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.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Opera 47.0.2631.83 - High-performance We...
Opera is a fast and secure browser trusted by millions of users. With the intuitive interface, Speed Dial and visual bookmarks for organizing favorite sites, news feature with fresh, relevant content... Read more
Vivaldi 1.12.955.36 - An advanced browse...
Vivaldi is a browser for our friends. In 1994, two programmers started working on a web browser. Our idea was to make a really fast browser, capable of running on limited hardware, keeping in mind... Read more
Apple Configurator 2.5 - Configure and d...
Apple Configurator makes it easy to deploy iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Apple TV devices in your school or business. Use Apple Configurator to quickly configure large numbers of devices connected to... Read more
Smultron 10.0 - Easy-to-use, powerful te...
Smultron 10 is an elegant and powerful text editor that is easy to use. You can use Smultron 10 to create or edit any text document. Everything from a web page, a note or a script to any single piece... Read more
BetterTouchTool 2.304 - Customize multi-...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
Drive Genius 5.0.5 - $49.50 (50% off)
Drive Genius features a comprehensive Malware Scan. Automate your malware protection. Protect your investment from any threat. The Malware Scan is part of the automated DrivePulse utility. DrivePulse... Read more
Apple Keynote 7.3 - Apple's present...
Easily create gorgeous presentations with the all-new Keynote, featuring powerful yet easy-to-use tools and dazzling effects that will make you a very hard act to follow. The Theme Chooser lets you... Read more
Apple Numbers 4.3 - Apple's spreads...
With Apple Numbers, sophisticated spreadsheets are just the start. The whole sheet is your canvas. Just add dramatic interactive charts, tables, and images that paint a revealing picture of your data... Read more
Apple Pages 6.3 - Apple's word proc...
Apple Pages is a powerful word processor that gives you everything you need to create documents that look beautiful. And read beautifully. It lets you work seamlessly between Mac and iOS devices, and... Read more
Smultron 9.4.2 - Easy-to-use, powerful t...
Smultron 9 is an elegant and powerful text editor that is easy to use. Use it to create or edit any text document. Everything from a web page, a note or a script to any single piece of text or code.... Read more

Egg, Inc. guide - how to build your gold...
Egg, Inc.'s been around for some time now, but don't you believe for one second that this quirky clicker game has gone out of style. The game keeps popping up on Reddit and other community forums thanks to the outlandish gameplay (plus, the... | Read more »
The best deals on the App Store this wee...
Good news, everyone! Your favorite day of the week has arrived at last -- it's discount roundup day! This fine Wednesday evening we're gathering up the hottest deals on the App Store. We've got action platformers, we've got puzzle games, we've got... | Read more »
Morphite (Games)
Morphite 1.08 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $7.99, Version: 1.08 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Fitness AR (Healthcare & Fitness)
Fitness AR 0.1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Healthcare & Fitness Price: $2.99, Version: 0.1.1 (iTunes) Description: Explore your Strava bike rides and runs in augmented reality. A beautiful 3D terrain map, powered by Mapbox... | Read more »
ARise (Games)
ARise 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: **ARKit only Puzzle game****Chapter 1 available now - More worlds coming soon!** ARise is an experience about perspective. Using the AR... | Read more »
The best games to play while you wait fo...
SteamWorld Dig 2 is out this week on PC and Switch, and people are understandably excited. This clever series by Image and Form combines our favorite metroidvania mechanics with an esquisite universe, excellent storytelling, and true wit. While... | Read more »
Drag'n'Boom beginner's gu...
Have you ever wanted to burn and pillage a village as a bloodthirsty dragon? If you answered yes to that question, Drag'n'Boom offers you the perfect chance to do so, casting you as an adorable little dragon that wants to set humankind aflame. It... | Read more »
Thimbleweed Park (Games)
Thimbleweed Park 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: A brand new adventure game from Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, creators of the classics Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion!... | Read more »
The best simulation games on mobile
There's nothing like a good sim -- from the seemingly ridiculous to the incredibly mundane, you can be there's a simulation game out there for your every whim. [Read more] | Read more »
INKS guide - how to create works of pinb...
INKS puts a clever new spin on everyone's favorite classic arcade game, pinball. The core mechanics are the same -- keep a little ball pinging around the board for as long as possible without letting it fall into the precarious holes in the board.... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple restocks Certified Refurbished 13-inch...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $719 and 2016 models available starting at $809. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is... Read more
Is iPhone X Really The Future Of The Smartpho...
Should iPhone X even be called a telephone? It does of course support telephony and texting, but its main feature set is oriented to other things. It is also debatable whether it makes any rational... Read more
OtterBox Announces Full Case Lineup for iPhon...
Apple revolutionized the smartphone industry 10 years ago with the original iPhone, and OtterBox has set the standard of protection from the very beginning by protecting every generation of iPhone.... Read more
LifeProof Introduces What’s NEXT Cases for iP...
LifeProof built its reputation on sleek, ultra-protective iPhone cases. From 360-degree coverage to the first screenless waterproof case, the protection pioneer has always pushed the limits.... Read more
Apple Refurbished 2016 15-inch MacBook Pros a...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros available starting at $1949. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: – 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar Space... Read more
Wednesday deal: 15-inch MacBook Pros for up t...
B&H Photo has 2017 15″ MacBook Pros on sale for $150-$200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 15″ 2.8GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray: $2199, $200 off MSRP... Read more
2.6GHz Mac mini on sale for $599, $100 off MS...
B&H Photo has the 2.6GHz Mac mini (MGEN2LL/A) on sale for $599 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Snag a 15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro, App...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros available for $1699. That’s $300 off original MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for a 15″ MacBook Pro currently offered by... Read more
Apple Refurbished 3TB Time Capsule for $279,...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 3TB Time Capsules available for $279 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is $120 off MSRP. Read more
19% off Smart Battery Cases for iPhone 7
Amazon has both Black and White Smart Battery Cases for iPhone 7s available for $80.41 including free shipping. Their price is $18.59, or 19%, off MSRP. Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Store - Technical Specialist - Apple...
…customers purchase our products, you're the one who helps them get more out of their new Apple technology. Your day in the Apple Store is filled with a range of Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* News Product Marketing Mgr., Publish...
Job Summary The Apple News Product Marketing Manager will work closely with a cross-functional group to assist in defining and marketing new features and services. Read more
Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple Inc. (U...
…about helping others on a team while also delighting customers? As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC), you will discover customers needs and help connect them Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.