The real innovators and revolutionaries

Spock builds a WYSIWIG word processor with stone knives and bear skins.

Spock builds a WYSIWIG word processor out of stone knives and bear skins.

Folks in the software business love to the don the cloak of “innovator”, or “revolutionary”, or “pathfinder”.  The dirty secret of our industry, however, is that much of what passes for innovation is simply porting and popularizing (e.g., GUI work done by Xerox PARC shows up in Apple Mac, evolution of spreadsheets from mainframe, to Visicalc, then Lotus 123, finally Excel). 

Those are achievements, no doubt.  But they’re incremental achievements: building on, adapting, leveraging, etc. the work of others.

Now, if you want to see something closer to revolution, check out what these dudes were up to in 1968.  Doug Engelbart and crew’s “Mother of all Demos” is astounding (here).  It will take a while — and the Flash files are quite hinky — but it is worth the time.

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One Response

  1. […] many technologists don the cloak of “innovator”, or “revolutionary”, or “pathfinder” (here and here).   The role of innovators is humbler in Darwin’s world: Every technology has […]

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