3.729 the NeXT war; UNIX in retrospect (295)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Fri, 10 Nov 89 22:01:22 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 729. Friday, 10 Nov 1989.

(1) Date: Thursday, 9 November 1989 2342-EST (35 lines)
Subject: Et Tu, Oliver (NEXT/IBYCUS)

(2) Date: Fri, 10 Nov 89 02:07:22 EST (145 lines)
From: "James H. Coombs" <JAZBO@BROWNVM>
Subject: NeXT?

(3) Date: Fri, 10 Nov 89 12:56:50 EST (45 lines)
From: elli@wjh12.harvard.edu (Elli Mylonas)
Subject: Re: 3.723 NeXT, UNIX, and the promised future (256)

(4) Date: Fri, 10 Nov 89 21:48:56 EST (40 lines)
From: cbf@faulhaber.Berkeley.EDU (Charles Faulhaber)
Subject: Re: 3.723 NeXT, UNIX, and the promised future (256)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thursday, 9 November 1989 2342-EST
Subject: Et Tu, Oliver (NEXT/IBYCUS)

It's a dirty job, but somebody should do it. It pains me to
hear Oliver Berghof (of Irvine, yet; home of TLG!) wax
eloquent about how Jim Coombs has maltreated the NEXT
machine so that there is danger that Humanists might not
take it seriously, and then to have that final paragraph
of "looking forward" that (obviously unintentionally but
none the less maliciously) characatures the IBYCUS
Scholarly Computer as "incapable of anything but
text-retrieval and boolean string searches"!!
What Oliver hopes for in his "fantasy" is the ability
to pull quotes out of various TLG CD-ROM based authors,
port them into scholarly papers that are being written,
do some text analysis, access e-mail, write and/or use
customized programs, etc. Well, Oliver, all I can say
user group, and settle back to enjoy your fantasy.
IBYCUS does all you ask for and more already (testimonials
are available), and at slightly more than half the price
of your NEXT machine -- indeed, I would have said that
IBYCUS "is probably the most underpriced piece of
computer equipment currently on the market." The bottom
line from here is don't knock it until you know what you
are talking about (that was the message to Jim Coombs,
nicht wahr?). IBYCUS is far from a one dimensional
machine, so please, people, stop pretending it only
searches the TLG CD-ROM. As for the NeXT, I'd love to have
one right here alongside of IBYCUS and IBM and Mac (my son
won't let me have his Amiga). They all do wonderful things.
Let's give them all the credit they are due!

Bob Kraft (CCAT)
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------153---
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 89 02:07:22 EST
From: "James H. Coombs" <JAZBO@BROWNVM>
Subject: NeXT?

Astute reader, Oliver Berghof, writes

>I am very concerned that HUMANISTs who read Jim's impressionistic comments
>will be dissuaded from trying out the NeXT themselves and forming their own

Then you have a very low opinion of Humanists.

>I am very grateful for this contribution for it provides a perfect example
>for the kind of underinformed criticism that will keep HUMANISTs shying away
>from the NeXT machine.

Oh, well, now are we going to get the REAL information? Or the FULL
information? Are we going to hear how the machine is ACTUALLY very FAST? THE
mouse HAS no PROBLEMS?

>I take issue with all of Dr. Coombs' criticisms:

I don't really follow your rhetoric here? Why was I Jim and now I'm Dr.
Coombs? What made my "impressionistic comments" into "criticism"? Is
this the part that we are to take seriously then?

>1. It's very slow. Compared to a Mac II running A/UX and a Max (sic) toolbox
>application ... Much of the time it seems unusable ... the Frame application.
>Too slow for me.

Yes, folks, that's the impression of Dr./Jim Coombs. Try it out for yourself.

>I have a Mac IIci standing three feet away from me. For computationally
>intensive tasks the NeXT leaves the Mac limping in the dark.

It's so refreshing to see such hard, reproducible information, especially
after Dr./Jim's impressionistic comments. Now all Dr./Jim has to do is try
one of the items on his list of COMPUTATIONALLY INTENSIVE TASKS and watch the
Mac LIMP IN THE DARK. Should he turn the lights off first? Should he put it
on the floor so that it does not limp right off the desk? Or is the proper
interpretation that the NeXT limps off in the dark, leaving the Mac sitting
there glowing in self esteem? And is three feet really a safe distance?
Oh, dear reader, please bolt the door and don steel-toed shoes before
attempting this test.

>If you're really interested in getting a notion of the speed of a NeXT, try
>the Mandelbrot - demo in the NeXT-Developer library. It compares compilation
>in C with compilation using the Digital Signal Processor and displays the
>runtime result in two adjoining windows.

If Dr./Jim only had this available when he was writing his dissertation,....!

>Wordprocessing is not likely to use the Digital Signal Processor, but then
>you don't buy the NeXT to type away at your christmas card in WordPerfect.

Right, as a humanist, Dr./Jim is dying for the Digital Signal Processor.
Nothing could be more important to his work on Wordsworth and Milton, whose
work can be analyzed as a series of digital signals, one after another.

>FrameMaker takes a long time loading. The newly released version 1.0 should
>amend this.

Too bad it didn't.

>But then try loading any desktop - publishing package on an 80386 - you will
>be grateful that there is such a thing as the NeXT !

Whoa! Dr./Jim thought that 1.0 was going to fix this problem, or was it only
going to improve it? Or is it only that we are going to be inspired to go to
church and hosannah?

>Compared to the nonexistent feedback on a Mac I find the NeXT's error
>messages a godsend.

Well, Dr./Jim is sure that Apple will appreciate the constructive criticism,
complete with examples. NeXT, being sent by one or more gods, need only drink

>Jim Coombs' remark gives the argument nicely away:

Let no one say that Dr./Jim is not nice and generous! Oh, ok, it is only
Dr./Jim's remark that gives things away. But still Dr./Jim wonders, why does
"Dr. Coombs" fade in and out with "Jim Coombs".

>had the NeXT not included the explanation that he did not have the proper
>permission to modify a document he would not even have known what to complain
>about ... !

Hosannah to the system programmer, who gave Dr./Jim enough information to
eliminate some possibilities. Pray for poor Dr./Jim, who otherwise would not
have known anything.

>As far as the distinction between active and inactive applications is
>concerned: each of the application icons on the right hand side of the screen
>(in the "workbench") contains three little dots when it is inactive.

Of course. Obvious. How could anyone miss it? Dr./Jim, well, he was
underinformed, but the rest of us knew that!

>The only way for you not to know on a NeXT what applications are active is to
>actually HIDE them with the HIDE option which is located right beyond the
>QUIT option on the menu.

Just as we expected, Dr./Jim has not only been able to HIDE applications and
QUIT applications at will, he has also found NEW WAYS NOT TO KNOW something.
He is most fond of the INSUFFICIENT FAITH method, wherein the system does
nothing and Dr./Jim suspects that it is doing nothing.

>But of course, if you're a Mac mouse freak you are likely to miss one button
>for the other.

But does this mean that Dr./Jim is a "Mac mouse freak"? Did he actually press
the wrong button, move to HIDE, and select that item inadvertently? Is
Dr./Jim genetically inferior? or is it just from having used a Mac? What
effect his two-button moused IBM PC? What effect his unmoused login to
an IBM 3090?

>Try clicking on the icon in the upper right hand corner. It is there for the
>sole purpose of customizing your machine - and that includes the mouse !

Wonderful! If Dr./Jim doesn't want spurious clicks, he need only customize
his machine!

>As far as the spurious clicks and the faster hardware are concerned I would
>hazard a guess that in this case the problem was neither the software, nor the
>hardware ....

What does that leave, Dr./Jim wonders? The air temperature? Humidity?
Perhaps he is just a stupid bozo? Yes, Dr./Jim has admitted many times to
being a stupid bozo; perhaps the NeXT has outsmarted him. Many computers have
outsmarted him. Yes, Dr./Jim is a stupid bozo. Hosannah to NeXT on the
Highest, a Revelation to Every TRUE Humanist.


P.S. Astute readers should recognize that this note advances no criticisms of
NeXT that are not advanced in previous notes (but don't forget the one on the
phoney three-dimensionality of the controls).

Dr. James H. Coombs
Senior Software Engineer, Research
Institute for Research in Information and Scholarship (IRIS)
Brown University, Box 1946
Providence, RI 02912
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------49----
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 89 12:56:50 EST
From: elli@wjh12.harvard.edu (Elli Mylonas)
Subject: Re: 3.723 NeXT, UNIX, and the promised future (256)

Just a word on the comments of Oliver Berghof on the future availability
of Humanistic software on the Next Machine.

>When I used the phrase "a fair amount of tools for
>HUMANISTs" I referred specifically to Object-C and Allegro Common-Lisp.

he says. I do not think that it is the job of the user of the software
to have to create the software before she uses it!! This kind of thinking,
together with the willingness of the victim to think that in order to *really*
use a computer she has to *program* it, is what turns perfectly
respectable practitioners of English, Classics etc. into mediocre hackers.
I do not deny that Object-C and Allegro Common-Lisp are wonderful
tools for building applications for humanists. But to ask a professor
or a graduate student to turn into a fullblown software developer
is effectively asking them to change profession.

What is really needed is more collaboration between the people who need
the software, and those who have the ability and desire to build it.
Don't forget that the research scientists have programmers on their
staffs, and also specializations for toolbuilders of all types within the

There are good examples of this in the some of the extant software
for humanists, Note Bene is one such. But even if its designer and
distributor was once a humanist, he is now a software developer.

So what Next might do is to see what problems need to be solved, and
then see if they can be solved, with the collaboration both of the
problem poser and of the able implementer.

There are some humanists who are capable of fulfilling both of the roles
i just mentioned, and i am sure that they are reading this list, and
disagreeing with me vehemently. However, my guess is that they are an
able and fortunate minority.

>Now imagine the same classicist sitting in her snug little home with a
>NeXT machine in front of her, flipping the CD-ROM with Herodotus, and
>Thucydides, and Galen, and whatnot into her cube, happily incorporating
>quotations into the paper that she is writing.

Well, you can do it now, on your Mac.

--elli mylonas, Managing Editor, Perseus Project
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------51----
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 89 21:48:56 EST
From: cbf@faulhaber.Berkeley.EDU (Charles Faulhaber)
Subject: Re: 3.723 NeXT, UNIX, and the promised future (256)

The ironic thing about the animadversions on UNIX elicited by
the NY UNIX trade fair is that UNIX came out of the university
and its most ardent supporters and admirers are still university
people. When Bill Joy was at Berkeley as a graduate student he
wrote some fundamental software (e.g., vi) which could do anything
recent desk-top publishing programs can do--fifteen years ago.

Both the Mac and MS-DOS machines, in long-term perspective, can
be seen as temporary aberrations which have succeeded in higher
education in large part because of aggressive vendor donations
to key segments of the user population. Berkeley, for example,
was basically a UNIX shop before the massive donations of IBM's
AEP program (1984-87), and the primary reason the university
agreed to participate in the program was IBM's assurance that
they were developing a UNIX workstation, now the RT/PC.

In retrospect we would have been far better off to continue
developing UNIX-based software (like the HUM package written
by Bill Tuthill, who also moved to Sun) and focussing on
implementing the campus network. We did not, and in consequence
today we are faced with the prospect of networking four
incompatible operating systems with dozens of proprietary
standards for applications software.

Why did we do this? An overwhelming demand for compute cycles
and a failure on the part of the administration to make anywhere
near a realistic allocation of resources to fill that demand.
In consequence faculty members decided that it was far preferable
to have inadequate computers than no computers. And we are
stuck with--inadequate computers.

Charles B. Faulhaber
Department of Spanish, UC Berkeley CA 94720
bitnet: ked@ucbgarne
internet: cbf@faulhaber.berkeley.edu
telephone: (415) 642-2107