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Computer De-Evolution: Awesome Features We've Lost 662

jfruhlinger writes "If you listened to tech marketing departments, you'd believe that advances in computers have been a nonstop march upwards. But is that really true? What about all the great features early hackers had in the '70s and '80s that are now hard to find or lost forever, like clicky keyboards and customizable screen height? This article looks at much beloved features that lost the evolutionary war."
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Computer De-Evolution: Awesome Features We've Lost

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  • Not-a-concept (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elsurexiste ( 1758620 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:18PM (#36251944) Journal
    Devolution doesn't have a meaning, because evolution doesn't mean changes for the better.
    • You're right. In this case, we're simply going backwards, so we could call it regression.

      • But are we? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @01:10PM (#36252774) Journal

        But are we really going backwards?

        I mean, reading that list made me think of some old geezers complaining about how cars in their time had a big ol' crank in front, unlike these wussy cars that kids use these days.

        I mean, complex and hard to master scrollbars? Really? That's a thing to miss? Exactly what usability advantage does that have? Exactly how many new users are complaining that scrolling up and down isn't complex enough?

        Besides, what's described as totally awesome functionality lost, isn't lost at all. You can still get an outline view in Word or OpenOffice Write or whatever. Even programming IDEs have that. So exactly how the fuck is that a lost feature? The only thing "lost" is that it's no longer done by learning arcane ways to use a scrollbar.

        I mean, even the person missing them in TFA starts by basically saying that it was a pain in the butt to learn to use them. So exactly what's lost there, by doing the same thing in an easier way? The whole argument boils down to "it's bad because it's not the exact clicks I learned to use waaay back". Or in other words, "stop the world, I don't want to learn anything new ever again."

        Other arguments get fucking stupid.

        E.g., on page 3, "Steve Silberberg, software contractor and owner of Fatpacking" misses having a program called "see", which was... a hex editor. I mean, really? He's a software contractor and he doesn't know how to get a hex editor on the Internet? That is a lost feature for him?

        Just to make it clear, I'm pretty damned sure that hex editors still exist, since I even made mods for Fallout 3 with a hex editor and made a tutorial for how to do that, waay back in the days before there was an official toolkit and before even NifSkope got updated to open the new mesh files. Finding one didn't even register as something hard, much less as a feature lost forever.

        Really, what the hell is that guy even doing as a contractor, if he can't even find a hex editor? Seriously.

        Another guy on the same page is bemoaning the loss of some obscure old text-mode editor, misses TurboPascal (Delphi apparently isn't the same for him), and has been programming in NotePad until he found a port of his old favourite text-mode editor. Even the feature he mentions as missing in newer editors is actually trivial to simulate in any IDE (if nothing else, you can just copy and paste that part into another window and work there)... not to mention that if you need to specifically mark from where to where you want to edit in a source file so you don't get into other parts, you probably should have made that part a separate file in the first place. And not to mention that by using NotePad he's actually having even less features anyway.

        I'm sorry, but that's not loss of features to "devolution", that's just the kind of guy who illustrates the kind of attitude that fuels the rampant age-ism in the industry. The only "devolution" there is that he doesn't want to learn anything newer than the good old days of his using XEdit.

        Other personal whines mis-represented as features lost to "devolution" include:

        - doing the same things with different key combinations nowadays (sorry, key combinations never went away. Just the ones that guy used changed)

        - having the control key in a different position than in some guy's youth (so what? It's not like he didn't have decades already to learn the new position)

        - how in the good old days you could set some obscure variable to read program output in pages at a time (unlike, I guess, these days using "less" to read program output one page at a time, and being also able to search and go forward and back)


        Sorry, I actually went there to learn about some awesome features that we've been missing, but I don't see any. I'm just treated to a gallery of people who somehow never learned how to use new keystrokes or a new program to do the same things. Which is actually even more freaking sad than "lost features."

        • Re:But are we? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Altus ( 1034 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @01:18PM (#36252906) Homepage

          The one about the close button having migrated to be next to the min and max buttons (on the mac anyway, they were always together on windows right?) is a pretty good point. A destructive button like that should be isolated from other controls.

          But yea, a lot of the other ones I have seen in there were just crap.

          • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @01:28PM (#36253074)

            A destructive button like that should be isolated from other controls.

            Apple innovated a reset key adjacent to the Return/Enter key (Apple ][). Type, type, type, *BEEP* NOOOoooooooo!

    • de-evolution may not have a meaning, but devolution has a meaning: gradually becoming an early 80s band that wore red conical pyramid hats and liked to whip it, whip it good

    • by daeley ( 126313 )

      They tell us that we lost our tails, evolving up from little snails.
      I say it's all just wind in sails. Are we not men?

    • Evolution does mean improvement over time in the common parlance. I tried slogging through Darwin's Origin of Species. I make the distinction between evolution and natural selection. A moose might be naturally selected to grow huge antlers that the chicks dig, but gets him tied up in brush and barb wire. Pandas and koalas are naturally selected to have narrowly targeted digestive systems that expose them to starvation should the environment change drastically. Natural selection just means changes that

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by torgis ( 840592 )

      I beg to differ.

      Origin: 1535–45; ( Middle French ) Medieval Latin devolution - (stem of devolutio) a rolling down, equivalent to Latin devolut( us ) rolled down (past participle of devolvere; see devolve) + -ion-

      Not only is it a word meaning "to roll down" or "roll back" dating back almost 500 years, it can also mean to de-evolve. This is not a word has been made up recently as an opposite to evolution in the Darwinian sense.

      Sources here [] and here [].

  • by countertrolling ( 1585477 ) * on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:18PM (#36251948) Journal

    The reset switch/button!

    A real, mechanical 'off' switch, on the front of the machine, gets an honorable mention.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:20PM (#36251980)

    Not only are they still working fine, typing this on a Model M, but Unicomp still makes them. You can buy a brand new one if you want right now.

    • Yup. I have a cheap iOne Scorpius M10 at the office ($60 IIRC), and a Unicomp SpaceSaver M ($80?) at home. (I also spent the extra $5 or so to get keys labeled "Command" and "Option" to replace the Windows and Alt keys, at home.) They're pretty widely available and so, so worth it. A coworker just picked one up to replace the awful flat mushy keyboard that shipped with her HP TouchSmart 600. There's tons of information on the web about currently produced mechanical keyboards (google for "Cherry MX" switches

    • Yep, I'm using a Model M from 1984 still. I tend to pickup spares off of auction sites (I have another one in a box from the early 90s as a spare).

      It's a little depressing that my keyboard is ~27 years old.
  • by Jellodyne ( 1876378 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:25PM (#36252064)
    You miss Turbo Pascal? Commodore 64's flat, unprotected memory model? Clicky keyboards with the CTRL key where tab is now, because it's somehow impossible to hit one handed CTRL keystroke combinations with it in the lower left corner?

    Was this written by Andy Rooney's sysadmin?
    • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:32PM (#36252182)

      Well, one thing I sort of miss is the feeling of it actually being possible to truly understand the computer as a whole, those days are long gone. Back in the days of the C64 and similar machines you really could understand your computer to a point where you had more knowledge about it than was in the reference manuals for the various components it was made up from.

      Today most of your computer, both hardware and software, is a black box with layer upon layer of abstraction. It's more powerful and easier to program but large parts will always remain unknown, there is simply too much you'd need to know with an operating system several gigabytes in size and single hardware components more complex than entire computers in the era of the C64.

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      You just remap Ctrl over Capslock and be done with it. Even the Model M has Ctrl in the wrong place.

    • by maxume ( 22995 )

      Andy Rooney's sysadmin manages the card catalog at a library that refuses to computerize.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @01:06PM (#36252714) Homepage Journal

      Turbo Pascal was actually a very good programing system. It had a huge libary of tools and and a big comunity. The early version where also dirt cheap. At a time when a Basic compiler cost $500 you could buy TuboPascal for well under $100.
      This was before GCC and the internet.
      Thing is that if you miss TurboPascal just get FreePascal.
      The C64 was just plain fun. It was also a great place for an "educated" amateur to shine. The local BBS was getting slow when people where logging on. It also was going to run out of space for new users. I suggested to the hacker group that ran it to move to relative files and a hash table in place of the seq file they where using. I got a lot of credit for being brillant when I showed them how to do a simple hash.

    • Turbo Pascal rocked!

      It wasn't my first language, but it was the first language that I used while writing structured programs and really understood what I was doing. I had done lots of BASIC and PILOT programming earlier, but it was always top-down and heavily laced with GOTO statements. I had done structured programming in CoBOL and RPG in high school, but my programs were always modifications of the programs in the textbooks that I somehow got to work, despite the fact that I didn't really get the con
  • by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:26PM (#36252076)

    The original Amiga had a keyboard garage: the machine itself was raise a little off the desk, just enough for the keyboard to slide underneath it.

    I loved every single thing about that computer. The Amiga 1200 was fine too. The Amiga 500 was great, but Commodore made their first big design snafu there - they put the Zorro expansion slot on the wrong side of the computer and upside down, so you couldn't use Amiga 1000 peripherals without also flipping them upside down.

    (Still not as bad as the "PCMCIA" slot on the A600.)

    Other things I miss: TUIs like Project Oberon and Symbolics Lisp. Hell, Lisp in general is now such a niche it's sad. "Real" Unix - lots of little programs that do one thing and do them well. cat -n considered harmful and all that.

    Sorry Dimwit - please don't DCMA me bro...

    • A friend of mine bought the appropriate card edge connectors and put a Zorro II slot on the side of his A500 to run an A2000 SCSI/memory board. He said he always hoped someone would ask him to add a toaster to a 500 because he thought he could add the video port, but it never happened.

      I have an A1200 I was supposed to send to someone but I never found a box for it because I'm lazy.

  • What I miss most... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Craig Maloney ( 1104 ) * on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:27PM (#36252086) Homepage

    Readable websites that don't have inline ads in them, unlike the article linked.

  • Loss of features? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:30PM (#36252150)

    Look at the mobile space, being touted (rightly, IMO) as the next great growth space in computing. The fundamental advantage we've had in computing up to this point is actively being attacked with walled gardens.

    • Look at the mobile space [...] The fundamental advantage we've had in computing up to this point is actively being attacked with walled gardens.

      What walled garden? If you have an Android-powered device, and you didn't buy it from the AT&T store, you can turn on "Unknown sources" and install any program you want, just like every other PDA since the PalmPilot.

  • screen height: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <> on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:31PM (#36252174) Homepage Journal

    the greatest work station epiphany i recently had involved turning my 9:16 monitor 90 degrees

    great for reading code and long articles

    unless the article is stretched out in little snippets over a number of pages, like the article this story links to. i hate that. and apparently its for advertising purposes. how are advertising purposes served by chasing me away from finishing the article?

  • Turbo power (Score:4, Funny)

    by incognito84 ( 903401 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:34PM (#36252220)
    Bring back the Turbo button!
    • I was just going to say the same thing. PC running too slow? Just hit the Turbo button and marvel at the instant power.

    • Re:Turbo power (Score:5, Informative)

      by Yaztromo ( 655250 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @02:51PM (#36254220) Homepage Journal

      Bring back the Turbo button!

      It wins the prize for the most misnamed button ever. It's purpose was never to make your computer "go faster"; the "turbo" speed was your computers native speed. It's sole purpose was to make the computer go slower, to be more compatible with software that used timing loops that assumed a fixed instruction processing rate.

      Unfortunately, it wasn't good marketing to advertise a feature that made your computer function even slower than it already was, so instead someone came up with flipping its purpose, and making it sound like you were getting more performance with the flick of a switch.


  • by CharlyFoxtrot ( 1607527 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:35PM (#36252234)

    "I really miss the 'clicky' IBM Model M keyboards from the mid and late '80"

    You can still get these

    "which could kill an accidentally triggered program, along with the Unix Control-C and kill -9 for command line Unix. I'm not sure if anything exists that can do that as quickly at the GUI level. "

    Right-click & "force quit" using OSX' dock, or CMD-q

    "XEDIT had the ability to restrict the file to a part, and have all editing commands, such as 'go to top/search and replace/select to bottom,' only work on that part of the file."

    Use Jedit.

    "This let me write macros that were globally available."

    Services in OSX.

    "Almost 30 years ago, there was a "see" program for the IBM PC -- I don't recall whether it was a .com or .exe file -- that allowed users to view, search and subsequently edit the bytes comprising executable images."

    It's called a hex editor, there thousands of 'em.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      And FreePascal as a replacement for TurboPascal

    • As someone who's rapidly joining the category of "old people", yeah, this is just whining because they didn't keep up. It wasn't any better back in the old days, they were better. At those specific tasks, anyway--who knows, maybe they know lots of more important stuff now, but one of them apparently isn't realizing that "the good old days" is an illusion.

    • No kidding (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @01:43PM (#36253332)

      As you say, you can get clickey keyboards. Das Keyboard is an example. Most people just don't want them. Light press keyboards are not only quieter, but they are more ergonomic.

      Along those lines, you want a keyboard with programmability or function keys on the left? Logitech. Most of their G series keyboards have that and range from $100-200 and are extremely high quality.

      The scroll bar crap? Sounds like the "In my day shit was hard and we LIKED IT!" If they were "very complex scrollbars that took a while to master" they were not good because it shouldn't take a fucking post graduate education to use a computer. Also I can't see anything he's describing that matters for it in the slightest. Scrolling text is real easy on today's computers, particularly with scroll wheels.

      And paging through? Spacebar dipshit. Firefox, Acrobat, will page when you press it. Also there are these little keys called "page up" and "page down". Wonder what THEY do?

      The flat memory model is perhaps the stupidest of all. "Oh I miss when computers just let me write to whatever memory I wanted!" I don't, because they were easy as hell to bring down. If you are a programmer and you don't appreciate the reason and function of a protected memory model, I really don't want you writing software for me. Flat memory was a major problem, it was done because it is simple to implement, not because it is a good way of doing things.

      The see thing is also hilarious. As you note, it is called a hex editor. More hilarious is that most text editors more powerful than notepad have one built in. If you open a binary file they just automatically go to hex mode. Even more hilarious is that there's better tools now for that kind of thing. Because of the greater structure to executables in modern OSes, you can get tools that can better view and edit the resources separate from the code.

      Like you said, just old people whining. "Things are different than they used to be!" Yes, yes they are. Deal with it.

  • by hellfire ( 86129 ) <deviladv&gmail,com> on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:36PM (#36252248) Homepage

    From TFA:

    "What I miss most are keyboards that have some 'omph' to them, and software that makes use of keyboard shortcuts. I really miss the 'clicky' IBM Model M keyboards from the mid and late '80s, for instance. I can type 150+ words per minute and I can move my fingers across a keyboard faster than I can move my hand to a mouse, move the cursor, click, and put my fingers back on the keyboard. I really really really miss customizable keyboard shortcuts."

    WHAT???? You have keyboard shortcuts now, windows has the Windows button and the alt key! For both Windows and Mac you have a ton of shortcut apps that give you access to keyboard shortcuts. Apps that take shortened text you type frequently and expands it to a long word. They are all there, they just moved to third party apps. This Eric Loyd is a dipshit if he misses keyboard shortcuts... go buy a $2 app that gives them back to you you idiot!


    ""The main feature I miss on today's keyboards is having FUNCTION keys (F1, F2, etc) on the left of the main key area, and a CONTROL key in the middle of the left-side column of keys (so it goes from top to bottom: ~/TAB/CTRL/SHIFT/ALT). There are a number of CTRL+F-key and ALT+F-key combinations that can quickly and easily done with one hand in this configuration without looking"

    I agree the layout of the keyboard in this instance is good, but if you have fully customizable shortcuts at your command thru any number of apps, design something that makes sense to you. Don't assign your shortcut to Alt-F12 if you need two hands and want one hand. Undo/cut/copy/paste were brilliantly designed, take a lesson from that and design the same keyboard shortcut for yourself.

    "There is a programmable keyboard available -- the CVT Avant Stellar,"

    Ah fuck me it's a slashvertisement.

    "what he misses is the convenience of DOS's CONTROL-C and CONTROL-Q which could kill an accidentally triggered program, along with the Unix Control-C and kill -9 for command line Unix. I'm not sure if anything exists that can do that as quickly at the GUI level."

    I can agree with this, a keyboard in general is the fastest input device we have, but this is a clever deception, trying to say that just because a GUI is slower it's not evolving. Not true. Once you know what you are doing, and have to perform a repetitive task, a keyboard is always faster. A GUI, however, is always easier if you don't necessarily know what you are looking for or know what you are doing. Remember images and motions towards and area of the screen is easier for a lot of people, rather than trying to remember to put a -9 after the kill, or remembering what grep, awk, and cron do. If you have to look up a command every few minutes, it's not faster, and if you can remember the action faster to do what you want, for you it's faster. GUIs opened up the world of computing to many more people, and that's a fact, because it was easier to remember and perform the tasks they wanted to perform.

    "The CMU Andrew Toolkit had very complex scrollbars that took a while to master,"

    Stop right there, everything in this paragraph is invalidated by the fact that thos was "complex" and "took a while to master." A GUI is supposed to make things simpler, because not everyone has time to master complex scroll bars. If it takes me a half hour to figure out scrolling in a GUI, it's not necessarily faster when all I have to do is scan down a page looking for a simple paragraph. Complex is not necessarily evolution, and making something simplified is not necessary a regression. Simplicity could speed everyone up as a whole.

    The article then degenerates into a bunch of technobabble about a bunch of features developers use to have, but just about every one of them has a modern equivalent they could get by just finding and downloading third party software, most which is probably free. Sure, notepad sucks, notepad is not meant to be an advanced text editor! How long did it take you to figure that

  • This is stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kral_Blbec ( 1201285 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:38PM (#36252266)
    It's nothing more than a bunch of old farts complaining about how the old days were better, when in fact most of that they want is still available or entirely unnecessary. Keyboards for example. I for one prefer new keyboards. I hated the old clicky style, but as others have shown, they are available for those who want them. Complaining about the scroll bar and not being able to click in the window to recenter? That might have been nice... in the days before the mouse wheel.
    • PS. I especially like how they complained about grouping the close window icon with the minimize and maximize and how he "still occasionally" closes windows he wants to maximize. I don't think I have ever done that, or seen even the most incompetent user do it.
  • Not to insult those who like old-school tech, but this article really sounds like it was written by the views of a bunch of dinosaurs. On p3 someone laments the death of xedit, a non-GUI text editor with search/replace, go to top/bottom, and so on. I mean, has he never heard of Vim? I'd be intrigued to hear of any features xedit had that Vim doesn't, or you couldn't write a keybinding for in emacs (not that I delve in such magic). There's also this gem of a quote: "Whenever I read an article online, be it
  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:40PM (#36252308) Homepage Journal

    The Amiga had a RAM drive that was always the size of whatever was in it and no bigger. If you copied items to the ram drive, the drive size expanded (until you ran out of RAM), when you deleted items, the RAM drive size decreased.

    I used to run a BBS and I would initially load all the executables to the RAM disk, with the message boards saving to floppies. As long as I was only warm-booting the machine (i.e., without turning off the power), the RAM disk would stay intact, and I could boot from RAM, which made everything run lighting fast.

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      tmpfs or ramfs, depends on if you want to swap it or not.

    • The recoverable ramdisk, or RRD (typically device RAD:) was an even-cooler feature than just a growing ramdisk. It seems like there ought to be some way to implement this functionality on modern machines too, possibly requiring BIOS hacks (coreboot?)

  • by whereiswaldo ( 459052 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:40PM (#36252312) Journal

    The author of this article should try Vim - I believe you can split the screen all you want. Speaking of editors, I feel nostalgic about Speedscript, the word processor on the C64. But I sure don't miss editing in 40 columns!

    I dislike the lack of configurability of some things today, yet for those things that are configurable they're still using an Advanced options paradigm from over a decade ago so things are hard to find (Windows is actually improving in that respect). I love how far Linux has come over the years.

  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:44PM (#36252376)

    One feature I miss is a true low level format of a HDD. Now just for overwriting sectors, but for allowing the drive to rebuild its sector relocation table.

    Older SCSI drives would mark blocks as bad and relocate the data. When they got low level formatted, the bad blocks would remain bad, but the area reserved for bad blocks would be clear (since the remapped blocks would be flagged as bad and not used.) This would allow the drive to continue to be used, as when the remapped block area fills up, the drive can't do anything except report soft/hard errors.

    A true low level format also brought peace of mind -- any data on the disk before that was blanked out, and every usable sector has been tested to make sure it was readable/writable.

  • We sacrificed creativity, and some unknown possibility for the security fit for dumb majority.

  • I remember how my Amiga600 had TV Out as standard. The TV was the only monitor you could easily use for that machine if I recall correctly.

    Went to PC, a decade or so went by, and suddenly graphics cards start flaunting this incredible new innovation that would let you use your TV as a computer monitor. I was less than impressed.

    • The Commodore 1084 and 1084S monitors work fine.

    • Meh...1920x1200 on my 5+ year old computer monitor is better resolution (albeit, just barely) than even a 1080p HDTV (source []). Sure, you can get a six foot wide HDTV, but that only makes the image look more pixelated. Drop to a 720p and the difference is even more marked. I'd rather watch TV or movies on my PC than use my PC on a TV. YMMV, of course.
  • Real Power Buttons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kamiza Ikioi ( 893310 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:45PM (#36252384)

    On every single device, mobile and PC, actual power buttons are disappearing. My cellphone has a mutant mute/power, but the power only actually brings up a "What would you like to do, mute, airplane, or actually power off?" So, on a crash, take off case, pull battery. Things just aren't designed to turn off anymore. I miss that.

    • by kellyb9 ( 954229 )
      But how will the government know what you're doing if your device is turned off?
    • by ortholattice ( 175065 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @03:16PM (#36254540)
      A feature I've missed, which was on my first Gateway laptop in the mid-90s, is a potentiometer-type volume control. It was just a simple thumbwheel on the side of the laptop, like the ones on cheap transistor radios dating back to the 60s. Since it was connected to the final audio stages, it was easy to get the volume you wanted immediately, with instant feedback. Most important, if you accidentally went to an obnoxious site playing loud backgroud audio, a quick flick would lower the volume to a quiet, tolerable level or dismiss it completely (important while at work...).

      Fast-forward to around 2000, and the potentiometer was replaced with 3 buttons on the side, volume up, down, and mute. These buttons where sluggish in responding, especially if the computer was busy. I kept forgetting which was the mute when I was panicked by an obnoxious site at work. Trying all 3 wasn't useful since it took a couple of seconds to see if they worked, and looking for the low-contrast mute icon embossed in the plastic required lifting the laptop so I could see it in the light. More than once, my panicked solution was to hold down the power button for several seconds to force power-down. But those several seconds could be embarrassing. There was one point where I planned to add a physical switch to the actual speaker wires, although I never got around to that.

      Now, of course, even the volume side buttons are gone. The mute function key does work and responds quickly, but there's still that slight extra delay finding it - it's not something I use so often that it comes naturally. Usually, I just leave the computer always in mute unless there is something specific I want to listen to.

  • Or "back in the day" when Firefox had a URL bar... just sayin'
    • Speaking of Address/URL bars... I hate that I can't re-arrange Windows Vista/7's address bar in Explorer and remove the favorites completely from IE8. Granted, I don't use Windows except for work where I need to have IE open for at least part of my day... but it's enough to bug the shit out of me.

      In case you don't understand why I'd want to move the address bar (and remove the search box): []

  • Not only are clicky keyboards gone, but the keyboards themselves are going away with the advent of tablets.
  • I miss the instant boot of Apple ][ and the immediate access/modification to
    any memory location as well as the possibility to write interactively assembly
    programs with the built-in "monitor". It was a great machine to learn in detail
    how a computer works .

  • From TFA: "Closer to the hardware side of things, Heyland misses the Commodore 64's memory model. "It could overlay hardware, firmware and regular memory as needed, and had no reserved memory sections. This let me write macros that were globally available.""

    Losing this is a *bad* thing? It might make sense on a single purpose device where you know what all the code running is doing, but on a modern computer running hundreds of tasks concurrently? Seems to me it would let you write lots of other globally

  • Menu bars (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @01:08PM (#36252746) Homepage

    Sure, lots of software still has them. But Microsoft/Google/Mozilla are trying really hard to make us forget that menu bars ever existed, by replacing them with those stupid "ribbons" or with minimalist interfaces. Sure, with menus you have to sometimes hunt to find the thing you want. But with the ribbons, you still have to hunt...AND you have to try to figure out what all those little icons mean!

  • by LS ( 57954 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @01:08PM (#36252758) Homepage

    Seriously, this is a really ignorant article. Almost all the complaints are bullshit.

    PC-Write, the old DOS text processor I used to write my freelance articles with, and also PEN, a Unix screen-oriented text editor that was at BBN when I worked there, which I used for writing computer documentation and other projects -- could split the screen window as many times as I wanted (e.g., I could have five or six slices of a file showing). For editing long, complex documents, this was a great convenience. By contrast, Microsoft Word can only split the screen in two.

    VI anyone?

    I really miss the 'clicky' IBM Model M keyboards from the mid and late '80s, for instance.

    This is mass hysteria. For every fanboy that raves about their model M, there are 20 people that can't stand 5 minutes typing on these things. I tried it. Your significant other can't sleep at night, and your fingers get tired. They are old outdated pieces of shit.

    This keyboard isn't cheap, Hedtke concedes: "They were nearly $200 when CVT was making them directly, and the current Avant Stellar keyboard is around $325. But for many of us, it's more than worth it."

    You are a fucking moron if you pay $325 for this $20 dollar contraption. Don't believe the hype. The thing has a PS/2 connector for fuck sake!

    CONTROL-C and CONTROL-Q "which could kill an accidentally triggered program, along with the Unix Control-C and kill -9 for command line Unix. I'm not sure if anything exists that can do that as quickly at the GUI level.

    ctrl-c and kill -9 STILL work in *nix. You can even kill GUI apps using the command line, duh. Adding a GUI doesn't prevent you from using a terminal.

    "One, moving 'Destroy Window' -- usually indicated by a square icon with an 'X' in it -- from the opposite end of the title bar where I'd only click on it when I MEANT it, to right next to 'Iconify' and 'Maximize.'" This window control problem is now universal, according to Cattey: "It's on Windows, Linux and MacOS, as well as Solaris."

    What??? It is NOT universal. It depends on what window decorator you use. There is no "standard" for linux. Every distribution is different, and it's always configurable.

    Before there were scrollbars, command-line interfaces to Unix and DOS would paginate output and pause when the screen was full, until you requested the next screenful with the "more" command

    "more" is still there, but remember, "less" is "more".

    "As a developer, I found it very useful for when I ran scripts that produced a surprisingly large amount of output or a lot of error messages," says Franklin. "I did not need to run the command [more] over again in order to see it all. This feature has never been in another version of UNIX or Linux since."

    Umm, this actually sounds annoying as hell. There is a reason more and less are separate commands. If you REALLY wanted to have an automatic "more" command, you could write a shell wrapper. But in the end, some programs require a TTY, and having this automatic "more" functionality will break them.

    "XEDIT had the ability to restrict the file to a part, and have all editing commands, such as 'go to top/search and replace/select to bottom,' only work on that part of the file."

    Once again, VI. While not exactly the same, you can do analogous functionality in VI. And much more.

    "It could overlay hardware, firmware and regular memory as needed, and had no reserved memory sections. This let me write macros that were globally available."

    This is the dumbest comment of all. Can you imagine if modern computers were implemented this way? You'd be rebooting 10 times a day.

    When he switched to PCs, he used DOS's TSR (Terminate and Stay-Resident) feature. "Now, I'm

    • You are a fucking moron if you pay $325 for this $20 dollar contraption. Don't believe the hype. The thing has a PS/2 connector for fuck sake!

      I agree with your premise but the jab at the PS/2 connector is misplaced. You're going to want that if you want to use one of the typical legacy adapters to connect it to some other kind of system. PS/2 to USB is cheap enough, but USB to PS/2 is all but nonexistent.

      If you REALLY wanted to have an automatic "more" command, you could write a shell wrapper. But in the end, some programs require a TTY, and having this automatic "more" functionality will break them.

      this is actually something I've been expecting to see in a shell for a long time. I'm kind of amazed it isn't readily available. It does seem like you could write an easy wrapper to pipe everything to more, though; if output is less than screen s

    • I think the Slashdot editors are just trying to wind us up here...

      You're right! Let's not give them the satisf...oh, nevermind.

  • Things we've lost (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @01:17PM (#36252890) Homepage
    • File revisions
      Many early operating systems could keep several versions of a file. This was in UNIVAC EXEC-8 (now OS-2200 and still in use) in 1967. Creating a new empty file and then writing it did not make the file visible to other processes until the file was closed and committed. The new file then became the latest version, the old file became the previous version, and if a retention limit was specified and had been reached, the oldest version was deleted. UNIX/Linux/DOS/Windows pathname-based systems don't do that, and so atomic file replacement tends to be difficult, non-portable, and often not done.
    • Rings of protection
      MULTICS had better security than anything currently mainstream. The hardware supported protection rings and the OS used them usefully. Things we think of today as "middleware" and "DLLs" ran in inner security rings, not high enough to penetrate the core OS but protected from tampering by applications. Hardware support for calls to a inner ring made this fast. Most OSs today still don't do "big objects" well, things which are used by multiple processes and have state of their own, like databases and printer queues. "Big objects" tend to either have too many privileges or too few.
    • Safe, fast languages
      There's a mind-set today that a language can be either fast or safe, but not both. This is a legacy of some bad design decisions in C that were carried forward into C++. We used to have variants of Pascal suitable for systems programming. Most original Macintosh software was written in Pascal. Modula, by the time of Modula III, was powerful enough to write a whole OS. But it died when Compaq brought DEC and closed down research there.
    • Capability machines
      Another casualty of the UNIX/Linux vanilla approach to hardware. The IBM System/38 had security features which allowed fine-grained security within programs. But it was too different from everything else to become mainstream.
    • by thsths ( 31372 )

      > File revisions

      Dropbox, subversion, time machine, snapshots - it is just that we have more solutions now than back in the days, and you have to pick one.

      > Creating a new empty file and then writing it did not make the file visible to other processes until the file was closed and committed.

      Semantics - UNIX still does it that way (if you want to), Windows does not, mostly because it does not have inodes.

      > Rings of protection

      Called sandboxes nowadays. Yes, a number of systems had a more elegant impl

      • by rabtech ( 223758 )

        >> File revisions
        >Dropbox, subversion, time machine, snapshots - it is just that we have more solutions now than back in the days, and you have to pick one.

        The problem is that support isn't universal. When the OS supports it at a lower level it becomes transparent to applications. When you really think about it, most applications would benefit from a more source-control-like file metaphor. Undo/redo should be available even after you close the app, reboot, and load the document again. Redo should b

      • > File revisions

        Dropbox, subversion, time machine, snapshots - it is just that we have more solutions now than back in the days, and you have to pick one.

        Not the same thing. Version control systems are manual. They only kick in when you deliberately access the version control system.

        File versions are automatic. You get a new version every time you save a file, not the next time you commit, not at the next backup but now. And it applies system wide, not just to those key structures that have in a version control repository.

        There are some down sides:

        Directories get a bit noisy with all the revisions around. It also eats disk space, although that isn't near

      • by jonwil ( 467024 )

        Pascal has pointers and has ever since I first started programming with Turbo Pascal 6 (although whether pointers were a Borland addition or part of the language I dont know :)

    • by Alomex ( 148003 )

      Mainframes had better security than anything currently mainstream.

      There, fixed it for you.

      Linux/Windows/Mac OSX still have quite a fways to go to even approach the levels of security available in old style mainframe OSes. Let's not forget that each and everyone of these "modern" OSes were originally developed for single-user scenarios in which security was far from a pressing need.

      Even Unix which was developed as multiuser from the get go, initially assumed a trust model rather than a secure model (wall a

  • by darkwing_bmf ( 178021 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @01:29PM (#36253104)

    The boot process used to go a lot faster. There are many background programs launched at start up now and they each take a while to get warmed up.

    And shutdown used to mean flipping a switch. That was nice.

  • by stabiesoft ( 733417 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @01:48PM (#36253398) Homepage

    There was very little in his list that is gone in unix/linux. Yes, you can do alot of stuff via gui now, but most is still available from CLI. Even his key re-assignments can be done in X. Granted the key will still say caps lock, but it will do a ctrl if you remap it. I think the only thing I ever "lost" was the old rand (sometimes called ned) text editor. So I wrote a replacement so I would have it on linux. It was not that difficult to write. I think with the improvement in tools, compilers, machine speed etc, its not that hard to re-invent the old stuff fairly quickly.

  • Front Panels (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vanyel ( 28049 ) * on Thursday May 26, 2011 @02:40PM (#36254098) Journal

    It was amazing what you could tell from the pattern of lights, and they were aesthetically pleasing as well...

  • by Ant P. ( 974313 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @08:18PM (#36258232) Homepage

    In the 1990s dpi was going up, refresh rates were going up, there was actually a reason to upgrade. Now we're all stuck with the "HD" fad, probably forever. If you want a bright, high dpi screen it's limited to 5 inches or smaller. TVs get advertised as "120Hz" or "600Hz" or some marketing bullshit where the input is only capable of 60 and they just strobe the pixels 10 times per frame. Desktop screens are being sold, in the 21st century, incapable of actually displaying 24-bit colour. Dithering on a TN panel is very visible and it looks like shit.

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