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Doug's Mailbag: Gone But Not Forgotten Tech Companies, More

Doug's item last week about Oracle's impending buyout of IBM had readers reminiscing about their favorite "defunct" tech companies. Here are some of your thoughts:

Don't laugh -- my favorite defunct computer company is good, old Commodore. The Amiga was a masterpiece of its day, and had its engineering team had the same opportunities as, say, Apple to research, refine and innovate, I wouldn't be a bit surprised to find the modern-day Amiga on a par with Cray while priced like a netbook.

Well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but you get my point...maybe?

When Commodore Computers went out of business, it was a huge blow to innovation. The Amiga was way ahead of its time. My memories may parallel the stories about the big one that got away, but I believe the Amiga was doing tricks back in the '80s that the clones couldn't do until the next decade. Heck, the Commadore 64 was doing things with 64K of memory (thats kilo, as in thousand) that my Windows beast still chokes on with four gigs of memory.

My favorite defunct company is Javelin Software, which reinvented the spreadsheet as a personal OLAP cube 25 years ago. Their IPO was scheduled for a week after the mini stock crash in 1988 and that ended them. They were bought by IRI who let them stagnate, then IRI was bought by Oracle who killed off the Javelin line.

Shortly after that, Lotus released Improv which was a virtual clone of Javelin ported to the NeXT and later Windows.

DEC and the the DEC VAX/VMS operating system wins my award for what is sorely missed these days. Intrusions? Not a chance. Downtime? Minimal to none. Time between outages was often measured in years for issues that were OS-related (most downtime was due to putting in a new version of something that was just developed).

DEC had industrial-strength computing at cheap prices long before Intel came around and mucked it up. The hardware had built into it from DAY ONE the ability to prevent memory access hacks. It is my understanding that unless you had physical access to the system, you couldn't even hack into it unless you guessed a weak password.

Loved my Prime super-minis. Used them for over 20 years and about nine years past the closing of the company. Much of the software developed on Primes during the '80s continues to run on our second round of IBM AIX equipment.

Greg throws his two cents into the Google-Microsoft cloud debate:

Interesting thoughts on the positions Google and Microsoft take regarding the cloud. But neither appear to be viewing the debate from the point of view of the end user, whose data is the fodder for this entire debate.

What are users interested in? Fundamentally, as I see it, we want ease of use and data security: we want what we want, when we want it, and we want it secure. Neither cloud nor local storage provides both perfectly, so it stands to reason that the user should have the option to use either method when they find it apropriate. To that end, I think Microsoft stands on more solid ground than Google in this debate.

And Mel takes issue with one reader's comment last Wednesday about how the U.S. might be affected by China's censorship practices:

Mel states that "Obama-nation" might "follow suit" with the Chinese and censorship. Puleeeze! There are many things to dislike about Obama but denial of freedoms are not among them. He and his followers opposed the usurping of our rights under the previous administration. Please keep political conjecture out of this forum.

Check in on Wednesday for more reader letters. Meanwhile leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/25/2010 at 1:17 PM


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