20 May 2005

25 years in information technology

This disk drive holds 2.2 billion bytes of data. I bought it at Fry's the other day for $100.

The computer below is a Decsystem 10, state-of-the-art in 1979. Each of the aqua boxes is roughly the size of a Sub-Zero fridge. This system probably had something like 512 kbytes of solid-state RAM and 50 megs of disk storage, and sold for several million dollars. I took the picture at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View a couple of weeks ago.

In 1979, I worked for a company called Tymshare and this was one of their computers, so most likely I used it. Tymshare rented out time on computers that it owned, and you could rent time on a Decsystem 10 for a few hundred dollars an hour.

While I was working at Tymshare, IBM announced their PC was on the way. All the young guys like me figured "game over" for Tymshare, but it took about 3 or 4 years for Tymshare's business model to implode. Things moved slower in those days.

The Decsystem 10 was a fine computer. It ran an operating system called TOPS-20 which had the best command-line interface I've ever used. If you know what a command-line interface is, you're either old or run Linux.

18 May 2005

Games of Death and Life

Yesterday I watched Bas Verhart, CEO of Media Republic in Amsterdam demo two of their games. Killzone, a first-person shooter, is being published by Sony for the new Playstation. It has stunning photorealistic graphics with ultra violence and neo-Nazi overtones. Ironically, the presentation followed a discussion of ethics in game design and alternatives to violence, and Bas gave a few nervous chuckles as the demo proceeded, finally cutting it off in the middle of a scene showing kneeling prisoners being executed with head shots.

Next he showed us Eccky, an online game where two players create a "virtual child". The child combines the "DNA" of the two "parents" as determined by the results of filling out a questionnaire, combined with some randomness. The children cry and nag you to buy things for them, allowing for nice commercial tie-ins on which the business model is built. You can also have the dubious pleasure of having your "child" SMS you if you're not giving him or her enough attention.

This is online design in 2005.