The day after – welcome Linux

the day after - welcome linux
the day after – welcome Linux

This is a story of a mission, the story of a fascination, the story of an enterprise and the story of a new beginning. When we bought the first x86 based personal computer in 1983, two years after the introduction of PC – DOS 1.0, it was not yet clear where the journey would take us. The decision was a big one back then: a computer or a good used car.

When researching prices, we also sat opposite a group of office equipment salesmen who couldn’t understand why a young man in old jeans would want to buy a computer. The idea of ​​making such an investment without a well-developed business plan was outrageous.
What began with the clear prompt quickly led to dBase, Framework, Lotus1-2-3, batch programming and an exploration of Pascal, later Turbo-Pascal.

Address databases, letters and form letters, budget planning and programming work aids for our own transport company, first steps in the field of digital graphics. It was a journey on a high-speed train and we were always in the first wave.

digital art - juan petry - 1983
digital art – juan petry – 1983

Hardware – software – who else – what rhymes well in German was the direction (meaning: machine, software, human). From the beginning, the question was what this technology can do, how it will change the world of work and thus the world itself, and what it means for people, for those who work with it, for those who keep up and for those who stay behind.
The introduction of microcomputers was comparable to the introduction of automobiles. In the beginning, driving a car meant maintaining and repairing it, it was a job, and going out was the highlight, but hardly part of everyday life. In an old manual for a pre-2nd-world-war car, I could still read: stop every 50 km, remove, clean, check and reinstall spark plugs.
In the beginning, everyone was an administrator, operator, user. And the upgrade of the first hard drives, the increase in RAM, the exchange of a better graphics card, the networking with network cards, the first internal modem, the ISDN card… a race, a pit stop… a learning curve like no other, and always in the first wave.

Assembling IBM computers in Cologne, delivering them, setting them up, introducing them to the use of the hardware, customer training – the way was paved for the trainer, first in the companies, then in the public universities. It was a steep journey, and always in the first wave, training an entire workforce of a German IBM supplier that produces motherboards, and always focusing on the reality of people in the working world.

The list seems endless. From programming the first simulations (how people move around in rooms in special situations, parties, sales rooms, evacuation) to creating teaching materials for new software applications, teacher training, business consulting, network administrator training, and the first mailbox-based online course in Germany in collaboration with the city of Cologne.

digital art - juan petry - 1983
digital art – juan petry – 1983

And there was always one person present, the elephant in the room, the company that offered the leading operating system for micro computer and many other products based on top off it.
As interesting and enjoyable as this journey was, right at the beginning I had the chance to talk to veterans in the field of mid-range computing. They had started with System/3 and had been virtually overwhelmed by the introduction of these microcomputers.
They were tired of the constant updates, tired of the constant reworking of code. Moore’s law was and is the observation that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit (CPU) doubles about every two years, and the expected program errors probably double as well.

These veterans were simply tired after 30 years on this high-speed train. Younger and younger people were increasingly storming past them, with new ideas.

I was aware of this when I got on the train, and so the exit strategy was there from the start.
The new technology was also ideal for art production and marketing. What started with handheld scanners, OCR and high resolution offered by the flatbed scanner, continued to control CNC milling machines and laser cutters, and always in the first wave.

What had already become apparent at the end of his career, the shift in interest from personal computers to networked servers, continued and the emerging free software promised much more and faster innovation. The intelligence of the masses, as a grassroots democratic movement, as a sociological phenomenon. After OS2, BSD and UNIX derivatives, the focus was drawn to Linux.

digital art - juan petry - 1983
digital art – juan petry – 1983

And so it went from batch to bash, from Dephie to PHP, from dBase to MySQL. The elephant in the room was still there, the interface to the world of servers, part of the comfort zone, known.
People are said to rarely change banks (that will certainly change in the future). They also probably rarely change their OS (and that will probably change too).

Every big step from the old into a new unknown comfort zone has its victims. From the prompt to the GUI it was certainly dBase, Ratliff’s post-football-games statistics-motivated Vulcan-named creation. The new step leaves Photoshop behind. The rest… was already better and more attractive.

Today – on June 8th, 2024 – the elephant has moved out. The desk has a new “top”. The new GUI shines, and the prompt happily calls out, a home run:

mysqldump –login-path=backup –no-tablespaces –column-statistics=0 –protocol=TCP –user=${USER} –password=${PASS} –host=${DBSERVER} ${DATABASE} > ${FILE}

One line backs up the database of this website… in the CRON job.

Even if the free habitat of public domain software is being infiltrated by commercial interests, it is a path to a new era. Don’t talk, do. In times of mass migration, it is not only the analogue that migrates. It is time again for departure, travel, arrival.