Where we've been; where we're going. (Philosophy - how it ought to be) David Tebbutt.
First of all, congratulations to the gang at Creative Computing for reaching this wonderful milestone. Twice in my recent career Creative has been directly responsible for helping me clarify my thoughts on a new project. When I was thinking it was time Britain had a decent microcomputer magazine, there was Creative Computing fully-fledged and setting a splendid example to those who followed.
The nice thing about Creative is its friendly yet respectful approach to its readers. I figured that if I could capture the same spirit in what became Personal Computer World, I would have achieved much of value. PCW went on to become Britain's biggest-selling microcomputer magazine, so I guess we did something right.
The next time Creative Computing directly affected my career was a couple of years later when I was struggling to find a way of holding models of the human brain in the computer. I was still editor of PCW at the time, and Creative ran two issues featuring actor languages. Something about the ideas expressed gave me confidence in what I was trying to do and, to cut a long story short, I eventually by-passed the traditional AI languages and wrote BrainStorm, an idea processor, in machine code. It was almost as if Creative had given me permission to go right ahead and do something weird. I believe Ted Nelson was the man responsible, and for that I thank him.
A number of my projects have benefitted greatly from other people's inputs. For example, I inherited a computer show with the magazine and, frankly, the first year I was involved it just didn't feel right. Shortly afterwards I found myself at the West Coast Computer Faire which seemed to have exactly the flavor I needed for my own magazine's show. I met Jim Warren and all his staff, absorbed the unique atmosphere surrounding that show, and tried to take it back to Britain. Once again I ended up with a very successful Show. It actually overtook the West Coast Faire in number of attendees after about three years.
Another thing I got going in the UK was Computer Town. At the time we launched this, the government was doing very little about computer literacy, and Clive Sinclair had only just got going with his first proper computer. Over in California Bob Albrecht and Ramon Zamora had a scheme going in the Menlo Park library whereby members of the public could just drop by and learn about computers free of charge. Qualified people could drop in any time and use the machines. Those new to computers had to come by at particular times when trainers were around to help out.
Three, people motivated me to bring the scheme to England, Bob Albrecht, Ramon Zamora, and Judy Lower. I think Tom Williams, one time editor-in-chief of InfoWorld, deserves thanks too as the man who plugged me into that particular loop in the first place. I'm OK . . . You're OK
The people I have mentioned are just a few of those who have helped me over the years. I'm sure that all people who get on in life can only do so with the hlep of others. After all other people are your bosses, your subordinates, your customers, your suppliers, your family, and your friends. Whatever else happens in life, there will always be other people around.
It makes sense, therefore, to develop interpersonal skills so that your interactions with them are as rewarding as they can be for both parties. I was lucky enough to realize that my skills with other people were less than adequate, so I took up teaching for a couple of years.
It was during this time that I was introduced to the work of a number of behavioral psychologists. Eric Berne, in particular, impressed me with his theories of Transactional Analysis. All sorts of books have been written on this subject but a good starter is I'm OK . . . You're OK by Thomas Harris. This idea of analyzing each verbal exchange was a tremendous help to understanding myself and other people.
I found that as I carefully monitored the way I behaved, other people began to behave differently and most conversations and discussions became far more rewarding as a result. I guess I was lucky because I had two years or so of continuously practicing these newly developing skills on my students. By this time I found that TA had become second nature.
A few things I have tired to scrub out of my behavior repertoire are guilt, bitterness, regret, worry, and blaming others. It is not possible to succeed 100% in banning these feelings, but at least by recognizing how fruitless they are, I have minimized them. Guilt is simply worry about something that has already happened and therefore cannot be changed. It is important to learn the lessons the past can teach but not to dwell on it after the lessons have been extracted.
Bitterness and regret are similarly fruitless and can sour your chances of future success if they are allowed to become part of your personality. Worry is even worse because it usually concerns something that hasn't even happened! The energy spent worrying would be better spent trying to minimize the effects of whatever it is you are worrying about.
Blame is a bit like guilt. You and the person you are blaming can both derive some sort of lesson from what has happened, and that's about it. If the person is in some way subordinate to you, then you should take responsibility and attach any blame, if you must, to yourself. It's Never Too Early
I have always been a bit of a loner. I tend to think my own thoughts and not follow the crowd. Only in this way can I hope to latch on to things early enough for them to give me fresh directions. If I had waited until microcomputers or software hit the big time, I would have found the cost of entry and the competition in both magazine and software publishing too horrendous to contemplate.
As you saw earlier in this article, Creative Computing is a great source of ideas ahead of their time and one of them could be your great opportunity. Look for the weird articles, the speculative ones, especially the ones that catch your imagination. Don't think that because something has appeared in print that it's too late to jump on the bandwagon or that there is even a bandwagon to jump on. The article could simply spark something off like Ted's actor language stuff did for me. People who get up and do things are in the minority. As long as you are one of the first few to do something new you stand a good chance of succeeding on a reasonable budget.
Once upon a time in this industry you bought a computer because it did what you wanted at a price you could afford. Nowadays, people are increasingly buying computers because marketing people have gotten at them. Never mind that they don't have an application for the machine. "Everyone is getting one, therefore I must get one too" is the underlying trend.
There is a certain inevitability about the purchase of a computer that is wonderful news for manufacturers, software publishers, and the like, but it seems to be fraught with built-in problems for the buyers. Marketing is becoming the key factor in the decision to purchase.
Computers are being packed with features just like motor cars before they started sprouting radios, cassette players, alloy wheels, two tone trim, and so on. Some companies, afraid of being left behind in the "windows" race are offering color. Never mind that it has no relevance to many applications, frequent color changes in the most ordinary software are required to persuade the prospect at a subliminal level that this is the right machine to buy. The suppliers of monochrome machines are suggesting that xerography has survived for 20 years without color so what's the big deal.
Apple has come up with a sweet little machine that has rather the same effect on the potential user that E.T. had on filmgoers. The desire to own a Macintosh has very little to do with what it can do for you in practical terms, although by now I'm sure it can do much. It is the sort of machine that you fall in love with in just a few minutes--surely a marketing man's dream.
No doubt by the time this article is published the Macintosh will have created a new form of addiction to join drugs, smoking, and alcohol. Productivity will probably plummet as people find they just can't stop playing with the darned thing. The rumor as I write this is that IBM is trying to jump on the 68000/icon/mouse bandwagon with almost indecent haste. Fifth Generation Fruition
The future is going to be very interesting for all of us. There is a danger that barriers will go up between Europe, America, and Japan as our various Fifth Generation projects move towards fruition. It looks to me as if Britain, America, and Japan are on slightly divergent courses in terms of how their intelligent knowledge-based systems are to work.
I happen to think that we have some pretty neat approaches here in the UK. I'm sure that you feel the same about your own methods, and no doubt the Japanese are confident in theirs. If knowledge is to become the "fuel of the future," this poses some interesting problems for us all. We already see the seeds of some of these problems in the way software is being copied today.
I'd like to think that the Fifth Generation activity and the need to share knowledge through high speed international communications networks will lead to a global cooperation which will in fact break down the barriers of suspicion that divide nations at present. The realist in me expects the world either to continue to be hopelessly divided or to polarize even more sharply into "haves" and "have nots" with the haves possessing a near monopoly on knowledge and the systems for manipulating it.