Yesterday I had a long discussion about a universal computing system. We don't learn to drive every time we change cars. I imagine that within five years computers will finally have their five or six main parts (operating system, motherboard, chips, memory, etc) standardized and compatible with everything else. People from theoretical mathematicians to grandmothers will be able to approach and use the same machine at whatever level they need. It's absurd that after forty years this hasn't happened yet. Imagine if we had twenty different television systems, etc.
My brother, who started in the early fifties I think even in the DEC 25, responded to my comment above:
Sherry, I think we - the geek community - started to close in on a UCS with the development of html. However, to go back a few years, there was a really excellent general system called TRAC (text reckoning and correction) developed by Calvin Mooers. It was a general system that faced the operator/programmer. The actual hardware and operating system was background, transparent to the user and was implemented on three or four different computer systems. The system had basic operations, and you could combine these in macros. This seemed like the obvious way to construct a UCS.
TRAC never made it to the mainstream and was abandoned to crude basic programming of the new PC's which were just coming on line at the time. Then HTML came on with a lot of the qualities of TRAC but not the extremely simple core. But slowly, slowly, they're coming together.
The MAC operating system and even Unix is becoming more Windows-like every year. The problem is that someone discovers some limitation, and has to build a new system to take care of the anomalies. I believe that this is an overrated problem and an Almost-UCS can be developed. This would service 90% - 99% of the world, with the outlier problems relegated to a specialized system. For all cars and light trucks, the automatic transmission operating system presents a common face to the drivers, but there other grea arrangements for tractors that pull 18 wheelers.
And previously Harris Hyman had written:
Around 1980, there were four 16 bit integrated computer chips: DEC PDP-11, Intel 8088, Motorola 16 chip and a system chip described by Tracy Kidder in "Soul of a New Machine", I forget the manufacturer. The "Soul" company was the best chip, but the company was too small to survive.
The DEC chip was the most sophisticated of the lot and had a lot of software, about 6 years ahead of either the Motorola or the Intel, but Ken Olsen, the head of DEC gave the PDP-11 PC tepid support and announced, "Who would possibly want a home computer?" Apple used the Motorola in the first Mac, IBM came out with the Intel in its first PC, which dominated the world. Proves the blatant delusion of the good old American aphorism, "Build a better mousetrap......." Big Bread sets the pace of progress; the Chip War is another strong counter-argument to the mythology of private industry.