Privacy, as we understand it, is only about 150 years old. Humans do have an instinctual desire for privacy. However, for 3,000 years, cultures have nearly always prioritized convenience and wealth over privacy.
I said “there is no such thing as privacy, and there never was” way too many times. But I never had to go deep into the subject to defend it. This article, on the other hand, does a much better job defending the argument than I ever cared to.
Turbo Pascal wasn’t my first programming language (some variation of BASIC was), but I’ve spent countless hours coding in Turbo Pascal, both for my studies and outside.
It’s interesting to see how different and, at the same time, similar those interfaces of the past are to those of today. Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) have gone a long way, but their basic principles, as well as some shortcuts and UI elements, are very similar to the 30-old tools.
One thing that I find in common with Ilya’s comments is that the teachers didn’t know or cover all the options. The information was scarce and Google wasn’t around. For many, there was also a language barrier, rendering even the available documentation useless.
Ilya Birman has a massive blog post “UI Museum: Norton Commander 5.0” with almost 60 screenshots (!!!) and user interface feature descriptions of Norton Commander – an icon tool that was used by a whole generation of PC users in the DOS and early Windows era.
Norton Commander was so popular that is spawned a number of other projects that brought similar functionality to other operating systems (Midnight Commander for Linux), later versions of Windows (Far, Total Commander), and even other file management tools (FileZilla, CutFTP) and more.
History of Icons looks at the evolution of icons used for desktop, mobile, and web. There are plenty of nostalgia triggering screenshots from a variety of systems. Given that nobody could ever afford having all of those systems, I’m sure you’ll find interesting screens from computers you didn’t have or didn’t see.
One fine day in January 2017 I was reminded of something I had half-noticed a few times over the previous decade. That is, younger hackers don’t know the bit structure of ASCII and the meaning of the odder control characters in it.
This is knowledge every fledgling hacker used to absorb through their pores. It’s nobody’s fault this changed; the obsolescence of hardware terminals and the near-obsolescence of the RS-232 protocol is what did it. Tools generate culture; sometimes, when a tool becomes obsolete, a bit of cultural commonality quietly evaporates. It can be difficult to notice that this has happened.
This document is a collection of facts about ASCII and related technologies, notably hardware terminals and RS-232 and modems. This is lore that was at one time near-universal and is no longer. It’s not likely to be directly useful today – until you trip over some piece of still-functioning technology where it’s relevant (like a GPS puck), or it makes sense of some old-fart war story. Even so, it’s good to know anyway, for cultural-literacy reasons.