Spolsky: My question was, I didn't even realize this was Alan Kays... His question is "What are some of the significant new inventions in computing since 1980?" This must be Alan Kay, because if he thinks 1980 was 50 years ago... [laughs]
Atwood: That's awesome that you were able to identify this, not knowing it was Alan Kay, but the number is 432922.
Spolsky: I'll just list some. The number one answer was the World Wide Web. Number two was the Free Software Foundation. Desktop publishing, color, package management... Wait, how come there's somebody here quoting me? Oh, I see, that's from the transcript. Just-in-time compilation.
First of all, I don't really like this list. If I had to say the significant new inventions in computing, maybe it's not an invention, I would say probably the most significant thing in programming, specifically, is garbage collection, which clearly was invented before 1980, but really didn't start appearing until Java, did not get mainstreamed until Java, 1995.
Atwood: That's one of the lessons of this question, is how much of this stuff we think of as new now isn't really new at all, it's just becoming somewhat mainstream. This is how long it takes.
Spolsky: It takes forever.
Atwood: It takes forever. And we're in an industry where things happens so fast. We're like, "Oh, that's a year old, that's ancient," and yet there are these truly ancient concepts from 20+ years ago. So you forget. You literally forget how long it takes and how old some of this stuff is.
Spolsky: There's still people... Like, Ruby and Python still don't have type inference, do they? This is a technology from the 90's which would make those languages much, much faster.
Spolsky: So, anyway, yeah. They're about 20 years behind academia, usually. It can vary.
What I thought I would do for my answer to this question is tell you what computing was like in 1980...