Starting December 7, 1999
Digital cameras are more important than another PC, Answers to homework questions, SmarterKids.com, Speaking at Harvard Business School, Happy Holiday
Friday, December 10, 1999
Digital cameras are more important than another PC
From what I'm seeing, digital cameras have moved near the top of most people's wish list. Above a new PC. You get more out of adding a digital camera to what you have than getting more memory or a faster CPU. As Howard Anderson said (2Dec99), MIPS (CPU speed) is not an important measurement for most people today. (Quick, which would you rather have: A 133MHz computer with a cable modem or a 500MHz one with a 14.4 modem?)
Digital cameras are still quite expensive (good ones are as much as an inexpensive PC) and almost all of today's will clearly be obsoleted quickly by faster/cheaper/better ones, and that knowledge is probably holding most people back from actually buying (unless they must have one for a specific reason). But I'm seeing a strong awareness and desire for them from "regular" people who may have bought their first PC just a few years ago.
Once people actually get a digital camera, other things will move to the top of their list, such as CD writers for permanent, somewhat long-term, backup.
Answers to homework questions
It seems that spreadsheets are ancient history. My server logs show that "history of spreadsheet", "VisiCalc", and "Dan Bricklin" are common search engine requests. I get dozens of visitors each day coming to my web site through search engines looking for such information. I try to provide useful information for that type of research. I assume most are students doing homework.
Once in a while I get an email request for answers to specific questions for a paper. I usually don't have time to answer, but I did last night for one of my cousin's children who is in college. (Another cousin I haven't mentioned yet, but one who has influenced some of my techniques on this web site.) I posted her questions and my quick email answers on my main web site in the Writing section on the "Homework Questions" page.
I've also included a short answer to the last homework question I responded to, which was a few months ago. That person added:
...In my computer class I was assigned to pick someone's name from a list of people that are related to the computer area. I picked your name....I saw that I could contact you so I thought that would look great on my BIB, and also I would like to have talked with the person I am doing a report about. Everyone else's people have already passed on and so I guess I am lucky that I can still talk with mine.
I guess I'm not in the group with today's practitioners... Makes me feel old. But, it's better to be remembered than forgotten and I'm very thankful for that.
Thursday, December 9, 1999
I was at yet another Massachusetts Software Council board meeting. (I mention them since they're public. Meetings with customers, money people and press are often more secret. ) It was at the new offices of the Council chairman, David Blohm of SmarterKids.com. His company sells educational toys, books, etc., and can help you assess your child to decide which toys or materials would be most appropriate. Walking around the office was quite strange for an Internet company. I'm used to seeing toys like dinosaurs in cubicles, but here there were kids toys everywhere, stacked on shelves, in offices, on the floor -- it looked like a messy basement:
It seems they have lots of educators and other experts on staff who do nothing by test and rate toys, games, software, etc. It was like visiting a PC magazine testing facility (where there is old software and hardware everywhere), but here it was all toys. A 3-14 year old's dream.
Here's a picture of David with one of the toys in the lobby:
If you didn't guess, David is a member of the Software Council's band, "Look and Feel", which plays at some of our social events.
Tuesday, December 7, 1999
Speaking at Harvard Business School
This morning I spoke to the final class of the Managing Product Development course at Harvard Business School. It was at the invitation of Professor Stefan Thomke:
Prof. Thomke and part of the class
I gave my normal "life as a software entrepreneur in the '70s and '80s" talk with hundreds of 35mm slides. It chronicles what I went through developing VisiCalc, and goes through the life and death of Software Arts, doing Demo and Software Garden, etc. (Some of it is on my History section.) I also showed some videos I have of interesting moments, like the announcement of the IBM PC (part of which is in Triumph of the Nerds on PBS) and a Lotus 1-2-3 rock video from 1983.
The classrooms at HBS are different than when I was there as a student. They just added built-in hidden projectors in the ceiling (not hanging bolt-on units) and have jacks for connecting laptops to the projector and outlets under the desks:
Projector hidden in the ceiling
New jacks under front row
Detail of video input jacks
Outlets where you need them
Some of what the students run are spreadsheets. It's nice to see that the work you do can affect the school you went to. It's also nice to see when technology you believe in becomes "part of the woodwork".
Questions the students asked: What would you do differently? How does Microsoft stay on top? How do you merge creativity and control? Do I really use prototyping like they teach in class?
My answers: I like where my life is, so I wouldn't do much differently, though maybe if I had fought for years to go after a patent for VisiCalc the students wouldn't be using Excel and the building going up outside would be the "Bricklin Building" . Microsoft makes whatever you say they are bad at the number one thing to fix and they keep trying and trying using cash-cow money to fund the trying -- more than most VCs have the stomach for. Have two people who understand each other and work well together, one creative and one good at organizational control. Yes, I really do use prototyping -- I learned it from my Dad the printer and it's the way you communicate a vision to implementers and funders.
I took a few notes with the PDA/keyboard combination. See the "Living with the Stowaway Keyboard" log.
Tuesday was the fourth day of Chanukah
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