Magazine article Online

Windows and Client/server Computing

Magazine article Online

Windows and Client/server Computing

Article excerpt

If MS-DOS were a political party instead of a personal computer operating system, its campaign slogan would be, "Keep it simple." Signs at every party office would proclaim, "It's system performance, stupid." DOS is for serious people with serious work to do.

The corollary seems to be, "If it is fun, it can't be worth very much." Even without the happy zealots of the Macintosh wing of the this grand old, nonstop computing party, we can recognize a Puritan sentiment when we hear it. Those of us who missed early enlightenment, courtesy of Apple Computer, are now courted by the Microsoft folks with their increasingly persuasive brand of new-age, anti-Puritan ideology: Microsoft Windows.


Windows is now a prerequisite for running some very useful pieces of software. It is no longer theoretical. The evidence is in--in the CD-ROM field as elsewhere. For me it was driven home by products such as DeLorme Mapping's MapExpert, Global Explorer and Street Atlas USA; and Microsoft's Cinemania, Musical Instruments and Encarta (see sidebar). These are attractive, useful and solid products. Each in its way is ground-breaking. Most importantly, each works quite well under Windows.

Yes, speed is an issue. Some would say I cheated by dropping a 40MHz 386DX motherboard in my old 386SX clone. Most of these products would be annoyingly slow without a reasonably fast processor. Even now, performance could be snappier.

Of course, anyone buying a new computer these days is likely to find that cost and performance requirements curves cross at something like a 486DX running at 33MHz or so, easily twice as fast as my system. Unless you are working with an aged CD-ROM drive, performance bottlenecks will be barely noticeable on such a machine. The handwriting is on the wall. Older and slower computers will eventually need to be upgraded or replaced as more important products are adapted to the resource-intensive Windows operating environment.


Here is why Windows can no longer be ignored:

1) excellent products require it

2) a user interface which, though not as easy or self-evident as Microsoft would assert, is still reasonably easy and refreshingly consistent

3) simple and effective handling of the problem of combining the correct drivers with the correct application software for essential, system-level functions like printing, high-resolution screen display, audio playback, etc.

4) the arrival of really useful library-related software based on client/server computing designs that require an easy, intuitive front end by which users can gain access to massive databases and other resources on wide-area networks, i.e., the Internet

5) appealing aesthetics which, while many won't admit it, make computing bearable by making it fun

This last matter of aesthetics deserves further thought. Whether we feel comfortable or not with adjectives like "delightful, "exciting" and "imaginative," or whether we subscribe to touchy-feely notions such as unleashing the "creative child within," it should be acknowledged that interesting is better than boring. Computer design elements that encourage exploration and experimentation are better than those that foreclose inquiry.

Nothing said here should be construed as endorsement of Microsoft Windows as the sole solution to the problem of how best to work with computers. New products will continue to compete with old products, driven by more powerful computer hardware and more compelling applications software. While Microsoft Windows 3.1 is doomed to obsolescence, the general principles underlying its design and operation will be applied to future products, whether they bear genetic traces of Windows, Macintosh, OS/2, UNIX, Solaris, NEXTSTEP, Novell or others.

The uses for computers and their specific capabilities will create opportunities for competitors to up the ante on Microsoft. …

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