The way that this magazine (and all the others) gets ahead of itself in terms of cover dates can be bizarre at the best of times, but as I sit here scribbling away for New Millennium Issue in October 1999, time seems more surreal than usual. The Linux brigade will be chuckling away to themselves about the Y2K issues (what Y2K issues..?), many DOS users will be extremely confused (like their PCs), a lot of Windows users will be lulled into a false sense of security because it all mostly seems to work. Just you wait
But the really important Y2K news is that the start of the new Millennium is in 12 months time on January 1st 2001. If it hasn’t already, expect the “Real Millennium” hype to start soon as the Millennium marketers take a second swipe at the cherry. And given that this time around all the computer related issues will have been flushed anyway, wouldn’t it have been a better idea to save all the fuss for then anyway..? Still, that’s marketing for you; and when did objectivity and sanity ever play a part in tempering anyone’s desire for a fast buck at the expense of the gullible..?
Moving swiftly onwards … Windows is another product of marketing rather than reasoned and objective analysis. Windows 3.1 was the ultimate effort to paper over the cracks of DOS, and boy did it get away with it in spades! By any standards (and at the time, the only standards that anyone seemed to perceive were those of Microsoft) it was horribly unstable, resource hungry and slow. But it had a pretty interface, and that’s what counted for the marketing to weave its magic. The actual trick was to compare Windows software with DOS software, and point out just how horrible command line DOS now seemed to be.
It was like Ford selling Mondeos on the grounds Orions were death traps. Err, excuse me..? But we all fell for it, and this set the progress of desktop productivity about a 5 years.
Even at the time of Windows 3.1 introduction, various low cost (free) Unix and X Windows solutions were available. Some of the process was confused and shackled by the short sighted approach of incumbent Unix business like SCO and Sun. At the time, Unix on Intel was generally dismissed as requiring far too much hardware to be viable as an alternative to DOS/Windows for the desktop – or even servers. 16Mbyte of RAM? Who but a madman could conceive of such a thing..?
Now I firmly expect that Microsoft will be announcing its own version of Linux any day now – maybe it will buy Red Hat in one of its “take out the competition and enter a new business all at the same time” plays. Although we didn’t really appreciate it at the time, 1999 was indeed the much anticipated “Year of Unix”, even with Microsoft spinning out the Windows 2000 hype as far as possible to provide distractions from the fact that just about anybody and everybody in the world of hardware and systems was endorsing Linux as a supported product.
Aside from the compelling economics, the professional support and general enthusiasm for the Linux operating system continues utterly unabated, and SUSE – the best European distribution by far – recently announced a UK support office in Borehamwood (email: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: 020 8387 4088)