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Bill Gates Talk From 1989 Surfaces 317

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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  • OS/2... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @10:06PM (#18475257) Homepage
    You do know that the NT4 core is extremely similar to OS/2, and the only reason they diverged is because of a fight between IBM and MS?
  • by Salvance ( 1014001 ) * on Saturday March 24, 2007 @10:10PM (#18475291) Homepage Journal
    To the computer enthusiasts of the time, it would have been even more laughable had Bill Gates said "in the next two decades, Microsoft software will completely destroy OS/2, will render Apple a shell of its former self by stealing all its innovations, and will demand 1 GB of RAM." So even if he had his world domination plans set in 1989, he couldn't exactly let the world know without being laughed at.
  • Transcript? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rgo ( 986711 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @10:13PM (#18475311)
    Is there a transcript anywhere? Or at least a summary? I don't have the time to listen to an hour and a half mp3.
  • But (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Centurix ( 249778 ) <centurix@@@gmail...com> on Saturday March 24, 2007 @10:15PM (#18475317) Homepage
    I really do only need 640k. As long as I can play Scramble on my Vic 20 I'll be happy for life.
  • by ePhil_One ( 634771 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @10:45PM (#18475527) Journal
    Actually, he owes it to Gary Kildall refusing to talk to IBM when they asked him to port his dominant OS to their new computer. Bill got into the OS market to save his contract with IBM for Basic on the new PC.
  • Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xenographic ( 557057 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @10:45PM (#18475529) Journal
    You have to admit that it's easier to predict the future when you're the one making it... :]

    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?
  • Predictions (Score:4, Interesting)

    by yuriyg ( 926419 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @11:00PM (#18475599)

    And yet, by and large, he had accurately, chillingly, prophesied an entire decade or two of software and hardware development.
    Shouldn't be all that surprising, since he more or less controlled the direction of desktop software development in the 90's. I would assume he just stated his vision of the future of software, and that vision was implemented.
  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @11:40PM (#18475783)
    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).

    Gates began programming at age thirteen, at age fourteen he is clearing $20,000 in is first partnership with Allen. Microsoft is founded in 1975. Microsoft in in Japan in 1978. In Europe in 1979. In 1980 Microsoft is young, hungry, and moving a hell of lot faster than Kildall.

  • by Burlador ( 1048862 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @11:54PM (#18475843)
    From Chip Magazin 1/1990 (my re-translation from German):

    "I think about Handwriting recognition. In two or three years, we may have computers without keyboards. In five or six years this will change, and voice recognition will reduce the importance of graphics."

    "In five or six years, DOS [sales] will be overtaken by OS/2."

    The he said he is personally using "a Mac II, a Compaq and a IBM" computer, as well as a "NEC-Ultralite".
  • by Traa ( 158207 ) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @12:03AM (#18475881) Homepage Journal
    Look, I love to hate Windows as much as anyone else (here on slashdot), but I happened to have worked on OS/2 drivers in the mid 90's and just thinking back at those make me cringe. OS/2 was a pile of crap when it died. Anyone thinking that IBM was on the verge of launching a flawless operating system is smoking something significantly stronger then I ever have (and I'm from The Netherlands)
  • by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @12:40AM (#18476081)
    What legendary rock-n-roll song was used at the gala release celebration for OS/2? Oh, that's right, there was no celebration. OS/2's number one reason for failing was that IBM didn't make much of an effort to make it a success.
  • The thing most people don't realize is that even the 1996 flavor of OS/2 Warp 4 is capable of running modern software like Firefox and OpenOffice, and it does so rather well on fairly limited hardware.

    Windows has a hard time doing that these days, and Linux is travelling in that direction (at least in terms of the mainstream distros, which seem to have abandoned legacy hardware support for eye candy).
  • Re:OS/2... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Richard Steiner ( 1585 ) <rsteiner@visi.com> on Sunday March 25, 2007 @01:07AM (#18476205) Homepage Journal
    Remember also that OS/2 ran Windows 3.1 software almost flawlessly, including software that used the 32-bit extensions found in WIN32S.DLL, and that Microsoft could only stop IBM from continuing to offer that high level of competability by changing the virtual machine size of WIN32S.DLL starting with version 1.30 and making that a default setting.

    That's why Adobe Photoshop for Windows 3.04 runs just fine under OS/2 Warp 4's WinOS2 subsystem but Adobe Photoshop 3.05 fails, for example. The only thing which changed between those two releases (besides a few fixes) was the move from WIN32S.DLL 1.25a to WIN32S.DLL 1.30.
  • Re:OS/2... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by laffer1 ( 701823 ) <luke@ f o o l i s h g a m es.com> on Sunday March 25, 2007 @01:10AM (#18476215) Homepage Journal
    Apparently they are not.

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/308259 [microsoft.com]
  • Re:OS/2... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ilgaz ( 86384 ) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @05:50AM (#18477109) Homepage
    In that book I referenced on my comment (The Microsoft File), a very advanced debugger guy finds a huge mistake on Win 3.x code which will totally break it if it runs under DR-DOS. Guy gets totally confused since a coder working for a company like Microsoft can't make that mistake without purpose.

    If I could find my copy , I would give names of course. Apologies.

  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @02:38PM (#18480277)
    IBM got a number of things right, prior to the release of the original IBM Personal Computer. I was working in a computer store at the time, in 1981, working in both sales and service. I was sent to Boca Raton in the first wave of salespeople and technicians for training on the as-yet-unannounced "IBM PC". I was unusual in that I was sent to both week-long classes, because the company couldn't decide whether I was a salesman or a service tech.

    It was a very interesting week. One question that came up early was, "that's great, but is it going to be another Apple ][, where we have to try and sell people a computer that won't do anything unless they write their own software?" Yes, I know, at that point the Apple ][ was already well-established but when it was first released it really had little application support. However, the IBM folks pointed to a shelf full of business software that they had already had ported to their new machine. BPI and Peachtree accounting, a couple of word processors and a bunch of other stuff. Smart, very smart.

    So, in combination with the magic letters IBM and plenty of common business apps including mainframe terminal emulation, it was hard not to sell the things. And this was when the only video out available was the IBM Monochrome Display and Printer Adapter! The original CGA card followed fairly quickly but we still sold a ton of those things with just the original green monochrome text-only display. It was all that businesses needed back then.

    The Apple grew out of the needs of the original hacker community, where everyone wrote their own software, and developed into a serviceable business system because developers jumped on-board and provided the applications software. IBM recognized this need, and made sure that there were enough good apps out for the PC before they even announced its existence. Some of them were rough ports, in a couple of cases obvious conversions from well-known Apple ][ software. But that didn't matter: business wanted an IBM computer system and it had programs that worked. End of story.

    I worked at a game development house in the mid-eighties: that company developed the original graphics demonstration that was shipped with every Commodore Amiga. I didn't get to write code for it, as a matter of fact it had no native development tools and the two guys that were coding for it had to work on a couple of Sparcs (the two machines were in a room with an electronic lock, nobody was allowed in, all very hush-hush.) The prototype Amiga 1000's came in hand-built plywood cases, and didn't even have a power-on/reset circuit.

    Anyway, as impressive a platform as the Amiga was, from both a hardware and operating system perspective, it suffered from a distinct lack of applications and an even more distinct lack of marketing. Commodore could have taken the lead and blown everyone else out of the water, but they apparently made the mistake of assuming that technological superiority would carry the day. It didn't then, and it doesn't now ... even the best products still have to be useful, and still have to be marketed. Commodore never really figured that out.

    I remember their one TV ad, where the sonorous announcer's voice said, "Only Amiga makes it possible." Makes what possible. The ad didn't say, and really was more confusing than anything else.
  • Re:OS/2... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheNetAvenger ( 624455 ) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @05:00PM (#18481209)
    From my perspective as developer of both real-time data acquisition systems and graphical user interfaces, I would say that it is difficult to make Windows do anything "useful". At least, it's often way more difficult than it ought to be. And no, I'm not a god, but there are times when I sit at my workstation and wish that I was.

    Well, I would buy your argument, but one of the main reasons Windows was as successful as it was in the development world in the early 1990s was based on the fact it was the most centralized and easiest OS to develop for at the time.

    This includes the largest and most encompassing abstracted driver support for developers, making the concepts of Video, Sound, and Printing an agnostic concept for developers.

    Windows is like the melting pot of development, in that anyone that can drag a textbox on a form can write an application and someone with a beginners knowledge can easily mimic what was seen as complex applications of the late 80s and early 90s rather easily.

    I'm not saying that the VB mentality of Windows development is always a good thing, but it allows simple IT people to knock out functional software that meets their particular needs.

    I can remember working with EDS several years back and they designed a full set of assembly-line diagnostic tools for GM/Delco using VB. This was a fairly complex and large scale project that they were able to bring to testing in a matter of weeks.

    And although it was not a realtime system in the true sense, it did provide realtime features that met their plant's needs quite well. So next time you turn up your Bose sound system in a Vette, you might want to give a shout out to Windows and VB.

    This would be far easier to debate if the standard development tools in other OSes all looked like Kylix and were more agnostic about the variant they were running on.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern