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Its so archaic to see terms like "the computer" thrown around. The term is meaningless today as it was back then. What do we mean by this? My 286 DOS box in my basement has nothing in common with Nexus. My 64 core server has nothing to do with your newest Macbook. What he's really takling about is whole slew of things like interfaces, UI, networking, protocols, etc. Sorry, but those things are technology and should be worked on by technologists because there's literally no on else who can work on them.

I hate this catch-all term that's just a strawman for critics to bash nerds with. If "the computer" is awful, then it might have more to do with management and the business owning class's inability to leverage all these amazing technologies into a product the end user is comfortable with. While nerds make an easy target, it behooves the ivory tower cynic to spread his hate more evenly.

This is like Nelson pissing on the internal combustion engine and calling every engineer in Detroit, Seoul, and Tokyo a dimwitted anti-social jerk because his 1986 Datsun was a piece of crap. More than likely it was the engineers who were breathlessly fighting against requirements that forced them to deliver a substandard product. There's something too corportist for my tastes about pissing on nerds and ignoring the business owners and upper management who actually make the calls that determine how things will work in the end.

Also, I really want to stress that the linked piece shows a very thoughtful essay from Alan Kay regarding his thoughts on the dynabook and its intended audience. So wait, Kay is the "tekkie" strawman we're supposed to hate? Sorry, but if Nelson can't handle guys like Kay then who exactly is going to design the future? Nelson? A group of elites he picks, making sure to carefully discriminate against anyone who shows the slightest inclination towards "tekkieness" which he solely identifies? Honestly, would Nelson even tolerate Alan Kay? I doubt it.

Never meet your heroes. Heck, never read their opinion pieces.




Sorry, but those things are technology and should be worked on by technologists because there's literally no on else who can work on them.

That's exactly the viewpoint that he's arguing against: setting up "technologists" as a kind of high-priest class, the only ones who understand "computers", some nebulous thing that regular people shouldn't bother their heads with, and instead should buy polished, well-engineered consumer experiences. Like Kay and others, he's much more interested in a model of technology that's less black-box. In particular, the thing they object to is the merger of technology/business/design into designing these overarching "experiences" which regular people are just supposed to "use". When such experiences increasingly structure large parts of society, it becomes a bit dangerous of they're all black boxes that regular people aren't supposed to understand or exercise meaningful control over.


A "high-priest class" that has tough salary caps and doesn't call the shots? A "high-priest class" that openly publishes its documents and begs others to learn coding and technology? A "high-priest class" whos majority is obsessed with open source, open protocols, etc? Where is this black box? Oh right, it comes down from upper management who is afraid that anything that isn't completely locked down isn't profitable.

If anything technologists are an unusually egalitarian and idealistic group. We're the good guys here. If you need a badguy here, go against the companies that refuse to open code, spread FUD, and use embrace/extinguish strategies, not the guy running his pet OSS project that he hopes will change the world.

Sorry, but this isn't the middle ages. There's no elite cabal controlling information. The open exchange of ideas, the open market, and letting the best product rise to the top is the winning strategy, and probably will always be the winning strategy. Whining about elitists and conspiracies and having some kind of "I knows a tekkie whens I sees one" attitude is insane.


If you watched the code.org (https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=...) it does shed some light that "Tekkies", are still the high priests.

I think everyone has encountered the situation where a friend says, "I have an idea for an app! But I don't know how to build it." (Nor would they be eager to learn). My friend who just started learning programming is an Financial Analyst at Cisco and graduated with Honours in Finance. Even a smart guy like him complains and groans as to how hard it is to learn this stuff. And he hasn't even touched MVC and design patterns!

The web is still very open and I think there is a major cultural shift going on where programmers are not seen as lowly geeks but as some sort of rockstar (I think this attributes to Steve and Apple showing the world the sexy side of computers, the wealth the Valley has created in an era of recession, and the democratization of software, and also the ubiquity of computing).

But I do agree we're the good guys here. Perhaps we're being too general about this and not including "managers in pointy hats" (who don't know how to code) as Tekkies too? Since they dictate large portion of what programmers can and cannot do?


setting up "technologists" as a kind of high-priest class, the only ones who understand "computers"

As you know, this happens in every domain, not just computers.

To quote the noted political philosopher trio called The Police in their treatise De Do Do Do:

  Poets priests and politicians
  Have words to thank for their positions
  Words that scream for your submission
  And no-one's jamming their transmission
  'Cos when their eloquence escapes you
  Their logic ties you up and rapes you
As an election integrity activist, I had to master the technology of election administration, lest I be laughed at and dismissed by the self-appointed high priesthood. No one should have to work as hard as I did to understand something so fundamental as how our votes are counted. But that's kinda the point, right?


I don't know about you, but I got into computers when I was 7 years old, precisely because it was something anyone could tinker with, if they wanted to invest time and effort in it.

Yes, I know, years have passed and software is more complex and it's a more mature industry. But it's still a hell of a lot easier to teach yourself to program, than to teach yourself to put car engines together.

Other than blatant elitism, I don't see any real reason why this can't be the thing your 286 DOS box has in common with Nexus.


>Its so archaic to see terms like "the computer" thrown around. The term is meaningless today as it was back then.

Why was it meaningless back then? In Nelson's earliest writings the term "computer" is used mostly to mean big iron with a text UI delivered via a teletype. I think most of his colleagues at the time shared this definition, making it at least meaningful through consensus. Regardless of that, though, if you think it's meaningless now keep in mind that Nelson uses the word "technology" as the main object of his criticism and offers "the computer" as an example.

>I hate this catch-all term that's just a strawman for critics to bash nerds with. If "the computer" is awful, then it might have more to do with management and the business owning class's inability to leverage all these amazing technologies into a product the end user is comfortable with

One of the points Nelson makes in his recent "contrarian computer history" book [1] is that the fate of the computer was sealed before the management even realized just how big of a deal it was. In fact, I think it's fair to say that early on most research fields were shaped more by the participants in those fields than by their non-technical superiors. You could argue that he makes this point precisely because we in the field tend to blame the management to easily for long-standing design decisions.

This brings me to why I dislike his use of the word "tekkie": it promotes a view of an ivory tower critic bashing nerds when in fact the critic in question is one of the nerds that made computing (or at least hypertext and "hypermedia") happen. He, however, happens to disagrees with most others, with a prominent exception being Douglas Engelbart.

>This is like Nelson pissing on the internal combustion engine and calling every engineer in Detroit, Seoul, and Tokyo a dimwitted anti-social jerk because his 1986 Datsun was a piece of crap.

You can exaggerate it both ways. You could say that this is like someone who saw the birth of "the car" and realized that every car on the market had inferior lever-based controls in spite of his arguing for a steering wheel for decades.

[1] See http://geeks-bearing-gifts.com/gbgContents.html for summary.




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