Spolsky: It's your Skype buddy
Atwood: Yeah, we're Skype buddies. That's awesome. Someone on Twitter told me to say hello to you.
Spolsky: oh hello Twitter
Atwood: Hello. [laughing] I just do what people, you know, on Twitter tell me to do.
Spolsky: I posted a question on Twitter asking the people what I should get, cause I dropped my DVD player on the ground yesterday and it...
Atwood: Wait wait wait you have a DVD player
Spolsky: You know, yeah
Atwood: Is that sort like an 8-track player or like a VHS
Spolsky: Well it's from the past
Atwood: Do you have a reel-to-reel tape machine by any chance? Do you have any machines with all those flashing lights on the front that you see at the movies?
Spolsky: Waaaa. [laughing] You think I'm old...
Atwood: Just kidding. Just giving you a hard time.
Spolsky: Um. I had an idea for my StackOverflow question this week is going to be all about computing in the 1980's, so we can talk about being old later. That's foreshadowing.
Atwood: Okay. Well lets get, well we had a I don't know if you saw, but Alan Kay was on, and we think it's the real Alan Kay too, not you know, a fake dopplegänger. And he actually...he answered I think at first he was doing and ego surf, which is fine, cause I think everyone does that...you just have a search term setup for your name and it alerts you. Which I'm sure if you are Alan Kay must have like lots of results everyday.
Spolsky: Keep checking everyday to see if anyone invents anything called the dynabook
Spolsky: You are star-struck
Atwood: Yeah, he posted a question on StackOverflow, which was awesome. Which is about significant computing innovations since like 1980, like what would be a significant
Spolsky: Yeah, that, yeah, that was a oh that the question that I ah was going to be my favorite quesiton
Atwood: Oh, I'm sorry.
Spolsky: Should we talk about it now? We've been foreshadowing the heck out of this thing. That was posted by Alan Kay, really?
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...