Ten Pound of Spreadsheet Please!

Did you know that there was a not so distant time when the software was heavier than the traditional Thanksgiving turkey? Today, I went messing around in the garage to put away a few of the systems I’ve played with during the last months – yes, space is sparse. While I was doing so, I found my software stash. And yes, the hardware is really useless if you have no software to run on it, so it is almost as important to preserve, if not more. While I was taking the pictures to share the experience with you – except for the weight –, I’ve noticed a few interesting traits of ancient software. First, the ridiculous number of floppy disks required to install the applications. Thirteen 5.25’ floppy disks for Xerox Ventura (yeah, there was a time when publishing was dark sorcery) or eight 3.5” floppies for Microsoft Excel! Each time you started an installation, you had to knock on wood – or your head – hopping that no floppy was damaged. And if that happened, you had to mail (regular main, the snail mail) the defective floppy to the publisher and wait for the exchange. I recall SCO Unix and its 102 floppies!! It was madness, and I am happy to hit restart the download today in case of rare connection issue. Second, and I already talked about this in a previous post, so I will keep it short: there used to be decent documentation with software! I hate the way it is (not) done today. Third and last, the license agreement was short and reasonable. A one-pager for Microsoft Excel. Borland had it even shorter with its no-nonsense license statement. Compared to today’s Apple iTunes license that could hide War and Peace without anyone noticing, I still prefer the old-school approach. In fact, I am convinced that this – bad – drift of software vendors irremediably leads us to the so lucrative pay-per-use model, in which you literally rent the use of your software. I prefer the 10-pound box that I can still use 30 years later. Last but not least, Borland did make its great development tools available on the Web. So, if you are interested, you could have a peek here: https://web.archive.org/web/20040203055603/http://bdn.borland.com/museum/.

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