The first time I was upset about an operating-system upgrade was in 1984. PRIMOS had a minor version upgrade to 19.2 and whilst I had retrospectively complained about the change from 18 to 19, that didn’t actually affect me. This change from 19.0 to 19.2 was a disaster because things I had written and hacks I had come up with no longer worked properly. I was cross and in my head I was right and they were wrong. I was also a 16 year old boy at a technical college in Accrington and I doubt very much that PRIME cared about what I thought.
A few years later, this time at University, I was upset about the major VMS 5 release. I hated it. Everything changed, old things didn’t work – What were they doing! Didn’t they listen to their users at all? Didn’t they care what I thought? Apparently no. Digital cared little for the thoughts of a 20 year lad at a redbrick university in Leeds.
By 2002 I was somewhat more (self?)important. I was one of the most influential people in the VMS World of the European user-group DECUS and also closely involved with the RSX/PDP-11 group. Digital would finally listen to what I said! In my dreams… Course they wouldn’t. Not only did nothing we ever say to them influence anything they did they also sent my company that sold legacy PDP11-73s bust by releasing the 11-83 with zero warning to the people who should have known first.
And now Microsoft. I started with Windows 1 and every upgrade seemed much better until the day that Windows 3.11 changed to Windows 95 which in my mind was the biggest disaster Microsoft ever made – I was wrong of course because eventually out of that came NT4 and then Vista, the pinnacle of Windows Operating Systems (listen, I am right on this one, and you are wrong, ok?). The latest OS Windows 8 has been released to an apparent barrage of hatred and revulsion from the unwashed masses. But why?
One thing I have learned in the last 30 years is that stopping progress is pretty pointless, however much my ego may say I am right I have to admit that in the long term I rarely am. PRIMOS turned into a pretty good operating system without my help. VMS, surprisingly, went from strength to strength and retired happy and well respected and I have tried using Windows 3.11 and Netscape 1.2 recently but frankly, I have to admit that they are a bit shit compared to what they turned into. Nostalgia is fun and all that, but progress can be pretty cool too.
With all that in mind I was wondering about the backlash about Windows 8. There is no point reading articles by journalists because they know bugger-all – The Doctor Dobbs types of the 70s and 80s have long gone and the modern IT journalist graduated writing-school and makes a living writing about things they know very little about and have no experience of at all. I have been paid to work with Windows since 1986, I have deployed and built literally millions of Windows based systems and I’d like to think I know a little bit more about it than they do.
Is Windows 8 evil? It’s not very intuitive to us old mouse and keyboard users – The start menu button is missing but then again, when they moved from 3.11 to 95 they removed the start-group. This put me off for a while and I refused to change from 7 to 8 until I was forced to by hardware issues – Now I am actually starting to quite like it. If you actually use Windows 8 as an oldy-timey Keyboard user for a while, you will discover that typing things like “programs a…” into the vile new menu pops up “Programs and Features” much faster than the old start-menu ever did. People who are installing start-menu tools like Start8 are actually crippling their Windows 8 and then complaining about it being crap. They are not even giving it a chance. There are a whole raft of keyboard shortcuts to make things really quick for keyboard users and if you can be bothered to spend 20 minutes learning them they make life pretty good. The changes in 8.1 allow us luddites (and people without touch screens) to switch back to a desktop interface semi-permanently which is a nice thing.
The journalists are telling us that nobody wants this new interface and why should MS force people to change their work habits to suit a new OS – Well maybe they don’t want it this year, but when people want it next year or the year after then where would MS be unless they got us used to it in the first place? They are meant to be an innovation company not a legacy company. Sales are bad, that’s obvious from the figures but are sales really just bad because the manufacturers are listening to the endless drivel on the Internet from people who just complain about everything anyway and journalists who realise that there is no story in saying “Actually… Windows 8 aint that bad”.
Well – Actually… Windows 8 aint that bad.