Motherboard Explores Desktop Publishing History

It’s exceed­ing­ly rare for New Media to write in any depth about the his­to­ry of com­put­ing — espe­cial­ly a Vice prop­er­ty — so com­ing across this excel­lent retelling of the com­pelling his­to­ry of The Print Shop was an espe­cial­ly pleas­ant sur­prise.

Much of the soft­ware we use today bor­rows look-and-feel ele­ments from oth­er pieces of software—and that could have led to some uncom­fort­able legal deci­sions that hurt the broad­er soft­ware indus­try, par­tic­u­lar­ly with open-source soft­ware clones.

I’ve spent the past month or so entire­ly fas­ci­nat­ed by the his­to­ry of soft­ware in explor­ing Win­World­PC by way of vir­tu­al machin­ing. I haven’t writ­ten about it yet because, frankly, I have not even begun to be able to focus on a sin­gle sto­ry — I’ve sim­ply been gob­bling up an intox­i­cat­ing, seem­ing­ly-end­less sea of .iso and .ima files. That said, you can expect lots of screen caps and misty-eyed soft­ware mono­logues very soon. For the moment, I’d like to give in to the num­ber one angst one accrues tour­ing a grave­yard of quaint, gen­uine­ly-unique ideas and shit a bit on Microsoft’s co-founder and CEO.

The After Dark 2.0 install screen. I could write 500 words just about this lit­tle utility’s trea­sure trove of gen­uine­ly-taste­ful screen­savers. Yes, it’s pos­si­ble.

I can’t quite think of anoth­er indi­vid­ual from the his­to­ry of com­put­ing (or any oth­er intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty indus­try for that mat­ter) who’s reached Bill Gates’ lev­el of anti-com­pet­i­tive mania. From this spe­cif­ic era in the ear­ly 90s, Win­dows 3.1′s final gen­er­a­tion of word proces­sors all includ­ed addon con­ver­sion soft­ware to help users make ‘the switch’ from the oth­er — per­haps con­sti­tut­ing the pet­ti­est nerd Beef ever thrown.

It’s hard to imag­ine com­pe­ti­tion for office soft­ware at all in 2018, yet Microsoft Office con­tin­ues to be a “huge old bitch.” I know it seems like there could hard­ly be any­thing pet­ti­er, but take a moment to reflect on its role in the past twen­ty years of your life: what if Microsoft had nev­er bro­ken com­pe­ti­tion laws for two straight decades exist­ed in its cur­rent form? What if there were still no few­er than 5 soft­ware com­pa­nies per any tech­nol­o­gy prod­uct cat­e­go­ry, push­ing the bound­aries of inno­va­tion in order to stay ahead? I’ve just tried Ami Pro for the first time, and it’s already made appar­ent that Lotus’ engi­neers were think­ing more about UX in the devel­op­ment of this sin­gle ver­sion than all of Microsoft’s cumu­la­tive think­ing since its god­damned incep­tion.

A reminder: we don’t have to set­tle for shit­ty prod­ucts just because they’re the stan­dard.

(Also, my Com­paq Portable Plus is sched­uled to arrive on Fri­day and I am expe­ri­enc­ing actu­al gid­di­ness for the first time in years. Many pho­tos incom­ing.)