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Slashback: 640K, Pioneer, Payback 465

Slashback tonight with an mini-avalanche of updates and corrections on Pioneer 10 (it's not a Star Trek series), Canadian copyright hearings, Intel's stance on SSSCA and similar laws, and -- Oh Yes, whether 640K really is enough for anyone. Read on for the details. Update: 03/05 00:19 GMT by T : "Pioneer," not "Voyager." Asleep at the keyboard.

Kudos to the guys behind Pioneer 10! Soft writes: "As a follow-up to yesterday's story, Pioneer 10 was successfully contacted for its 30th birthday, as announced in The commands that were sent yesterday have been executed by the spacecraft, and more data has been collected by the Geiger Tube Telescope." lostchicken adds a link to Associated Press wire story on Yahoo!', writing "Not bad for a 30 year-old spacecraft. Perhaps those making time capsules could learn something from this?" Several readers also pointed out the SpaceDaily version of the goings on.

What, in the middle of Canadian winter?! schon writes: "An update to this /. story - The Canadian Copyright Board has announced the details of the public hearings on Canadian Digital Copyrights, at Interested parties should register before attending (details available on the page.)"

Sent to you in compliance with the current Federal legislation An Anonymous Coward writes: "Back in June of 2000 reported a story called ' Taking On A Spammer' about a spammer being hacked by a pissed sys-admin. The Behind Enemy Lines web page talked about a pump-and-dump spam done by Premier Services and Mark Rice."

(See this page for more information on that scam.)

"Well on February 25, 2002 the SEC filed charges against Mark Rice!"

Death of a legend? Jean-Luc writes "The New York Review of Books has published an article that contains an e-mail from Bill Gates denying he ever said the infamous "640K should be enough for anyone" quote. He foists the blame on IBM and claims he tried to convince them to include more address space from the get go. Very technical and fairly convincing, showing that for all his might Bill is still basically a geek's geek."

They hadn't even gotten to the bowlderizing chip yet ... Dan Gilmor pointed out Intel's strong statement Thursday on copy protection front, "much stronger than the letter sent yesterday. Surprising given their history..." Maybe Intel believes they can do a better job of what deciding what goes into Silicon than a committee of bureaucrats steered by the entertainment moguls can.

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Slashback: 640K, Pioneer, Payback

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  • Word has it (Score:2, Funny)

    by cscx ( 541332 )
    That they contacted Pioneer 10 with two tin cans and a very long string.
  • do they have any plans to have voyager ten still be usefull?
    • by alfredw ( 318652 ) < minus city> on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:24PM (#3109543) Homepage
      Well, as far as PIONEER 10 goes, the answer is probably no. It's moving too slowly to hit any interesting features (that we know about) before its batteries fail.

      Voyagers 1 and 2, on the other hand, are headed for the heliopause. The heliopause is where the solar wind meets the interstellar medium. The ISM is probably quite different than the energetic particles the sun spews out. They should be out into interstellar space in the near future (less than 10 years). The good news is, they're still operating well! Voyager 2 is unfortuantely running low on propellant, though.

      Find updates at the Voyager Project Homepage [].

      And /. eds, make sure you have real spacecraft :). Voyagers 1 and 2 are headed at high speed out of the solar system. What would have been Voyager 3 is in the Smithsonian. And Voyager 6 is pure Gene Roddenberry :)
      • Voyagers 1 and 2, on the other hand, are headed for the heliopause. The heliopause is where the solar wind meets the interstellar medium. The ISM is probably quite different than the energetic particles the sun spews out. They should be out into interstellar space in the near future (less than 10 years). The good news is, they're still operating well! Voyager 2 is unfortuantely running low on propellant, though.

        What does Voyager 2 need propellant for? If it's heading out toward heliopause, won't it keep moving that direction forever? I'm sure it must be using propellant if it's "running low", and I'm sure there must be a reason for that. Just curious about what it's actually doing with the propellant. Attitude adjustments, maybe?


        • Just curious about what it's actually doing with the propellant. Attitude adjustments, maybe?

          Yep. It's keeping the dish pointed at Earth (which moves, of course). This allows it to send and receive data.

          • [running out of propellant]
            It's keeping the dish pointed at Earth

            If the limiting factor is the propellant supply they could extend it's lifespan simply by not tracking the earth. Of course we would then only be able to communicate with it during twice-a-year-windows. It's the old "a stopped clock is right twice a day" trick.

  • I thought it was Pioneer 10, not Voyager 10. IIRC, there was no such thing as voyager 10.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The software on the voyager has been running for 30 years without crashing. You know it couldn't be running Windows :-)
    • and it has only 640K of memory.

      (I don't know what it has really, but I have no doubt someone will correct me).
    • Wow!

      I was getting really tired of jokes in the "such and such is reliable so it must not be running on Windows" vein. But then you came along and suddenly the whole premise seems fresh as a spring day!

  • Rock on, Intel! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Merconium ( 551470 ) <merconium&gmail,com> on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:13PM (#3109469)
    I have to say that the final statement in the article is exactly my assertion. Valenti and his minions cannot stop progress.

    I love music and movies. I'm slowly becoming an afficiando of the art of film--more so than most other J6P I know. The SSSCA would only introvert me--I would not consider to purchase any product that met the required compliance. I'd buy everything I could from Taiwan--mostly b/c you damn well know they are going to capitalize on any openings in the market that they can.

    I've written my representitives, have you?

    • My Letter to Fritz (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mikeboone ( 163222 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @10:19PM (#3110108) Homepage Journal

      As I am a South Carolina resident, I'm about to ship off a letter to Fritz Hollings. Please critique it and feel free to suggest ways to improve it before it goes. I wonder if complaining about the draft of the SSSCA at this point is worthwhile since they seem to ignore its existence. I also wonder if I'm going overboard by insinuating he's acting in the interests of his contributors and not citizens. It seems fair to me, but I want my arguments to look reasonable and not have my letter ignored.

      The Honorable Ernest F. Hollings
      United States Senate
      Washington, DC 20510

      Dear Mr. Hollings,

      I am a professional software developer and a constituent in your state. I've recently become concerned with your proposed bill, the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA). I am against such a bill, and I'll explain why below.

      No Public Participation / No Regard for Fair Use: In Section 104(b)(1)(A), the proposed bill describes the security standard as being determined by "representatives of interactive digital device manufacturers and representatives of copyright owners." In effect, you are permitting corporations to determine the scope of this law, with no input from the public who will be using such devices. The public's fair-use rights have been slowly whittled away by recent laws. The SSSCA will continue this disappointing trend of protecting the profits of media companies at the expense of the consumer.

      Open Source Software: There is an entire industry of software manufacturers and support organizations that write software that is freely available. This software is installed on millions of computers around the world, including servers that run the Internet. Software engineers like myself earn a living supporting this software. Open source software contains software code that is freely published. Your draft bill could, in effect, make this type of software illegal, since developers would be unable to "hide" security software in open code.

      Digital Devices: There are any number of digital devices that have no need for these protection schemes. My scientific calculator is a "digital device." So is my Global Positioning System unit. They have absolutely no need for built-in protection systems. Your bill would place an undue burden on digital hardware manufacturers to protect things that don't need it. This will result in less hardware being produced, and increased development expenses which will be passed on to consumers.

      Copyright protection can be maintained with state-of-the-art technology. Your bill will encourage companies to create mediocre protection schemes backed by the threat of prosecution. Piracy will continue unabated in foreign countries.

      I am not sure exactly how you think you are benefiting South Carolina with this bill. My reading of the proposal is that it will only benefit the large corporations in this country, especially the media conglomerates. Please don't act solely in the interest of your high-dollar contributors.

      I believe you are doing a disservice to South Carolinians and Americans by proposing this bill, and I urge you to do away with it.

      • In case you haven't heard, Fritz Hollings is opposed to "cash-and-carry" government []. What are you worried about? This has to be in your interest, otherwise, he wouldn't be bringing it up.

      • by em.a18 ( 31142 )
        Your arguments are all good. (Although on your digital devices point, I like to characterize this as mandating breathalyzers on all wheeled vehicles, like wheelbarrels and matchbox cars, because of a few drunk drivers.)

        But my friend in the know suggests that Hollings is really concerned about the health of the media industry. Right or wrong, you need to address that concern. I think you need to say something like "stealing music is already illegal. The existing laws have put Napster out of business."

        You could also offer the opinion that the music industry is free to offer their own music-delivery platform, with all the security they want.
      • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @04:07AM (#3111202) Homepage Journal

        Most of the previous comments are spot-on, so I'll only suggest one addition (which would likely make the document too long, so feel free to ignore it):

        Lack of Compelling Need: Mr. Eisner is on record as saying that the protections mandated by the proposed Bill are absolutely necessary to facilitate healthy, sustainable commerce in digital works. Yet this is demonstrably untrue. The computer game industry -- whose gross earnings have exceeded that of the motion picture industry for the last two years -- has achieved this result selling digital works without any such legislation in place. Surely it is possible for The Walt Disney Company and other motion picture studios to achieve similar results absent this legislative burden.

        Just my two cents...


        • by darkonc ( 47285 ) <> on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @06:56AM (#3111638) Homepage Journal
          Making your children into criminals
          People have an urge to share. We sing songs, we retell stories. When we see a good movie, or hear an incredibly good song, we go to our friends and try to share the experience with them. Sharing information is a part of human nature, and the purpose of the hundreds of languages that mankind has created over the ages.

          The founding fathers of the United States recognized the human need for the sharing of information when they penned the First Ammendment. They said that the right to share information should not be infringed. They did, however, create one, small exception. They allowed congress to give creators of the arts and sciences a short term monopoly over their created works, in the hopes that.

          The apparent intent of that constitutional paragraph was that, after a short period of time the works created as a result of that copyright protection would fall into the public domain, where the people could make full and wholesome use of it.

          Current copyright law is, however, an abomination of the original intent of the copyright exception. Instead of giving the creating artist control of his or her work for a short period of time, this control is being treated like permanent property. The original 14 year copyright period has now been extended to about 10 times that number -- and hat number is stretching faster than time itself.

          Lost knowledgeElectronic information is fragile and ephemeral. A doomsday laser disk created only 15 years ago is now far less readable than it's 16'th century counterpart. The technology used to create it is now obsolete and almost forgotten.
          Technical audio tapes of the apollo moon landing were almost unreadable when researchers rescued them from archives only 30 years after Neil armstrong uttered his famous words "One small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind".

          When Mandella was sentanced in 1961, the speech of the future president of South Africa was recorded on (then) hi-tech plastic strips. Less 40 years later it took researchers years to recreate the technology needed to extract sound from those strips.

          And when was the last time you tried to play an 8-track tape?

          If history is any predictor of the future, the recordings of today are going to be opaque to the next generation. If the Media industry has their way, todays recordings will be taboo to future generations.

          As NASA archivists have found out, the only way to keep yesterday's electronic information available is to transfer it to storage formats available today. The proposed terms of the SSSCA would, however, make such transferr illegal -- especially if the person or company who created the original work was dead, defunct, or simply un-locatable.

          Our grandchildren would then be left with the unenviable choice of being forever unable to view what we creating today -- or becoming criminals by attempting to read such mundane things as videos of their parents' first steps.

          By the year 2100, todays digital recordings will be far less readable than the scratchy vinyl recordings of the 1940s, but people may be unwilling to decoding them -- fearful of the legal implications of having the technology necessary to decode something recorded today.

          If the sssca is allowed to pass, it will, in all liklihood, create a digital black hole in the history of the arts and sciences of the world.

      • by RatFink100 ( 189508 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @04:33AM (#3111293)

        My only suggestion is this. You lay out the issues very well and then at then end get into what looks like a personal attack (I'm sure you don't mean it to be). Here's the changes I'd make FWIW

        I am not sure exactly how you think you are benefiting South Carolina with this bill is very confrontational and slightly insulting - it implies he doesn't know what he's doing. How about I do not believe this bill will benefit South Carolina?

        Please don't act solely in the interest of your high-dollar contributors. This is even worse - you're implying that he's been improperly influenced by contibutions from business. That's a serious allegation, insulting to his integrity. Mention instead the other side of the coin, following on from your previous sentence i.e. My reading of the proposal is that it will only benefit the large corporations in this country, especially the media conglomerates. Please make sure that you are also acting on behalf of non-corporate interests, the individual constituents who voted for you.

        The last sentence can stand if you tone down the other two because you modify the you are doing a disservice with by proposing this bill. Otherwise I might have suggested this bill will do a disservice

        The thing to remember is that you are trying to influence this guy's opinion not run against him in the next election. You may believe that he's an idiot who doesn't understand the issue and is in the pockets of big business - but if your letter comes over that way any chance of persuading him will probably be lost.

    • Re:Rock on, Intel! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @03:32AM (#3111112) Homepage
      Rock on, Intel!

      I'm just as thrilled as everyone else to see intell fighting the SSSCA. But there's one thing that keeps nagging at me...

      Remember the Microsoft Digital Rights Managment Operating System patent from a while back? I read most of that sucker. It parts of it require a matching Digital Rights Managment CPU. There is no way in hell that Microsoft has overlooked this point. SOMEONE must have plans and/or patents on this beast. Either Microsoft or a CPU manufacturer. The only company that comes to mind for this role is INTEL...

      One key and unique phrase in the DRM-OS patent was "monotonic counter". What is so special about phrase? It generates unique serial numbers beyond the user's control. It enforces "trusted" control over an "untrusted" user.

      Well, I just did a search of the US patent office database [] and found exactly 6 patents contining "monotonic counter". Two patents from MICROSOFT. Two patents from SEAGATE. Two patents from INTEL.

      The two Microsoft patents are explicitly DRM. The two Seagate patents are for uncopyable encrypted harddrives. One Intel patent covers secure communications in a "pre-boot environment". This may or may not be DRM relevant. The other Intel patent is subtle, but claim 9 is "in a security device configured to provide secure monotonic counting functions" and later mentions use "In sensitive applications, such as electronic commerce, it is also necessary for the counting function to be secure against unauthorized intrusion and security breaches". This would be security against authorized users.

      Is it possible that Microsoft, Segate, and Intel are involved in a secret DRM-Axis-Of-Evil?

      Can anyone find any other evidence pointing to the required DRM CPU?

  • I'm glad to see some of the big players in the tech industry are standing up for consumers. I hope AMD and other companies will follow suit and maybe make Hollywood realize that they can't change technology and the internet, they will have to change their buisness model to adapt to this new medium.
    After reading all the pushing the media industry was doing it sure makes me feel better that someone with some money and power is standing up for end user rights and even going so far as to express their dislike of the DMCA.
    • Re:Go Intel! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ender81b ( 520454 )
      Indeed props to intel for standing up to the RIAA and MPAA. Of course Intel could buy them both and still have enough money to purchase Rhode Island, but I digrees. But, give credit to microsoft also. Steve ballmer is mentioned as a signee of the letter sent to the Recording/Movie industy. Give credit to all EIGHT companies who signed the letter. They all realized that this would be the death of the PC as we know it and are trying to stop it - course I wonder why they haven't bought a few senators yet..
      • Re:Go Intel! (Score:2, Informative)

        by goofy183 ( 451746 )
        Very true, all of these companies deserve a huge amount of credit for standing up to this. Hopefully many more will follow and give the RIAA & MPAA a good beating ... not to be violent but after all the dumb shit they have been trying to do and getting away with they deserve a public humuliation. Too bad that will never happen but at least they might stop their insane grabs for cencorship & digital influence.
  • DUH? (Score:3, Funny)

    by johnthorensen ( 539527 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:17PM (#3109493)
    How can /. publish an article on Pioneer 10 one day, then muck it all up by calling it "Voyager 10" the next?

    Guess it's easier to type "Voyager" than "Pioneer" when you've got you've got your left thumb stuck up your butt...

  • by SynKKnyS ( 534257 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:17PM (#3109498)
    ... but he is also still Microsoft's Chief Software Architect. He very much isn't stupid when it comes to the internals of the PC. MS-DOS tried to work around the 640k limitations IBM set in place using EMM386 and HIMEM.
  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:17PM (#3109499)
    The bloody problem was that segments overlapped.
    i.e. Only 16 bytes *didn't* overlap in 2 consecutive segments -- meaning there was 65535 different ways to address the *same* memory location. (Ok, 64K wrap-around in a segment sucked too.)

    Why the heck couldn't Intel just have "zero" memory for when the CPU accessed segmented memory that didn't exist.

    0000:0000 .. FFFF full 64k
    0009:0000 .. FFFF full 64k (total 640K)
    : all zero when read
    B800:0000 frame buffer (mono or cga, I forgot)
    A000:0000 VGA frame buffer

    At least "real mode" is dead (finally :)
    • It probably cost less silicon space to access the next portion of the segment than to hardwire to zero. This could also be a benefit in some ways but having a true 32 bit addressing would of been the thing to opt to at that time.
    • At least "real mode" is dead (finally :)
      Tell that to the poor designers who
      • Design x86 embedded systems, and have to write code to initialize the CPU.
      • Design SCSI, network, or video cards, that still use BIOS extension ROMs.
      • by Frank T. Lofaro Jr. ( 142215 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:57PM (#3109725) Homepage
        Never mind embedded, the regular Linux kernel has to switch into protected mode itself.

        By the way, why is the obsolete (286 compatibility) "lmsw" instruction used there instead of mov cr0, eax, which works just as well. mov cr0, eax won't work on a 286, but since Linux doesn't run on those that's not a issue. :) We don't want to be one of the people that are forcing Intel to keep backward compatibility cruft in the CPU, do we?

        Also, the Intel docs say you should immediately do an intersegment jump after entering protected mode - linux does a local jump first.

        I patched my kernel to address these issues and it worked fine. Any comments?

        (*) Also, the new SMM (System Management Mode) is a quasi-real mode which is becoming more popular for certain functions (such as power management, etc).
        • I patched my kernel to address these issues and it worked fine. Any comments?

          You'll get plenty of feedback when/if you post it to kerneldev. Slashdot feedback isn't quite along the same lines. Seriously - send it in... it will either get accepted, or you'll learn some obscure reason as to why Linux initalizes the CPU like that.


  • by RaAmun ( 217775 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:18PM (#3109503)
    We have just recently passed through the 32-bit limit and are going to 64-bit

    I'm sorry I must have just been dreaming about alpha's and sparcs these past few years.
    • Does anyone really believe that he had input on the hardware design of the IBM PC? That's what he's suggesting. I was under the impression that the architecture was already set by the time Microsoft was called. Would IBM really ask DR and MS for an OS for a machine that wasn't even specced out yet?
      • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @09:32PM (#3109908) Homepage
        Does anyone really believe that he had input on the hardware design of the IBM PC? That's what he's suggesting. I was under the impression that the architecture was already set by the time Microsoft was called. Would IBM really ask DR and MS for an OS for a machine that wasn't even specced out yet?

        Read the email, Bill says that he had more input into the design of the Sirius than the PC. It is pretty obvious that Chuck Peddle would consult Bill over the design of the Sirius at an early stage as Microsoft Basic was the killer app of the PC world.

        From all accounts the IBM PC was essentially designed and manufactured in just over a year. Microsoft was brought in at least a year before the launch because writing the code would take time, so yes Microsoft was in a position to make comments about the PC design at an early stage. As Bill himself states, they were not listened to.

        It is also pretty obvious that someone in Bill's position would be pushing for the 68K since everyone arround at the time knew that the 68K was the better chip. IBM actually went for the Intel chip because they could reuse work from a previous failed wordprocessor project.

        Those of us who had used PDP and VAX knew that a 32 bit address space was the most desirable improvement in going to the 16 bit processors. Even if you did not anticipate being able to have that much RAM any time soon VAX had demonstrated that virtual memory could work.

    • He's talking about personal computers. He did mention servers with 64 bit architecture, or, at least infers it, in the next paragraph.
  • Thanks for Bitch-slapping Hollywood. I don't know what else to really say but I'm glad finally Companies with money are starting to get tough, and we need more of it or one day I'm going to wake up and everything in my house is branded, regulated and monitored by the the MPAA/RIAA..
  • by Chexum ( 1498 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:22PM (#3109528) Homepage
    Even 64-bit architecture won't last forever, but it will last for quite a while since only servers and scientific stuff have run out of 32-bit space right now. In three or four years the industry will have moved over to 64-bit architecture, and it looks like it will suffice for more than a decade.
    Pardon? I don't wan't to be another BG, but I think this time he's over-cautious. Filling 2^64 bytes of memory, over a 66MHz/64 bit bus would take about 132 billion (10^9) seconds. That's about 4100 years. There could be some coding tricks which would be easier with more than 64 bits of address spaces, but handling this much data is... difficult. Even if the situation improves three magnitudes in the next ten years, it still years to initialize a database this big in "memory" (fastest accessible storage). And even if the addressable unit changes from bytes to 64 bit (or more) words, this makes the need to go over 64 bits of addressing still useless...
    • I don't wan't to be another BG, but I think this time he's over-cautious. Filling 2^64 bytes of memory, over a 66MHz/64 bit bus would take about 132 billion (10^9) seconds
      That's true, but only relevant if you assume that 64-bit addressing gets you 2^64 bytes of memory. In reality, many of those bits are used for flags and other non-addressing things, so assume more like 2^48 bytes of memory. Assume a 266MHz/64 bit bus (4x your example, more like what's presently available on consumer-level machines), and that's 36.7h to initialize. Considering specifically the case of large mainframes with many processors, where this will first become an issue, divide by 128 processors/memory banks, with each of those going at full speed only 17.2m is necessary - and that's without even considering how much faster and wider buses will be by the end of the decade. I think you're too optimistic; assumptions like those are what got us narrow address spaces in the first place.
      • That's true, but only relevant if you assume that 64-bit addressing gets you 2^64 bytes of memory. In reality, many of those bits are used for flags and other non-addressing things, so assume more like 2^48 bytes of memory

        Uh. 2^64 - 2^48 = 2^63.999977986054, not 2^32. The system you are describing would have 256 terabytes of usable ram (2^48) and 15.9998 exabytes of 'flags and stuff'.

        Not a very realistic computer system, I think
        • You completely missed the point of that post; the entire point of flags is to modify a pointer, as meta-data, not to point into 16 exabytes of non-existant memory, which would be useless. Where having a few extra bits for each pointer is useful is when doing things like reference counting (wouldn't it be interesting to have that in hardware? Set a bit to turn it off), caching (reserve some bits to indicate which caches have copies), memory management schemes (compiler hints, memory handles, virtual memory info, etc), and so on. Don't assume that just because every value of a 32-bit pointer corresponds to a unique memory location that the same must by true of a long long pointer.
    • Filling 2^64 bytes of memory, over a 66MHz/64 bit bus would take about 132 billion (10^9) seconds.

      What the hell are you talking about? By the time computers have that much memory the data bus would certainly be a LOT faster than 66 MHz/64 bit (duh!), so all you've presented is some completely useless statistics. At the rate the memory requirements are progressing, 64 bit address space is going to be enough for a looooong time. Probably 30-40 years.

    • by Frank T. Lofaro Jr. ( 142215 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @09:19PM (#3109831) Homepage
      I can make a good case for 192 bit addressing.

      64 bits local memory address plus
      128 bits of IPv6 address.

      So you could have a pointer to memory location X on IP address Y. Distributed memory access over a network.

      256 bits might make more sense, then both parts would be equal (128 bits).

  • Spammer Rice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GSloop ( 165220 ) <networkguru.sloop@net> on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:26PM (#3109550) Homepage
    Rice has consented to the entry of an order that would enjoin him from future violations of the foregoing provisions

    Could someone appears that Rice has agreed not to break the laws he already broke?! Damn... "I promise not to rape, pillage and plunder any more!"

    It looks like a panty-waist settlement. Does anyone know the punitive damages etc the FTC is asking for? This looks like a PR move, but no real action.

  • by Dr. Awktagon ( 233360 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:32PM (#3109582) Homepage

    We, the people, need a charismatic, high-profile champion with no stake other than the public interest. Who will take up the mantle?

    Yes, Dan Gillmor is absolutely right, we need a champion for individual rights. Someone who can make a case for the public domain that doesn't devolve into an argument about which company can make more money.

    Intel isn't going to do it, because Intel is interested only in Intel's profits.

    Someone needs to say things like:

    • Copyright is not an absolute right, it is a compromise. There can be, and there is such a thing as "too much copyright"
    • There is such a thing as public domain.
    • All inventions and writings should end up in the public domain, because that's where they came from.
    • Dead people's works don't need copyright protection.
    • Individuals copy because they want to. A government interested in "freedom" should find a way to ensure people can do what they want. A corporation interested in "capitalism" should find a way to profit from the things people want to do.
    • America is about Opportunity, not Guarantee (I believe Lincoln said words to that effect). If your business model doesn't work, find another one.
    and so forth. Normally, the Government is supposed to represent the People. Unfortunately, the Government has been priced out of reach of the People.

    We have a moratorium on internet taxes.. why didn't we have a moratorium on internet copyrights until things got sorted out?

    So indeed, who will pick up the mantle?

    The only person I know of who makes a moral argument for this is RMS, but unfortunately he doesn't quite fit the description "charismatic"....

    • So indeed, who will pick up the mantle?

      I think, perhaps, you just did.


      *sigh* The lameness filter aparently doesn't belive in conciseness. Therefore, the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog and now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of their country.

    • I recently listened to 1/2 a speech by Ralph Nader, for a while he was talking about how the capatilism in U.S. was getting messed up because in many markets monoplys or oligarchies are forming and are being supported by the Courts. The courts were what was killing capitalism because they stopped new innovative companies to challenge established firms (funny how the left wine sounds like the right wing sometimes, but mainstream is always way off).
  • by blamanj ( 253811 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:33PM (#3109584)
    While I don't know if BG actually made the 640K quote or not, the history that he provides (i.e., we really wanted to do things right, but the evil hardware people wouldn't let us) is self-serving and not exactly correct.

    The Motorolla 68000 did have a 32-bit design, but it only had 24-bit addressing when it came out, which was the same as Intel was attempting to provide with the 80286.

    However, it was impossible to use the address space of the 286 because it required the chip to go into protected mode, and MS-DOS made assumptions that made this impossible. While DOS 1.0 certainly couldn't have predicted this, MS had early access to the 286 specs, but they never made the appropriate changes. Digital Research did, with Concurrent CPM-86, but by that time, the MS-DOS juggernaught had pretty much rolled over everyone else.
    • The Motorolla 68000 did have a 32-bit design, but it only had 24-bit addressing when it came out, which was the same as Intel was attempting to provide with the 80286.

      The 68k, while it could only physically address 16MB, still had the software potential for 32-bit addresses. So you take your old 68k code and run it on a 68020, and your program can use 4 gigabytes of address space without any changes. Take 80286 protected segment code which can only address 16MB and run it on a 80386, and it can still just use 16MB.

      The 68000 was much more like the 80386SX than the 80286.

      • I said:

        So you take your old 68k code and run it on a 68020, and your program can use 4 gigabytes of address space without any changes.
        Ooops, I forgot... the above is true for everyone except Microsoft. Microsoft's Amiga Basic used 24-bit addresses, but stored them in 32-bit pieces of memory along with an additional 8 bits of other information. Then it relied on the hardware to chop off the 8 unused high bits whenever it was used as a pointer... which caused their code to fail miserably on 68020+ Amigas. Morons.
    • However, it was impossible to use the address space of the 286 because it required the chip to go into protected mode, and MS-DOS made assumptions that made this impossible. While DOS 1.0 certainly couldn't have predicted this, MS had early access to the 286 specs, but they never made the appropriate changes.

      According to the Delamater history of IBM's anti-trust years Microsoft thought the 286 to be to broken to build an O/S that supported protected memory. IBM insisted that they had to ship OS/2 to support the IBM PC AT as they had promised it would support the new O/S.

      This was the main issue that led to IBM and Microsoft parting ways, IBM insisted on supporting the 286, Microsoft wanted to skip it and move straight to the 386.

    • by mughi ( 32874 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @11:48PM (#3110393)
      ...the history that he provides (i.e., we really wanted to do things right, but the evil hardware people wouldn't let us) is self-serving and not exactly correct.

      That it was not correct seems to pinpoint it. This interview with Bill Gates that's in the Smithsonian paints a slightly different picture: tm (A transcript of a 1993 interview) []. Specifically under the mouse: tm#tc44 []

      "I laid out memory so the bottom 640K..."

      So he seems quite clear that he himself did that. In the same interview he used "Microsoft" and "we" when appropriate, so it seems that in context this is indeed claiming that he himself did that.

      Now, let's compare to the "spin" version of things:

      1996 Bloomberg: "The IBM PC had 1 megabyte of logical address space. But 384K of this was assigned to special purposes, leaving 640K of memory available."

      contrast that statement to the earlier one of:

      1993 SI: "I laid out memory so the bottom 640K was general purpose RAM and the upper 384 I reserved for video and ROM, and things like that."

      D'oh! By 1996 he 'forgot' that he was the one who did that. Ooops.

      1996 Bloomberg: "We at Microsoft disagreed. We knew that even 16-bit computers, which had 640K of available address space, would be adequate for only four or five years."

      contrast that with his statement from the SI interview:

      1993 SI: "But to my surprise, we ran out of that address base for applications within -- oh five or six years people were complaining"

      Look's like 20-20 revisionist history. Seems to be in-line with having held the opinion that 640K (ten times the shipping memory of the IBM PC) would be enough. In 1993 he was defending it. In 1996 he was denying it.

  • by Bowie J. Poag ( 16898 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:35PM (#3109597) Homepage

    I'd trust Gates about as far as I could throw a Buick.
    Anyone remember words to this effect?

    "Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft Corp. a fiercely competitive company(...)" - Microsoft Encarta, 1996

    "Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft is a contributor to several charitable causes, including...(...)" Microsoft Encarta 2000
    • I hate to date myself like this, but here it goes:

      Gates gave a little 'get to know you' talk the University of Waterloo in Canada in 1988 or 1989. It was basically a recruiting effort, from what I could see. Anyway, I distinctly remember him making a self-deprecating joke about that 640k 'ought to be enough for anyone' business.

      Maybe I'm misremembering, but I don't think so.

    • Perhaps because he gave away quite a bit of money to charitable causes during that time?

      (Encarta 2000 was, after all, put out just around the time they were forming the "Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation" - I'm sure charity was on their mind at that time.)

      I mean, I don't admire the guy particularly and I don't use his company's products, but slamming the guy for updating his bio (after 4 years) seems a bit silly.
    • From

      (William Henry Gates 3d), 1955-, American business executive, b. Seattle, Wash. At the age of 19, Gates founded (1974) the Microsoft Company, a computer software firm, with Paul Allen. They began by purchasing the rights to convert an existing software package. In 1980 they agreed to produce the operating system for the personal computer being developed by International Business Machines (IBM). That system, MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System), and subsequent programs (including the Windows operating systems) made Microsoft the world's largest producer of software for microcomputers.
      In 1997 the U.S. Justice Dept. accused Microsoft of violating a 1995 antitrust agreement, because the Windows 95 operating system required consumers to load Microsoft's Internet browser-thus giving Microsoft a monopolistic advantage over other browser manufacturers. In late 1999 the trial judge decided that Microsoft was a monopoly that had stifled competition.

      Gates, who is chairman of Microsoft, is the wealthiest person in the world. He founded (1994) the William H. Gates Foundation (focusing on health issues in developing countries) and the Gates Learning Foundation (1997), renamed the Gates Library Foundation (providing education assistance). In 1999, he merged the foundations into the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a philanthropy that was worth $17.1 billion, after Gates's donation of $5 billion that year.

      Gates has written The Road Ahead (1995, with N. Myhrvold and P. Rinearson) and Business @ the Speed of Thought (1999).

      Gates, William Henry, III (1955- ), American business executive, who serves as chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft Corporation, the leading computer software company in the United States. Gates cofounded Microsoft in 1975 with high school friend Paul Allen. The company's success made Gates one of the most influential figures in the computer industry and, eventually, one of the richest people in the world.

      Born in Seattle, Washington, Gates attended public school through the sixth grade. In the seventh grade he entered Seattle's exclusive Lakeside School, where he met Paul Allen. Gates was first introduced to computers and programming languages in 1968, when he was in the eighth grade. That year Lakeside bought a teletype machine that connected to a mainframe computer over phone lines. At the time, the school was one of the few that provided students with access to a computer.

      Soon afterward, Gates, Allen, and other students convinced a local computer company to give them free access to its PDP-10, a new minicomputer made by Digital Equipment Corporation.

      In exchange for the computer time, the students tried to find flaws in the system. Gates spent much of his free time on the PDP-10 learning programming languages such as BASIC, Fortran, and LISP. In 1972 Gates and Allen founded Traf-O-Data, a company that designed and built computerized car-counting machines for traffic analysis. The project introduced them to the programmable 8008 microprocessor from Intel Corporation.

      While attending Harvard University in 1975, Gates teamed with Allen to develop a version of the BASIC programming language for the Altair 8800, the first personal computer. They licensed the software to the manufacturer of the Altair, Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), and formed Microsoft (originally Micro-soft) to develop versions of BASIC for other computer companies. Gates decided to drop out of Harvard in his junior year to devote his time to Microsoft. In 1980 Microsoft closed a pivotal deal with International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) to provide the operating system for the IBM PC personal computer. As part of the deal, Microsoft retained the right to license the operating system to other companies. The success of the IBM PC made the operating system, MS-DOS, an industry standard. Microsoft's revenues skyrocketed as other computer makers licensed MS-DOS and demand for personal computers surged. In 1986 Microsoft offered its stock to the public; by 1987 rapid appreciation of the stock had made Gates, 31, the youngest ever self-made billionaire. In the 1990s, as Microsoft's Windows operating system and Office application software achieved worldwide market dominance, Gates amassed a fortune worth tens of billions of dollars. Alongside his successes, however, Gates was accused of using his company's power to stifle competition. In 2000 a federal judge found Microsoft guilty of violating antitrust laws and ordered it split into two companies. An appeals court overturned the breakup order but upheld the judge's ruling that Microsoft had abused its power to protect its Windows monopoly. (For more information on the history of Microsoft, see Microsoft Corporation.)

      Gates has made personal investments in other high-technology companies. In 1989 he founded Corbis Corporation, which now owns the largest collection of digital images in the world. In 1995 Corbis purchased the Bettmann Archive of 16 million photographic images and announced plans to digitize part of the collection. In 1994 Gates and Craig McCaw, a pioneer in the cellular telecommunications industry, became primary investors in Teledesic Corporation. Teledesic planned to launch several hundred low-orbiting artificial satellites to create a global, high-speed telecommunications network.

      In the late 1990s Gates became more involved in philanthropy. With his wife he established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which, ranked by assets, quickly became one of the largest foundations in the world. Gates has also authored two books: The Road Ahead (1995; revised, 1996), which details his vision of technology's role in society, and Business @ the Speed of Thought (1999), which discusses the role technology can play in running a business.

      In 1998 Gates appointed an executive vice president of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, to the position of president, but Gates continued to serve as Microsoft's chairman and chief executive officer (CEO). In 2000 Gates transferred the title of CEO to Ballmer. Gates, in turn, took on the title of chief software architect to focus on the development of new products and technologies.
  • Canadia? (Score:3, Funny)

    by grammar fascist ( 239789 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:37PM (#3109612) Homepage
    The Canadian Copyright Board has announced the details of the public hearings on Canadian Digital Copyrights...

    What? Aren't the DMCA, UCITA, and SSSCA good enough for them?

    Why some backwater state in the USA would need their own special laws on this is totally beyond me...

    (Before you flame, yes, I know.)
  • by vanyel ( 28049 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:44PM (#3109650) Journal
    7.42 billion miles, a little over 22 light hours away. Lesseee, divide by 22, times 2, divide by 27380 mph, divide by 24 hours/day: so in 1026 days, or about 3 years, it will cross the 1 light day boundary...
  • Its all fine and dandy to deny something after the fact, but is he claiming he sent this email out before anyone at Microsoft had ever heard of the internet (long after 640K became a problem)
  • I don't think Bill's saying, "I never said that." I think that what he's saying is, "That was taken out of context." Perhaps what Bill G. said was, "640k should be enough for anyone ... for now." Which is pretty much what I always figured had happened.

    Disclaimer: I think Microsoft sucks donkey balls, and the sooner they stop being a monopoly, the sooner the world will be a much better place.
  • Pioneer Tech Specs (Score:5, Informative)

    by ( 450073 ) <[moc.tibroni] [ta] [udanax]> on Monday March 04, 2002 @08:56PM (#3109715) Homepage Journal
    You all HAVE to read this. Seriously. This is a good bit of nice dry tech specs on the Pioneer 10. []

    Personally, this is a very good read. I found this bit especially interesting:

    The processor is completely redundant with the exception of the interface circuits. Upon command from the spacecraft, the signal processor can be switched from the main logic system to a standby redundant logic system. The function of the processor is to sequentially accumulate data on a frame basis from the seven detectors. Data are accumulated in a 24 bit register and then compressed quasi-logarithmically to 12 bits for transmission.

    As the other artices say, that baby is getting quite cold. There's a year by year printout of it's tmperature on that page too.
    Anyway, I just thougt I'd point this out for those interested in a little more "dry" facts on the thing other than the hoopla of it talking back (which is a feat, don't get me wrong).
    • by cicadia ( 231571 )
      As the other artices say, that baby is getting quite cold.

      Cold? The thing's practically burning up! I thought it was getting cold, too, until I saw that the most recent temperatures are actually negative, and then realised that the table is in degrees Farenheit.

      As of 1991, the spacecraft was still at 251K, and it had only cooled off about 40K in the twenty years since launch.

      I mean, -7F is still pretty cold -- you'd probably get your tongue stuck to it out there -- but it's a lot warmer than its environment. Probably has a lot to do with the onboard nuclear reactor...

  • by Allen Akin ( 31718 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @09:05PM (#3109758)
    I was working in the compiler group at Microsoft in the early '80s, so I remember some of the historical context.

    I recall suggesting to my boss (who reported to Bill back then) that Apple made a mistake by choosing 128K as the initial memory size for the Mac. My argument was that they'd need 256K to eliminate code swapping in the apps that were under development. The next-generation memory chips would make 1MB machines affordable, and I thought that would be enough for the foreseeable future. (I'm not claiming I was a visionary, either. :-))

    My boss replied that the consensus opinion at Microsoft was that no one would ever buy machines with a megabyte of memory. Even if it were affordable, just consider how long it would take to clear it! An app would never really *use* that much memory on a PC; it would just be too slow.

    (CPU speeds and memory speeds were not only much lower than they are today, they tended to be more closely coupled. Datapaths were much narrower. And Moore's Law wasn't widely understood outside a relatively small group of hardware-savvy folks.)

    So Bill may have been fully prescient, and busy paving the way for large-memory machines. But that definitely wasn't the general belief at Microsoft around 1983. If he really did understand things as well as he says, he didn't manage to communicate it successfully even to his direct reports in engineering.
  • People attribute all sorts of smart things to Gates that he didn't do, so he shouldn't get upset about this one.

    In any case, people generally aren't saying that Microsoft was responsible for the 640k limit. What Microsoft really is responsible for is delivering MS-DOS and Windows 3.x. If Gates did that despite knowing better, deliberately condemning the industry to more than a decade of blue screens and flaky software, that would be much worse. So, which is it: was Gates merely ignorant or callously opportunistic back then?

  • by gewalkeriq ( 263780 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @09:15PM (#3109811)
    1) MS is based on upgrade software where more machine resources is required to run each subsequent version of the same software.

    2) BG is the Anti-Christ, as such he is master of space and time (and other amusing parlor tricks)

    3) BG knew for a fact the 640K would not last long, it fact it would be impede the upgrade treadmill for a number of years.

    Thus, BG would never have said it. However, I wonder about ...

    4) John 8:44 "for the devil .. he is a liar and the father of lies." NIV

    I could be wrong.
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @09:42PM (#3109955) Homepage Journal

    Amazingly people like Bob Harp (Vector Graphics?remember them?) went around the industry saying we should stick with that and just use bank switching techniques. Bank switching comes up whenever an address space is at the end of its life. It's a hack where you have more physical memory than logical memory. Fortunately we got enough applications moved to the 8086/8 machines to get the industry off of 16-bit addressing, but it was clear from the start the extra 4 bits wouldn't be sufficient for long.

    Yeah, like you really dodged the bullet and avoided that hack -- NOT! Bank switching was what LIM EMS memory (LIM standing for Lotus, Intel, and Microsoft) was all about. Because you never ported MSDOS to the 80286 or 80386, we developers had to resort to hacks like EMS to fit our bloated code (ok, that part is my fault) into the address space.

    If Microsoft had kept up with the hardware technology, maybe I wouldn't have torn out so much hair in the 80s, and maybe I wouldn't hate them as much today....

    ... nah, I'd still hate 'em, because once better OSes started to show up for the 386 (e.g. OS/2 version 2) and people finally started saying adios to DOS, Microsoft couldn't stand the thought of it, so they started pushing Windows down everyone's throats, using dirty techniques such as preloads, per processor licensing, etc.

    It's the same pattern that MS used with the Internet and the same that we'll see again with whatever comes next. Microsoft has always been about denying technology, and then when everyone gets fed up with their backwoods Amish luddite mentality and start to leave them, MS does something underhanded (usually involving a monopoly leverage) to lock people in again... only to let their followers/victims rot again while visionless Microsoft grows fat and complacent. Over'n'over because sheep are too stupid to learn. But some of us remember.

    Damn, where did that pointless rant come from? Oh yeah, Gates quote reminded me of when I saw them kill the personal computer revolution. Funny how that always gets my dander up.

    • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday March 04, 2002 @10:10PM (#3110081)
      I think you are entirely wrong.

      First off, to preface, I work at a company who is desperately clinging to 8-bit and 16-bit DOS code, much of it with proprietary memory resident databases, inline assembly, and the truly wonderful BASIC language (compiled with the lovely BASCOM compiler, circa 1985). My co-worker and fellow programmer spends his day avoiding a rewrite at all costs to appease the "Powers that Be". Lets just say he is re-implementing an entire DOS-like system inside Windows to avoid an "expensive". Summary: I am more than familiar with the limitations of DOS and the DOS based world.

      Now, to the meet of it. In short, don't blame Microsoft, blame bad, ignorant companies such as the one I work for who refuse to use good technology to solve hard problems.

      Way back when the place I work was founded as the anti-thesis to the mainframe places that dominated this particular vertical market. In short, my boss didnt believe in the Unix way, and founded a comapny based around the new idea of microcomputers and, wait for it.. DOS.

      When the competitors wrote systems for dumb terminals, we wrote DOS based systems with databases running off from Novell servers. When they implemented TCP and advanced network we used IPX. Now, ten years later, those people can keep their significant investments by recomiling, writing a GUI translation layer, and using a new database. We used DOS, hardcoded non-relational databases, and bad programming techniques.

      The bottom line is that now, we are facing throwing away fifteen years of constant improvement, enhanced design, and user feedback. Our Unix competitors are taking back the cusomters we've been leaching off them for the last fifteen years - using the same lines we used to sell our wares in the first place (lower TCO, lower investment, more of a future, etc). Best yet, they are switcing to Linux and other platforms that are essentially free and extinction proof.

      The bottom line? If you tied your system to a proprietary platform, with all kinds of bad techniques than you have only yourself to blame, not MS or anyone else.

      MS was originally going to upgrade DOS to be Unix like - multithreads, a decent programming model, better support for hardware, extensions for newer processors - but basically no one wanted to improve their programs beyond what DOS could then do. People didnt want to break compatibility with older stuff, which from time to time is needed for advancement.

      And in the end, MS saw that a hybrid system - like Windows 3 was a good stop gap until they could really create a new totally GUI System and then eventually kill DOS.

      The bottom line?

      When you choose to get in bed with the devil, don't be surprised when he sticks his hot burning poker where the sun doesn't properly shine.
  • Register Now! (Score:3, Informative)

    by SubtleNuance ( 184325 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @10:34PM (#3110165) Journal
    Below is the Date/Site & Contact info for the Dept.of Ind & Cdn Heritage hearings -- please, if you life in any of these cities GOTO these hearings. If not to present/speak, at least to applaud && boo at the appropriate times.

    This is the final step before Canada gets its very own DMCA.... What fun that will be.

    Halifax, Nova Scotia - Friday, March 8, 2002
    Citadel Halifax Hotel
    (902) 422-1391

    Vancouver, British Columbia - Friday, March 15, 2002
    Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel
    (604) 893-7257

    Montreal, Quebec - Thursday, March 21, 2002
    Holiday Inn Montreal-Midtown
    (514) 842-6111

    Toronto, Ontario - Tuesday, March 26, 2002
    Holiday Inn On King
    (416) 599-4000

    Ottawa, Ontario - Thursday, April 11, 2002
    Government Conference Centre
    (613) 990-6700

  • by sharkey ( 16670 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @12:10AM (#3110464)
    Absolutely. Richest man in the world, but just look at the hair.

    "Check out the bowl-job, Marge!" --Homer
  • by AdamBa ( 64128 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @12:23AM (#3110512) Homepage
    In an interview in the very first issue of PC Magazine, February-March 1982 (a copy of which I am looking at right now), he said (p. 21-22):

    In five years the cost of computation will really be effectively decreased. We'll be able to put on somebody's desk, for an incredibly low cost, a processor with far more capability than you could ever take advantage of. Hardware in effect will become a lot less interesting. The total job will be in the software, and we'll be able to write big fat programs. We can let them run somewhat inefficiently because there will be so much horsepower that just sits there.

    This makes is unlikely he ever thought 640K would be enough...but he also said, in the same interview (p. 18-19):

    16-bits is extremely important, and it is not because of speed...the main reason for the 16-bit micro being advantageous is its increased address space...The logical address space for all practical purposes gone away. The chip is designed to address a megabyte."

    So he did seem to indicate that one megabyte address space was basically limitless.

    - adam

  • by Nagash ( 6945 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @12:56AM (#3110649) Homepage
    Before you get all alarmist about the fact that Canada is looking to reform their Copyright Act to incoporate the points in the WIPO Copyright Treaty of 1996 (WTC), you would do well to read what the deparment who drafted the Consultation Paper on Digital Copyright Issues has to think about copy protection measures:

    2. Legal Protection of Technological Measures

    b) Perspective


    The departments are of the view that providing a sanction against an act of circumvention, where the act is motivated by an infringing purpose, may [already] be addressed under copyright principles. A broader prohibition, including a prohibition against the manufacture and distribution of circumvention devices, may, in its effect protect rights that are beyond the scope of copyright protection (e.g. contractual rights). Such broader prohibitions may need to be considered under different policy principles and under a different legal regime.

    What is important to note here is that the department feels that anti-circumvention may already be covered by copyright law and that restricting devices to circumvent protection is too broad. If you read the original paper ( []) the tone is very much in favour of making these laws so that they strike a balance between the public and rights holders (i.e., those who provide content).

    Of course, this is not the final law and there is much to be addressed. However, the outlook, in my opinion, is good. There is no way the reform, as discussed on the department's site (so far) is indicative of DMCA-ish measures. People should keep this in mind before shooting their mouths off about Canadian copyright reform (of course, this is /. we are talking about).

    This does not mean, however, that those interested in truely keeping the balance of copyright in a sane manner can just be apathetic. My comments are registered on the department's site and I'm probably going to one of the meetings (either in Toronto or Ottawa).

  • Blame the IBM BIOS! (Score:5, Informative)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @03:37AM (#3111122) Homepage
    Guys, I can't believe no one has yet posted the true reason why the 640K limit was a problem. Well, I'll explain it.

    The IBM PC BIOS was designed to abstract the hardware. These days Linux or Windows do that for us, but in those days the BIOS was what you had. Your DOS programs were never supposed to talk to the hardware, they were supposed to go through the BIOS.

    The problem was that the BIOS sucked. Want to draw a character on the screen? Fine; there is a BIOS call for that. (BIOS calls were called "interrupts" because you used an interrupt to call them, but I'll just call them "BIOS calls".) Want to draw a whole string of characters on the screen? You would think there would be a BIOS call for that too, right? But there wasn't. You would have to do one interrupt per character, and poke your string onto the screen one character at a time! And interrupts were really expensive; remember that we are talking a 4.7 MHz chip with slo-o-o-o-w memory.

    And suppose you wanted to read the keyboard? Not a problem; there was a BIOS call for that. Of course, it had a few limitations: it could only recognize a little more than 500 distinct keypresses. If your app wanted to recognize Alt+F1, no problem, that was one of the recognized keys. But if you wanted to recognize Ctrl+Alt+Shift+F1, too bad. The obvious and correct way to read the keyboard is to return the scan code for which key was pressed, coupled with a chord of which shift keys were down (e.g. Ctrl and Alt were down, shift wasn't, or whatever). With two bytes of data, you could handle any combination of Alt+Shift+Ctrl+whatever. But the BIOS didn't do it that way.

    There are other examples, but I think those two are enough. Given this broken a BIOS, the application writers all decided to go around the BIOS and talk directly to the hardware. Get the address of the keyboard controller, find out what keys the user hit, and support any combination of keys you want. Get the address of the video card's character buffer, and use MOVS to blast a string into it with zero overhead. Now your copy of Microsoft Word 1.0 runs much faster than if it used the BIOS.

    Guess what address the video card was at? That's right, 640K. By the time people began seriously hurting for more address space, there was way too much software out there writing directly into the character buffer of the video card, so it was now too late to move the buffer somewhere else. The 640K limit was set in stone.

    Even if everyone had used the BIOS, there would have still been a 1024K limit, since that's all you could address on an 8088. But that would have been much better, and it would have been much easier to write environments like DesqView. (You could have done something like DesqView on an 8088 if it only had to run well-behaved apps, i.e. apps that never went to the hardware but always went through the BIOS.)

    P.S. Slightly offtopic, but I have fond memories of using a multitasking environment called OmniView. It did much the same thing as DesqView, except that it didn't try to do the overlapping windows thing with the apps; it ran your apps full-screen. You could use function key combos to switch your full screen among app sessions, almost exactly like using Ctrl+Alt+Fn in Linux to switch full-screen among virtual ttys. DesqView got the fame and fortune, but OmniView was a little bit more efficient and I got some real work done using it on my 33 MHz 386 system. I used to run compiles in parallel: one compile would cause the disk to load the source, and the other compiles that used the same source file would find the data already buffered. I could finish four compiles in only a little more time than a single compile took on its own; the compiles were fairly disk-bound.

  • by Peter Lake ( 260100 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @08:16AM (#3111773)
    NASA omitted one very important little line from the plaque [] onboard Pioneers.

    Alien A: OK. So now we know who they are, where they live, and how big they are.

    Alien B: Umm...but where do babies come from?

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll