Heater
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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 4:56 am

jcyr,
Sure, we all know what a personal computer is. But this thread is about personal computing, not personal computers.

What is the definition of personal computing?
Back in the dawn of time this lengthy thread opened with:

For those who have recently joined, the goal of this project is to determine
  • What led to the end of the golden age of personal computing around the turn of the century?
  • Could a suitable first programming language help ensure a second age of personal computing lasts?
Googling around I find definitions of "personal computing" like this:
Using desktop and laptop computers for personal use.
Not very helpful or even true anymore.

That definition says nothing about programming or programming languages or actually using as PC/laptop as a computer as such. Under that definition using a pc/laptop to play games, watch videos, socialize of Facebook are personal computing. Which I think is not quite the kind of activity ejolson had in mind.

Under that definition when I'm tinkering with Pi or Arduino or whatever micro-controllers and such I am not "personal computing", when I create software for my server instances in the cloud I am not "personal computing". My effort to create my own RISC V core in FPGA is not personal computing.

To my mind the golden age of personal computing ended with the death the the personal computer. Let me explain:

The Golden Age of Personal computing clearly started when we could get computers for ourselves for the first time with the creation of the micro-processor and the myriad of machines that were built with it. Machines that people owned and could do what they liked with. There was not much software around at the time so people set about learning to program and create their own. This was "personal computing".

As you know that huge diversity of personal computers died out with the arrival of the IBM PC and MSDOS/Windows. Moving to a world where one did not create ones own software or share ones creations with others. A world when the software one used was anything but personal. Down to the operating system it was owned and controlled by huge corporations.

The PC and the all dominating Windows were "Anti-Personal Computers". Not only killing off that huge diversity of the early personal computers it effectively killed off personal computing and the need/desire to acquire such skills.

The PC led the personal computing dark ages.

Which continues today. Most computers people own are now in phones, tablets, TVs etc. They are owned and controlled by mega corporations. They are anything but personal and their is little computing going on by the persons that own them.

On the bright side, thanks to Linux, the likes of the Pi and Arduino, the WEB, the world of Open Source and Free Software, there are almost certainly more people learning some programming and actually programming for themselves than ever there was during the "golden age".
Last edited by Heater on Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:00 am

Who would of guessed programming could be fun?

I just joined this forum in April and I'm on the 4 th page of top posting members. That includes being ban twice.
Last edited by John_Spikowski on Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:16 am, edited 2 times in total.

ejolson
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Re: A Second Age of Personal Computing

Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:03 am

jcyr wrote:
Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:34 pm
ejolson wrote:
Sun May 12, 2019 4:30 pm
I looked up the definition of personal computer and found SCAMP: the Special Computer APL Machine Portable.
Sure, we all know what a personal computer is. But this thread is about personal computing, not personal computers.

What is the definition of personal computing?
I also find this an interesting thread to go back and review. I suspect an attempt to define personal computing has happened a few times already. You've just inspired me to reread the thread myself.
Heater wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 4:56 am
The Golden Age of Personal computing clearly started when we could get computers for ourselves for the first time with the creation of the micro-processor and the myriad of machines that were built with it. Machines that people owned and could do what they liked with. There was not much software around at the time so people set about learning to program and create their own. This was "personal computing".
Agreed. For me an important feature of personal computing is that people write their own programs. I just came across the following invitation in the original documentation for the PET.

Image

In the context of the second age of personal computing, one of the distinctive things about the Raspberry Pi is a renewed encouragement for users to write their own programs. Without that, how can owning a computer be liberating or even personal?
Last edited by ejolson on Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:19 am, edited 7 times in total.

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:07 am

Computers are either an appliance or a toolbox. Will they ever cross paths?

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:20 am

ejolson,

That is an interesting tidbit of history.
In the context of the second age of personal computing, one of the distinctive things about the Raspberry Pi is a similar type of encouragement for users to write their own programs.
I have to take issue with your likening of that Commodore invitation to the motivation of the Pi.

Commodore there is clearly about making money. With that talk of "royalties". They clearly needed to get more software available to make their product more attractive. The end game of that is the closed source world and all it's licensing and copy protection, of corporate ownership of all software and hence our machines, of the dark ages of computing.

The Pi lives in the new world of Free and Open Source Software. Of personal creation and sharing. Of user collaboration.

Without that, how can owning a computer be liberating?
Memory in C++ is a leaky abstraction .

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:57 am

Heater wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:20 am
Commodore there is clearly about making money. With that talk of "royalties". They clearly needed to get more software available to make their product more attractive. The end game of that is the closed source world and all it's licensing and copy protection, of corporate ownership of all software and hence our machines, of the dark ages of computing.
While you were writing that post I changed the word similar to different and finally settled on renewed. You are right that the nature of the invitation for the PET owner to write software was more of a business deal than a direct promotion of computer literacy and fun. While the last line offers to send suggestions on programming techniques, the educational mission of the Raspberry Pi Foundation appears to be genuinely different.

I asked the lead developer of FidoBasic for an expert opinion, but the canine only whined, you mean there's no way to get rich quick by winning the tatami carpet challenge! What's the point of that?
Last edited by ejolson on Fri Nov 15, 2019 4:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:07 am

The open source movement seems to be to be in somewhat of a crisis presently. A lot of contributors are reaching the conclusion that it's a lot of work for little to no reward. The 'large corporations' you disdain are supporting more and more open source contributions.
It's about doing something that outlast you. Legacies don't have a price tag. They're earned.

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:21 am

I do not think that corporate-funded programmers working on open-source software is as big a problem as corporate-funded programmers not working on open-source software.
jcyr wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:46 am
I completely disagree. The IBM PC was the first personal computer with serious mass market appeal and Windows furthered that.
According to Wikipedia
Wikipedia wrote: The Commodore 64 was one of the most popular microcomputers of its era, and is the best-selling model of home computer of all time.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microcomputer

While that sounds like mass-market appeal to me, it's also true the IBM 5150 was so popular it defined what everyone now knows as the PC.

Another point of view is that the smart phone has actually created a renewed interest in computer programming. While such devices don't make very good phones, here they seem to have changed young people's perceptions about the general usefulness of understanding computer technology.
Last edited by ejolson on Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:25 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:26 am

jcyr,
Remember the Shareware idea? Worked profitably for me for about 15 years, all Windows based.
I do indeed. And your statement totally supports my analysis of the situation rather than refuting it.

If I used your sharewhere, then you wrote it. You probably distributed it as closed source. You probably expected some return, as you say it was profitable.

Meanwhile I only used it. I learned nothing from it. You did the computing (in the context of ejolsons meaning) I did not.

What was a profitable era for you would have been part of the digital dark ages for me.
The open source movement seems to be to be in somewhat of a crisis presently. A lot of contributors are reaching the conclusion that it's a lot of work for little to no reward. The 'large corporations' you disdain are supporting more and more open source contributions.
Crisis? What crisis?

I see no crisis in the Free and Open source world. On the contrary it always amazes me to find that there is more and more high quality Free and Open Source software being created every day.

Firstly I don't have a disdain for large corporations. It's hard to imagine how we would survive without the organization of such entities. That does not mean I have to approve of all the products they push out or the ethics of all their activities.

Clearly if you are a lone hacker working hard in your basement on some software project that you distribute for free and hoping to make a living from you are likely on a hiding to nothing.

That is not what FOSS is all about. I doubt it ever was. It's a myth.

More realistically other things are going on:

1) Corporations are people too you know. They have needs for software of all kinds to support their business. Often there is a commonality in the kind of software they need. So rather than develop their own in house, which is expensive, or buy it from someone, which is a risky proposition, they found out it's often a good idea if they collaborate on development and support of what they need. So we find people being employed and paid handsomely by corporations to collaborate on Free and Open Source projects.

I'm pretty sure most of the Free and Open Source code I use comes into this category. From the OS to the data bases, to the web browsers to the language compilers, etc, etc...

2) Then there is the ocean of, shall we say, hobby projects. People are not contributing to them in order to earn a living. They collaborate to get something done just for fun.
Memory in C++ is a leaky abstraction .

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:36 am

Commitment is a promise to yourself. If you fail, you have no one else to blame.

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:47 am

The IBM PC killed personal computing.

Why? Because it was such a god damn awful bad machine nobody actually wanted to program it for fun.

You see, when micro-processors and the early personal computers arrived they were amazing. For the first time in history normal humans could own a computer at home. Fantastic. There was a lot of enthusiasm for them among the young generation at the time. There were new developments, new models coming out all the time. There was great anticipation of what was to come in the future.

Then came the IBM PC. It was awful. It was a retrograde step in many ways. It was totally uninspiring. Nobody could have fun programming that pile of junk. There is a reason there was a fanatical following for the likes of the Amiga and such. All those youngsters that were into computing for fun certainly did not want an IBM PC.

BUT the IBM PC had the attention of the corporate user. What with being IBM and all. So, the only people who had an interest in creating software for the IBM PC were those looking to make money out of it by selling software to those corporate users. And of course writing software for those hapless PC users that took their work home.

With economies and scale and the networking effects in play the IBM PC and clones took over everything, the diversity of the personal computer era died off.

Personal computing was dead, until the arrival of Linux.
Memory in C++ is a leaky abstraction .

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 7:01 am

The PC could replace mini computers (Rexon, MAI Basic4, ... OS & BASIC in one) at a fraction of the cost.

BASIC didn't come on the scene with Microsoft. It already had a mature user base.

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 8:44 am

John_Spikowski ,
BASIC didn't come on the scene with Microsoft. It already had a mature user base.
Yeah. I was already 20 years old when MS BASIC came out :)

Oh, wait, not me. I'd already moved on from BASIC at that time. Having discovered the joys of ALGOL.
Memory in C++ is a leaky abstraction .

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 3:54 pm

Fact is most websites and phones run Linux/Unix. Windows is still king on the desktop not because we love Microsoft, the investment into the platform is huge.

If open source disappeared today, we would be back in the stone age.

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 4:08 pm

jcyr wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 2:54 pm
So, personal computing == programming? I find that a rather limited definition. Is an artist's use of Photoshop to illustrate, or an author's use of Word to write the next best seller, or my own use of Quicken to balance the books, not personal computing? Any interaction where one of the participants is a person is by definition personal.
While it's possible to script things in Photoshop (or at least in Gimp), the use you seem to be describing is that of a person performing a series of actions using a mouse to produce an image. It's my understanding that this is creative but manual labor. Similarly, unless the author is writing macros, the use of Word is no closer to computing than a typewriter.

Image

Gaming is another activity sometimes confused with personal computing that has no programming component.

Once one removes from discussion the uses of personal computers that more closely resemble watching television or digging a ditch, one can then focus on the meaning of personal. In my opinion something is personal only when it focuses on a single individual and what that person wants and needs. In the best case such a focus is done with the desire to satisfy those wants and needs, in the worst case to intentionally subvert them. Fortunately, distinguishing between office and personal computing is not as difficult as confusing nourishing tasty food with fast food. The difference comes in whether the food was prepared with the wants and needs of a specific person in mind or retrieved from a shelf of identical premade burgers eatable by anyone.

Unsurprisingly, when I go into a fast-food restaurant and order a cheeseburger without the cheese, extra tomato, fries no salt and bottled water, waiting for the food makes me feel almost as liberated as coding new algorithms to solve tatami challenges with the Raspberry Pi.
Last edited by ejolson on Fri Nov 15, 2019 4:57 pm, edited 9 times in total.

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 4:18 pm

Unsurprisingly, when I go into a fast-food restaurant and order a cheeseburger without the cheese, extra tomato, fries no salt and bottled water, waiting for the food makes me feel almost as liberated as coding new algorithms to solve tatami challenges with the Raspberry Pi.
Don't be fooled that you are special. They took an existing burger and redressed it.

What might be fun is order a BigMac without the bun, burgers, pickles or cheese. Extra lettus, tomatoes, onions topped off with special sauce. (BigSalad)

ejolson
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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:02 pm

John_Spikowski wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 4:18 pm
What might be fun is order a BigMac without the bun, burgers, pickles or cheese. Extra lettus, tomatoes, onions topped off with special sauce. (BigSalad)
I have a friend--a skilled software engineer not named Fido--who judges the quality of a restaurant based on whether they can prepare custom-order food that is not on the menu. This doesn't always work out the best, but since best is the enemy of good, it still results in some interesting culinary experiences.

Speaking of writing huge programs in Java that leverage multiple frameworks, doing so is only liberating if you have the technical skills to find and fix bugs in the code other people wrote when creating those frameworks. From this point of view, ScriptBasic is likely the most personal of the programming languages discussed on this forum. The design allows a single person to modify and change it to meet their individual needs each time a different programming problem is presented as a challenge.

The question remains, however, whether a cheeseburger without the burger could be even more liberating than that.

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:29 pm

ScriptBasic is likely the most personal of the programming languages discussed on this forum. The design allows a single person to modify and change it to meet their individual needs each time a different programming problem is presented as a challenge.
Yep. No commities, scheduled releases or a direction. Just a get it done BASIC with a couple of guys to keep it afloat and available.

A rock solid embeddable BASIC that prides itself on being openended.

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 7:01 pm

jcyr,

Rarely do I see so many misconceptions squeezed into a single forum post:) Let me try and disentangle it...
So, personal computing == programming? I find that a rather limited definition. Is an artist's use of Photoshop to illustrate, or an author's use of Word to write the next best seller, or my own use of Quicken to balance the books, not personal computing?
Perhaps it is a bit limited but let me turn this around:

An artist using Photoshop is likely not doing anymore computing than an artist using oil paints and canvas or rusty lumps of steel and a welder, as was the fashion for some time.

An author using Word is likely not doing any more computing than if the used pen and paper or a typewriter.

You using Quicken to balance the books are likely not... Oh wait, in that case you are actually computing something.
That's because it's what the majority of people use to personally compute in the real world
This is not true. Most users of personal computers, from old style PC's and laptops, to modern day phones and tablets are using mostly open source software. Be it the Chrome browser, the Android operating system, the software behind much of what they interact with at Facebook, Google and elsewhere. The internet in general.
Most couldn't care less about the open source...
True enough. Most people are not so embroiled in the software world that they even know the difference between Open Source and proprietary software. They just use what they can get.
...ideology...
I'm not sure what you mean by "ideology". Open Source software is driven by very practical considerations. A major one being cost. Then we can talk about other practically useful features like maintaining control of your systems, longevity of your solutions, the ability to have a say in the future of these systems, and so on.
...and prefer to pay for value
I have no issue with paying for value. That is an ever increasing incentive not to have to pay rent seeking proprietary vendors.

For example: I was reading a few days ago how many major names in graphics production were working very hard to get away from the subscription model of Adobe for their graphics creation software needs.
All this is supported by the Linux experience. Linux is king on server and cloud services where all the geeks toil, but on the desktop (or any other edge device) where normal people exist it is virtually unknown.
Unknown perhaps but not unused. A majority of people are using Chrome every day. They use Android every day. They spend hours interacting with Facebook and Google every day. There is so much Open Source software in use by the majority of "normal people" today, their world would collapse without it.
Open source, like communism, is a great idea in theory but fails in practice.
This statement flies in the face of reality.
I know Americans like to bandy the C word around a lot. But really, talk of communism is not relevant here.

Free and Open Source software is not a prescription for running the economy. It is not a prescription for organizing society. It operates totally within the framework of modern day capitalism of the western world. It plays by the rules of copyright, patent, trade mark and intellectual property we have in place.

At the end of the day it's just work published under a license. Same as Mick Mouse or Star Wars.

And, by the way, there is no sign that the idea of Open Source collaboration has failed. On the contrary it grows every day. As companies realize it's advantageous to collaborate on their software needs via the medium of open source than it is to pay though the nose for everything.

As John_Spikowski astutely observes: "If open source disappeared today, we would be back in the stone age."
Memory in C++ is a leaky abstraction .

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 9:31 pm

jcyr,
Pretty much what computing, including personal computing, is all about. Getting stuff done.
If you like. Where do we draw the line in this definition? Personally I don't think that I'm doing any personal computing when I watching videos on YouTube or chatting here with you.
Like I said, there are plenty of computer literates around cloud servers (hence Linux), not so much among Android and Chrome users. Both of which are open source projects effectively controlled by a large corporation.
Like you said, most users don't know or care if what they are using is open source or not.
GPL is about a lot more than cost.
For sure. That is one among thousands of open source licenses today.
I look at it from a producer's point of view. Developing for GPL virtually binds you to working for free,
The GPL does no such thing. As the producer it's my choice, of my own free will (if we can accept there is such a thing) to release my code under the GPL. Not only that but as the producer I have the choice to license the same work to you for inclusion in your closed source products for remuneration if I choose.

As a producer you are free to license your work under whatever terms you feel suite your goals best. Perhaps making money off that code is not one of your goals and the GPL is just fine.
...hence the encroaching corporates who can afford to dedicate employee time.
You are crossing wires there. Most Open Source projects that get support from the paid work of employees as a collaboration between corporations are not GPL licensed.
Besides, wasn't it Jobs that demonstrated that esthetics matters more than cost? What the desktop looks like matters!
Jobs certainly made good out of selling style. Aesthetics matters more than cost only to those that have the money to bear the cost.

Jobs also demonstrated that there is money to be made from Open Source software. Or at least saved over doing it all yourself. See BSD kernel in Apple operating systems. Webkit in Apple browsers. Clang/LLVM used to build the whole Apple show. Etc, etc,
Why so hard if open source can easily meet these needs with the same quality and polish?
Nobody said it was easy. Presumably the pain of Adobes rent seeking behavior is becoming unbearable enough for companies that use those products to think about collaborating on alternatives.
Yes, unpaid work.
I thought we already agreed that most open source developers are actually getting paid by the corporations they work for that collaborate on those open source projects.
Aren't we returning the heavy hand of corporate control you so despise?
You keep using that word 'despise' when stating what you think is my view of corporations. Please don't generalize about me like that.
Memory in C++ is a leaky abstraction .

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Fri Nov 15, 2019 10:39 pm

Speaking of Apple, it would be interesting to get a Swift submission on the RPi.

https://github.com/uraimo/buildSwiftOnA ... t-binaries

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Sat Nov 16, 2019 12:23 am

Have we given up on Python and it is what it is?

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Sat Nov 16, 2019 2:33 am

It all comes down to how much you're willing to pay for convenience.

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Sat Nov 16, 2019 3:41 am

Swift RPi

Code: Select all

pi@RPi4B:~/swift-dev $ swift --version
Swift version 5.1.1 (swift-5.1.1-RELEASE)
Target: armv7-unknown-linux-gnueabihf
pi@RPi4B:~/swift-dev $ cat hello.swift
print("Hello Swift")
pi@RPi4B:~/swift-dev $ swift hello.swift
Hello Swift
pi@RPi4B:~/swift-dev $ swiftc hello.swift -o hello
pi@RPi4B:~/swift-dev $ ./hello
Hello Swift
pi@RPi4B:~/swift-dev $ ls -l
total 16
-rwxr-xr-x 1 pi pi 10032 Nov 15 19:38 hello
-rw-r--r-- 1 pi pi    21 Nov 15 19:35 hello.swift
pi@RPi4B:~/swift-dev $ 
I'm going to try to do a Tatami 200 with Swift.

If you would like to try Swift without having to install it, there is an online site you can run your code there.

Swift Online

* Other languages are also offered on this site.
Last edited by John_Spikowski on Sat Nov 16, 2019 4:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Liberation through Computer Literacy

Sat Nov 16, 2019 4:22 am

jcyr,

We should not meander off into a debate about politics or economics here. Clearly us humans have to organize ourselves somehow to get anything done or even survive at all. Be that modern capitalist corporations, command economies, dictatorships, monarchies... Heck, our most notable "golden ages" and civilizations throughout history were built on slavery.
On the hardware front, I do see a little sunlight on the horizon with the advent and apparent stickiness of RISC-V
I'm very enthusiastic about the RISC V.

It's a nice example of the little guys collaborating with each other to wrestle control away from the incumbent monopolies. In an attempt to reduce cost and regain some control over their own development.

When I say "little guys" here I mean all manner of companies that require a CPU in their products. Not likely individual people but possibly that also.

It's exactly the same motivation we have been discussing for companies collaborating on open source software infrastructure.

A such I'm at a loss to see how you are hopeful for RISC V as "sunlight on the horizon" but so dismissive of Open Source software.
Memory in C++ is a leaky abstraction .

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