back to article How I went from Unix engineering to flogging Google apps

When I started work as a Unix software engineer at Logica nearly 30 years ago, we were on the cusp of a revolution in IT. IBM was top dog in tech and Digital Equipment Corporation was the world's second-largest IT company. The other major players were the BUNCH companies: Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data Corporation and …


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  1. dogged


    Never would have guessed you flog Google apps.


  2. jake Silver badge

    Personally ...

    I bailed out of DEC in the late 1980s and struck out on my own. I bagged an MBA along the way, and worked mostly Microsoft desks & un*x backend systems. A couple years ago, I dropped all Microsoft support, and only work on Linux & BSD systems (including some Apple servers). I work far fewer hours in IT these days, make quite a bit more money, and have far fewer "WTF! sinking-feeling-in-thepit-of-the-stomach" moments.

    Oh, and I never see your Googleverse. Ain't DENY tables grand?

    1. Linzello

      Re: Personally ...

      What has your comment got to do with the article?

      The article is about the future of IT, not what you happen to be doing for a job.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Personally ...

        On the contrary, Linzello. What I "happen to be doing for a job[1]" is, in my opinion, the future of IT. If it wasn't, I wouldn't be doing it.

        The googleverse isn't a sustainable business model (even my mid-70s Mum learned to block the "annoying advertising" (her words, not mine), without any help from me). Microsoft and Apple are doomed, like every other business. FOSS, by it's very nature, is here to stay. Learn the FOSS way, or be left behind.

        Out of curiosity, are you shilling for google, or for the author of the article?

        [1] Primarily, I'm a rancher ... I only do IT to pay for new water trucks & the like.

  3. cloudberry
    Thumb Up


    A good summary about the current direction of IT.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Go Cloud!

    I think the interesting thing about all this 'Cloud' stuff is that it actually harks back to the vision people had, back when the first mainframe computers were being built.

    There's the famous quote [probably apocryphal] attributed to former IBM chairman Thomas J Watson in 1943: "...I think there is a world market for maybe five computers...". Most opinion at the time ran along similar lines, envisioning a mere handful of supercomputers sprinkled around the globe, which 'Joe User' would tap into via a 'dumb terminal'.

    Swap the word 'computer' for the word 'internet' and you're getting pretty close to where things seem to be going at the minute: You could argue that, with the 'Great Firewall of China', Iran's plans for an 'Islamic Internet' and whatever the hell North Korea are up to in that area, we're going to end up with "a world market for maybe five internets". Add The Cloud into the mix and the fact that more and more of us are happy to do more and more work from a 'dumb terminal' and it seems to me like it was the era of the personal desktop computer that was as 'transient as a fashion magazine'. Not the other way round.

    I must admit that, when I first started reading about what was eventually to become The Cloud, a few years ago, I was equally as cynical about it as Oracle and Microsoft seem to be today. But fortunately, I'm just an everyday fuckwitt and not someone running a multi-billion dollar company in the IT Field, so I'm allowed to be completely wrong!

    Now, I'm a complete convert. I'm looking forward to the day I can retire my laptop to my desk at home and use my iPad [or its successor] for all my day-to-day computing needs. We're not quite there yet, but getting pretty damned close!

  5. Anonymous Coward

    I don't know how the author could have missed the fact

    That PCs have been networked for decades.

    That documents and resources have been shared, on a local and non-local basis, by networking, servers and so on. The very systems that he surely must have worked on. The concept of PC Personal productivity being isolated is long dead.

    "The Cloud" is not a new concept: it just aims to put the data and resources somewhere else. As in so many things that the IT world tries to sell us, it is the same old same old.

    The people to whom that relocation of resource matters the most are the people selling the facilities.

    Oh, wait...

    "David McLeman is the Managing Director of Ancoris, a Cloud Services Provider...

    Perhaps the Reg could put these things at the beginning, rather than after we've wasted our time?

    1. Linzello

      Re: I don't know how the author could have missed the fact

      I love this....

      "The Cloud" is not a new concept: it just aims to put the data and resources somewhere else.

      So aiming to put the data and resources somewhere else is not a massive and revolutionary idea? And yes the idea has been around a long time, but it's only NOW that it's starting to happen. That's what makes it new!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        it's only NOW that it's starting to happen. That's what makes it new!

        Before this it was called outsourcing.

        Before that, it was buying time on somebody else's mainframe.

        New? Nope.

      2. Craigness

        Re: I don't know how the author could have missed the fact

        @Linzello, I worked for a company which did the "data and resources somewhere else" thing in 2002 or earlier. They used an oracle database but I'm not sure they changed their marketing to include the word "cloud". The word was definitely around (an not just in the sense of fluffy sky monsters) but "hosted environment," "data centre" and SAAS were more common terms. If they hadn't gone bust a few years later (gosh, a company who saw the future but still went under!) they'd be using the word cloud now, and you'd think it was all new.

  6. Arthur Dent

    "The" cloud - pure mythology!

    What awful waffle. There's no such thing as "the cloud", and anyone working on the assumption that there is is just plain wrong. There are several assorted clouds - some essentially "private clouds", some essentially "public clouds", but no great big individual thing that can be called "the cloud". We've had these in one form or another for quite some time now, and their existence contributed to the myth of "the cloud"; but experience has taught the early adopters that "the cloud" is not something that one should trust critical data to, and not one that one hould trust essentially secret data to, and those who understand are building their own "private clouds" for the critical data and for the secret data, while using what might be thought of asd "the cloud" id all those private clouds didn't exist for storage of non-critical data (where it doesn't matter if it's inaccessible for the odd few days here and there) and for non-secret data (where it doesn't matter that someone else controls access and encryption).

    1. Anonymous IV

      Re: "The" cloud - pure mythology!

      I wonder whether the original author is familiar with [b]The Cloud of Unknowing[/b]", "[i]an anonymous work of Christian mysticism written in Middle English in the latter half of the 14th century.[/i]"?

      All the cloudy woffle of its proponents makes me think how prescient was the medieval author in choosing that title.

  7. Rob Moir


    All this talk of "cloud" is marketing nonsense. Essentially its just a way to outsource the provision of certain apps to a managed services provider, along with a few tweaks that make that more attractive. And lets be honest, it *can* work very well for some situations.

    Like anything else, there are times when this will make a lot of sense and there are times when it will not. And attaching buzzwords to the process and pretending those buzzwords are somehow meaningful in their own right won't change things.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: hype

      What's wrong with giving a name to something that is becoming incredibly popular? Isn't that how language works?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's wrong with giving a name to something

        "... Isn't that how language works?"

        In this instance, no. It's how marketing works.

  8. John Sanders

    The cloud

    Or the generalization of managed hosting for the masses?

    I love my desktop computer and my closet's server, I'm not giving those up... ever.

    Aunt Irma can use her tablet all she wants.

  9. Antoinette Lacroix

    Clouds don't scare me

    I own an umbrella.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice puff pice. Now the needle..

    Sorry to burst your rosy balloon (and marketing).

    I have one word for you: privacy. Oh, and the overarching Google Terms & Conditions.

    Combine those two and the management of any non-US organisation with sensitive data (i.e. trade secrets) should be shot if they ever consider switching to Google apps (or any other cloud services where the storage location edges are as fuzzy as the name suggests). Not on your life.

    Now I may have a warped view because I solve intercept problems for a living, but when it comes to data and economic espionage, the best stance is to start off with trusting nobody. And read Terms of Service carefully. And then test again, and do background checks & tests..

    1. Linzello

      Re: Nice puff pice. Now the needle..

      Sure, it doesn't work for people who want complete privacy - it never will. However, it could improve a lot even on this front - this isn't all about Google.

      The point of the article is that IT is evolving, as it always does. Thus millions of home users and large numbers of companies are moving over to cloud services because they are good enough to meet their needs.

      Perhaps in the near future a new corporation will emerge that provides completely self managed cloud services with an unprecedented level of security, which will attract an even larger portion of the market.

      Obviously cloud services are not the be all and end all, but you can't just cast the idea off as marketing hype.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeh, but Google Docs isn't for collaboration

    It just replaces the attachment. (Has anyone else noticed, in google apps web mail, just how long it takes for an attachment to be accessible?) Talk to the guys in Google, they're forever dropping lines like,'the attachment is dead.'

    And maybe they're right because GDrive, Google Apps, whatever you wish to call it is a handy repository and a semi-worthwhile place to 'tweak' documents collaboratively.

    But lets be serious. You cannot possibly believe that it is a viable environment do do 'real' work. It's certainly not the place you create the work. Strictly for tweaking.

    1. Craigness

      Re: Yeh, but Google Docs isn't for collaboration

      Yes, the attachment is dead. But just because that's true it doesn't mean that what killed the attachment is not good for anything else.

      If you have a friend, try editing the same google document at the same time. You'll see that google docs definitely is for collaboration. But just because it's for collaboration, that doesn't mean you have the email the document as an attachment. The attachment is still dead.

  12. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


    I don't know how many of the readers remember much about the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), but they were involved very early on in the definition of many of the fundamentals that cloud computing is based on.

    They were one of the people involved in creating Ethernet and the Internet (although they eschewed TCP/IP for their own DECNet as the preferred network for many years)

    They were early adopters of the concept of mobile workloads spread across several machines (DEC-Cluster and VAX-Cluster).

    They had network shared storage before almost anybody else (HSC devices) and things like LAVC (Local Area VAX Cluster).

    They were one of the early pioneers of clustered desktop machines (DEC ALL-IN-1 and Pathworks) including network booted diskless PC's

    And, least I forget it, UNIX was INVENTED on DEC machines (PDP11 systems)

    I'm puzzled by the statement Ken Olsen made about UNIX, because DEC had commercialized UNIX in it's software portfolio for years. UNIX V7/11M was a port of Version 7 available through DEC in the early '80s on PDP11s, they did a System V port onto the VAX for AT&T (and I believe it was available to other companies as well), Ultrix was available from DEC in the early 80's on VAXen, you had DEC-Station MIPS based UNIX workstations in the '90s, OSF/1 was available as a supported OS, and later morphed into Tru64 UNIX on Alpha based systems later in the same decade. I can't think of a company that had as long a history of UNIX at the time DEC was subsumed into Compaq.

    Maybe Ken thought VMS was the only OS needed, but fortunately other people in DEC did not agree. And others thought they had been daft to drop TOPS-20!

    1. Craigness

      Re: Funny

      In many ways, the old guard did see the future. And they were killed by microsoft, which didn't see the future. Without MS disrupting things we'd have been here years ago.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Funny

      Funny, indeed.

      However, I take exception with "UNIX was INVENTED on DEC machines" making DEC the important bit in that particular equation ... UNIX would have been invented on whatever un-used hardware that ken & rmc had managed to get their hands on ...

      TOPS-10 & -20 were probably the best OSes ever developed.

      For DEC's view on UNIX, see my obit of Ken Olsen.

      Raises a glass to the past. But are today's yoof listening?

  13. thefinisher

    I am not completely sure about this... predicting the future is hard

    I can see the importance of the cloud and SaaS but maybe I not so optimistic about how quickly adaption will take place. I am still not totally sold on the IPad though a lot of people been buying them but I am not always sure about their usefulness in every given situation. I think there was always space for a touch screen mobile device but some of the many solution sound a lot like snake oil. i think the post PC are is bit premature and people who can live on a tablet nevwer needed a PC in the first place. Lets not bolt the road too quickly yet unitl we see some clear applications for the tablet in the enterprise

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