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Microsoft

Bill Gates Talk From 1989 Surfaces 317

Posted by kdawson
from the hard-to-make-predictions-especially-about-the-future dept.
70sstar writes "A 1-1/2 hour recording of Bill Gates addressing a crowd of university students in 1989 was recently found and digitized, and has been circulating in some IRC channels for the past few weeks. The speech has found a permanent home on the web page of the University of Waterloo CS Club, where the talk is reported to have taken place. Gates covers the past, present, and future of computing as of 1989. While the former two might be of interest to tech historians, the real fascination is Gates's prediction of computing yet to come. Like the now-legendary '640k' remark, some of his comments are almost laughably off-target ('OS/2 is the way of the future!'). And yet, by and large, he had accurately, chillingly, prophesied an entire decade or two of software and hardware development. All in all, a fascinating talk from one of the most powerful speakers in CS and IT."
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Bill Gates Talk From 1989 Surfaces

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  • Predict the future (Score:5, Insightful)

    by imunfair (877689) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @10:19PM (#18475357) Homepage
    What kind of business are you in?

    We predict the future. The best way to predict the future... is to invent it.

    -X-Files
  • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @10:33PM (#18475457)
    It is funny to hear it straight from Gates though. He owes almost his entire fortune to IBM's failure to deliver on OS/2, and (to be fair) Microsoft's successful delivery of DOS+Windows (crap that it was).
  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bastian (66383) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @11:33PM (#18475751)
    That said, the places where he was wrong are more interesting to me. I wonder what Microsoft's business plan was had IBM taken over with OS/2 instead of them?

    It was to rake in (slightly less) dough selling OS/2.

    OS/2 was originally a joint Microsoft/IBM effort. What became Windows NT was originally going to be the next version of OS/2, but tensions between MS and IBM increased until Microsoft decided to take its ball and go home.

    So really, Bill Gates was 100% correct in saying that OS/2 is the wave of the future. It's just that in 1989 he didn't realize that it was going to be renamed "Windows NT" 3 or 4 years later. Had Microsoft instead decided to continue working with IBM, they would probably still have ended up being stinking rich, just a bit less so.
  • Re:640k remark (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ford Prefect (8777) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @11:35PM (#18475761) Homepage

    "I have to say that in 1981, making those decisions, I felt like I was providing enough freedom for 10 years. . That is, a move from 64k to 640k felt like something that would last a great deal of time. Well, it didn't - it took about only 6 years before people started to see that as a real problem."
    ... Then you have the Motorola 68000 [wikipedia.org], designed in the late 1970s and used in home computers in the mid 1980s - capable of addressing a whopping 16MB of memory, and using a flat 32-bit address space in case of future expansion.

    So obviously 640kB wasn't enough for everyone back then... ;-)

  • Re:640k remark (Score:3, Insightful)

    by westlake (615356) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @11:52PM (#18475835)
    Then you have the Motorola 68000, designed in the late 1970s and used in home computers in the mid 1980s - capable of addressing a whopping 16MB of memory

    and the street price for 16 MB of RAM in 1980 would have been...what, exactly?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2007 @12:05AM (#18475895)
    " And yet, by and large, he had accurately, chillingly, prophesied an entire decade or two of software and hardware development."

    Yeah? Gee, if he was once such a savant, what happened between then and his 1995 book "The Road Ahead" where he totally fails to "predict" the Internet and World Wide Web when it had already happened?

    Sorry, but reciting some corrollary to Moore's Law does not count as accurate prophesy, 'chilling' or otherwise. It's just conventional wisdom
  • by timeOday (582209) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @12:50AM (#18476117)
    I agree, DOS (like Windows) could so easily have gone to a competitor instead. I guess it just shows how pivotal certain moments can be. IBM in particular made blunder after blunder, refusing the take the PC seriously. I guess their mainframes were doing just fine and they didn't want to open their eyes to the implications of Moore's Law - that $500 PCs would ultimately take most of the market for computing hardware. Just like all the others - Sun, Silicon Graphics, Cray, DEC...
  • by DrYak (748999) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @06:50AM (#18477351) Homepage

    Then you have the Motorola 68000, designed in the late 1970s and used in home computers in the mid 1980s - capable of addressing a whopping 16MB of memory

    and the street price for 16 MB of RAM in 1980 would have been...what, exactly?


    It's this kind of lack of foresight that made the whole x86 architectue crappy.
    The question is not only what is realistic to do now and what would be not be possible to buy/build.

    The question is, if this architecture hangs around for the next couple of decade what will you be happy to have taken account for ? What could be useful for future generations of machines ?

    The 68k has been designed on purpose to have a clean architecture, that could easily evolve in future machine without needing hacks. (32 bits internal, even if first versions had 16bit bus. Flat memory addressing, etc.)

    The x86 has been a long series of very short-sighted choice (because nobody tougth it could last) - like the "640k ought to be enough for everyone" (it was back then, it wasn't any more a couple of years later) or the ackward instruction set - and subsequent hacks to circumvent the limitations (the whole segmentation logic is a pain in the ass). Not to say about all legacy modes that current chips still drag around (your Core 2 is still binary compatible with 8088 code and assembly compatible with 8080 code). Intel has tried to restart something completly new and supposedly better with the Itanium, but it failed, mainly because of all this legacy. AMD was somewhat more successful with AMD64 (because it both has a nice new clean x86-64 extension and support for all the ackwrd legacy).

    It's only sad that the x86 was chosen for the IBM PC, a computer whose architecture was subsequently opened and copied by numerous clones that IBM chose to tolerate, which made this architecture popular and made it evolve very quickly.
    Whereas the 68k regularly ended up in very nice machines (Amiga, Macintosh, etc.) but whose parent company never accepted to open. And thus remained less popular (because of higher price and lower development by 3rd parties).

    At least the 68k had much more success in video games (consoles and arcades. MegaDrive and NeoGeo if i have to only site two).
  • Imagine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ReidMaynard (161608) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @07:01AM (#18477395) Homepage
    Imagine you have the only Mercedes-Benz dealership, every morning customers are lined up, check-books ready. Year after year. You are rich beyond imagination.

    Then one day this fellow shows up with a Vespa and says, "You should sell these Vespa scooters too.."

    What do you do..?
  • by kjs3 (601225) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @09:30AM (#18478091)
    Spot on. In addition, if Linus or some such had made a couple of conventional wisdom statements that stood up a decade down the line, it would be "brilliantly" or "insightfully"; since it's BG, it's "chillingly".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2007 @01:22PM (#18479817)
    Demonstrated motivation has an impact on whether the word "chillingly" is used. It has nothing to do with technical merit, it refers to someone we would rather not be so smart and insightful demonstrating those traits. The damage done to the computer industry by Microsoft was considerable, if you think about how things like standards were corrupted.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @03:12PM (#18480499) Homepage
    Windows 3.0 was, at the time, prettier than OS/2, friendlier than OS/2, nimbler than OS/2, ran on small configurations than OS/2, was more compatible than OS/2... and shipped with about a dozen nice little applets like Windows Write that OS/2 didn't ship with. ToolBook, too, if I remember correctly.

    The applets, are for me, the proof. If Microsoft believed OS/2 was the future, why couldn't it spare a few developers to put some of the trimmings on it that would make it appeal to non-corporate users?

    Microsoft devoted what must have been significant resources to making Windows 3.0 more appealing than OS/2. Why should it have been "stunned" when it sold better than OS/2?

    Maybe the parts of the company that were working on OS/2 believed it was the future, when the higher-ups had really placed their bets somewhere else. Things like that happen in big companies.
  • Re:Imagine... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Calinous (985536) on Monday March 26, 2007 @04:39AM (#18485487)
    Because in some places, ten $5,000 computers could have taken the place of a "small-iron" system costing $500,000 (with the mainframe getting extra money from support contracts).
          As a well known Mercedes Benz dealership, you won't start selling Volkswagens because some of your clients will buy a Volkswagen instead of the Mercedes Benz (and your profit will be lower)

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