Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

The most interesting fact for this swing is that it's not only software that is changing...

As noted in the article: if you wanted a computer in the old days, you put it together yourself. That changed and putting together a new computer yourself is unimaginable (I'm not speaking about assembly of components, but soldering the whole thing). Recently cheap(er) 3D printing, Arduino and the Raspberry Pi put hardware on the table again and I think very interesting times are coming. Think about it, even 2 or 3 years ago 'innovation' on the internet was synonym with software, now it's changing again to hard- and software.

Not at all. Hardware is becoming more and more obscure. 5 years ago many people could and did swap components in their PC. Now try doing that with a modern smartphone or laptop.

Don't confuse the chatterings online about RPi etc with any kind of general movement. The vast majority of computer users now use sealed hardware boxes, and that proportion is increasing.

Do we care? I'm personally much happier with open software and formats, but my Ubuntu laptop can easily read a .docx written by MS Office a Windows 8 machine. I can run many programs and games under WINE. And I can still tweak whatever I like. Meanwhile, people too busy, uninterested, and uneducated to want to change anything can use a simple, elegant, functional platform.

As long as our software is continually developed and is supported (which is why UEFI is so scary), I don't see why we should object to black box computers.

5 years ago many people could and did swap components in their PC. Now try doing that with a modern smartphone or laptop.

Do you think this is an entirely new development? Wouldn't the statement "5 years ago people could do X with computers, now they can't" in fact hold true for the last, say, 40 years in the history of computing?

But the argument here is about the specific property of black boxes.

Computers in the olden days tend not to be hermetically sealed black boxes.

Well, Rpi etc could lead the way. Not as they are of course, but that could improve.

One way I can think of is memristors, which could make FPGA-like hardware ubiquitous. This would push the software/hardware frontier so low that there would be effectively little magic left.

I see your point with the 3d printing revolution but imho the two most important sentences in the article are:

The line between ‘computer’, ‘program’ and ‘media’ blurred to the point where consumers were successfully confused about what it was they were actually buying.

... another where it is successfully co-opted by big money and governments in a concerted effort to give us all a subscription to online Life-As-A-Service where you will be beholden to some party for the ability to gain access to knowledge, information, the right to communicate and so on and where the act of programming will be as tightly regulated as the export of cryptography was.

So if you look at it closely: This swing is not only about hardware and software anymore. It is much more about data and the services that it enables. Think of facebook, google etc.

In fact the GPU on the rPi doesn't even have open source drivers or a public specification, you have to use the provided binary blob if you want all the goodies.

Applications are open for YC Winter 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact