collection with just a few... Read more
Apple OS X bash Update 1.0 - Fix for sec...
The OS X bash Update fixes a security flaw in the bash UNIX shell on OS X 10.9.5 (also on OS X 10.8 and 10.7 [see Related Links below]). OS X 10.9.5 or later Downloads for OS X 10.8 and OS X 10.7 in... Read more
SyncTwoFolders 2.0.5 - Syncs two user-sp...
SyncTwoFolders simply synchronizes two folders. It supports synchronization across mounted network drives and it is a possibility to run a simulation showing in a log what will be done. Please visit... Read more
FinderPop 2.5.7 - Classic Mac utility, n...
FinderPop is a Universal preference pane that extends OS X's contextual menus using a FinderPop Items folder much as the Apple Menu Items folder used to do for the Apple menu. It has other features... Read more
VueScan 9.4.45 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.2.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
calibre 2.4 - Complete e-library managem...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

iKeywi - Customizable 5-Row Keyboard (U...
iKeywi - Customizable 5-Row Keyboard 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Utilities Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Want to add an extra row to your iPhone/iPad? One of the most popular keyboard extension in iOS... | Read more »
Manage Your Cloud – Wunderlist Now Suppo...
Manage Your Cloud – Wunderlist Now Supports Dropbox Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 1st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Nexticy Review
Nexticy Review By Jennifer Allen on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: :: IDEAL FORM CREATIONiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Nexticy allows you to make your own forms for research purposes or to organize your business better. It’s... | Read more »
Tiny Troopers: Alliance Marches onto the...
Tiny Troopers: Alliance Marches onto the App Store Tomorrow Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 1st, 2014 [ permalink ] Tiny Troopers: Alliance, by Kukouri, is a | Read more »
HeroCraft Introduces Unlimited Sequel to...
HeroCraft Introduces Unlimited Sequel to WW2: Sandbox. Strategy & Tactics Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 1st, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
RGB Express Review
RGB Express Review By Jennifer Allen on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: :: DELIGHTFUL PUZZLINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Guide trucks along their delivery routes in RGB Express, a testing but charming puzzle game... | Read more »
The Sagas of Fire*Wolf (Games)
The Sagas of Fire*Wolf 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
BuggyFun Review
BuggyFun Review By Amy Solomon on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad BuggyFun allows children to create their own tracks for bugs to interact with for a unique open-ended experience.   | Read more »
Fold the Adventure Review
Fold the Adventure Review By Jennifer Allen on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: :: AWKWARD FOLDSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Fold pieces of paper to create platforms for a princely rabbit in this puzzle game; something... | Read more »
WW2: Sandbox. Strategy & Tactics (G...
WW2: Sandbox. Strategy & Tactics 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: ***NOTE: Compatible with iPhone 4s and up, iPad 2 and up - may not work properly on earlier devices... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Amazon offers 13-inch MacBook Air for $899, $...
Amazon.com has the 13″ 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air on sale for $100 off MSRP including free shipping: - 13″ 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air: $899.99 Read more
Apple resting On Its iPhone Laurels? – The ‘B...
Apple calls its new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus “The Biggest Advancements in iPhone History,” but does reality live up to the hype? “Seldom have so many waited so breathlessly for so little,” tweeted veteran... Read more
Roundup of Apple Mac and iPad Education disco...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
Apple Boycotts German Magazine Computer Bild...
Apple has revoked its PR accreditation of Germany’s Computer Bild, Europe’s best-selling PC magazine, in reaction to Bild’s posting of a “#Bentgate” YouTube video. Axel Telzerow, editor in chief of... Read more
iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus Available in Chi...
Apple has announced that iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available in China beginning Friday, October 17 from the Apple Online Store (http://www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores, and an expansive... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP, start...
Best Buy has the new 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP on their online store. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Prices valid for online orders only, in-... Read more
Apple Releases OS X Mavericks bash Update 1.0...
Apple has released a patch update for OS X Mavericks users to address the recently-detected “Shellshock” security bug in BSD UNIX’s bash shell. Apple says only a few Mac users who had manually... Read more
Pivotal Payments Ready for Apple Pay – FlexPo...
Pivotal Payments, a provider of merchant services and global payment processing solutions, has announced its proprietary FlexPoint platform will support credit and debit transactions through Apple’s... Read more
iStabilizer Announces Tabarm — First Friction...
iStabilizer, a specialist in universal lightweight compact tripods, steady cams, dollies, mounts, and remotes for smartphones, tablets, and cameras, announced today the iStabilizer tabArm, the first... Read more
IStabilizer Flex Smartphone Tripod Wins Usa T...
iStabilizer, a specialist in universal lightweight compact tripods, steady cams, and other products for smartphones, tablets, and cameras, has announced today that its iStabilizer Flex smartphone... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.