Long read: History of the Amiga.....
Ciaervo (Humour Impaired; 13904)
Posted on: 12-02-2019 17:57.
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I just started part 3 of this but I wanted to share because it's fascinating, especially if you follow the history of Operating Systems during the IBM/Microsoft kerfuffle.
This passage struck me as especially interesting, and evokes for me an idealized state of work: as happening in an environment that encourages "play" and allows individuals to fully "own" the things they create, because they were the first to think of them. It's something I have a misplaced nostalgia for- since I was not working in technology during the 70's, 80's and 90's, when much of the really cool shit was first created. Nowadays technology seems like a boiling pot, with thousands of overlapping, redundant technologies competing for tiny slices of an infinite market. I long for a less overwhelming scene where I can make a mark without also having billions in VC backing.
One of the more difficult parts of writing a graphical user interface is doing the low-level plumbing, called an API, or Application Programming Interface, that other programmers will use to create new windows, menus, and other objects on the system. An API needs to be done right the first time, because once it is released to the world and becomes popular, it can't easily be changed without breaking everyone's programs. Mistakes and bad design choices in the original API will haunt programmers for years to come.
RJ Mical, the programmer who had come up with the "Zen Meditation" game, took this task upon himself. According to Jay Miner, he sequestered himself in his office for three weeks, only coming out once to ask Carl Sassenrath a question about message ports. The resulting API was called Intuition, an appropriate name given its development. It wound up being a very clean, easily-understandable API that programmers loved. In contrast, the API for Windows, called Win16 (later updated to Win32) was constructed by a whole team of people and ended up as a mishmash that programmers hated.
RJ Mical recalled what life was like back in those busy early days:
"We worked with a great passion... my most cherished memory is how much we cared about what we were doing. We had something to prove... a real love for it. We created our own sense of family out there."
Why was everybody willing to work so hard, to put in tons of late (and sometimes sleepless) nights just to build a new computer? The above and beyond dedication of high-tech workers has been a constant ever since Silicon Valley became Silicon Valley. Companies have often reaped the rewards from workers who were willing to put in hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime each month. Managers in other industries must look at these computer companies and wonder why they can't get their workers to put in that kind of effort.
Part of the answer lies with the extreme, nearly autistic levels of concentration that are achieved by hardware and software engineers when they are working at peak efficiency. Everyday concerns like eating, sleeping, and personal hygiene often fade into the background when an engineer is in "the zone." However, I think it goes beyond that simple explanation. Employees at small computer companies have a special position that even other engineers can't hope to achieve. They get to make important technical decisions that have far-reaching effects on the entire industry. Often, they invent new techniques or ideas that significantly change the way people interact with their computers. Giving this kind of power and authority to ordinary employees is intoxicating; it makes people excited about the work that they do, and this excitement then propels them to achieve more and work faster than they ever thought they could. RJ Mical's three-week marathon to invent Intuition was one such example, but in the story of the Amiga there were many others.
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