Re: "with a competent operating system, these machines were essentially bomb proof."
@ John Smith 19
The question is why does it not meet the hardware half way?
My guess is ease of development and marketing advantage.
I believe JS19's characterization of the article is accurate and fair. However, I believe that the article does a service by raising exactly the question JS19 poses.
Being approximately as old as dirt myself, I'm nostalgic about the day when OS's were OS's, executables were computer programs, and data files were stored as such. As many commenters have pointed out, this did not necessarily make the systems more secure. What it did was give me, as the user, better visibility and control.
My admittedly jaundiced assessment is that MS's introduction of the Hardware Application Layer had more to do with locking users into their products than it did providing them with enhanced capabilities. I also believe, based on information from people far more expert in the field that I am, that to facilitate this strategy, certain hardware security features in the microprocessor hardware were not exploited.
If memory serves, MS DOS for my first PC, fit on a single 160 kB floppy disk. A floppy disk . . . . oh, never mind. The Windows folder on this W7 computer comprises more than 25 GBytes, (I appreciate that this is not all, strictly speaking, "the OS." But frankly I despair of figuring out what is or isn't part of the OS.)
A fundamental principle of engineering (engineering is a ancient discipline , , , oh, never mind)
The principle is that simple designs with fewer moving parts tend to be more reliable and easier to maintain than large, complicated Rube Goldberg concoctions with gazzilions of parts. My personal common sense assessment is that an OS of this size--requiring constant multiple updates on a monthly basis, all done in the background without the user having either visibility or control--is categorically unprotectable. System integrators and users cannot manage the configuration effectively, because the details of what is happening inside the updates is proprietary.
Critics of the piece are right, things cannot be as simple as they were back in the day. But the author has an even more valid point to make. . .things do not have to be anywhere near as bad as they are now.
At this point I've spent close to half a century in designing, building, and testing complex systems. I know technology advances so I offer this just an observation. In the past, the kinds of hiccups, flaws, and foibles that are being reported with increasing frequency in the Reg have always been a reliable indicator that the wheels are coming off the wagon.
One old man's observation, for what it's worth.