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Ten Applications That Changed Computing 437

bfire writes "The term 'killer app' gets tossed around quite liberally these days. Nearly every piece of software released seems to be pitched as having the potential to send shockwaves throughout the IT world. In reality, there have been precious few applications which have truly changed the computing industry over the years. This article lists some of the top ten true killer apps that changed computing, from Phil Zimmermann's gold standard in encryption, PGP, to Dr Solomon's groundbreaking anti-virus toolkit, to Mitch Kapor who took the idea of VisiCalc for Apple and created Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS." Typical for top-10 lists, the choices seem pretty arbitrary — what changed your corner of the computing world?
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Ten Applications That Changed Computing

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  • MS Paint (Score:5, Funny)

    by ciderVisor ( 1318765 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:05PM (#28161953)

    MS Paint

    • Re:MS Paint (Score:5, Funny)

      by gringofrijolero ( 1489395 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:20PM (#28162055) Journal

      No way man.. Solitaire!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by mdwh2 ( 535323 )

        I'm outraged that Minesweeper made the list, and not Solitaire!

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I remember an IBM seminar for OS2 that asked the question "How many of the audience open windows 2.1 just to play Solataire?" ... and about 95% of the audience put up their hands.

          It wasn't really until reliable WYSIWYG editors came about that windoz really began to get popular.
    • Re:MS Paint (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:36PM (#28162159) Homepage Journal

      I remember going to the Harvard Coop the week that the Macintosh was introduced, and seeing people jammed around them, trying out something that was unlike anything most of us had ever seen before.

      It was MacPaint.

      What made it different is we'd never seen that combination of abstraction and direct manipulation before. Some of us knew what a light pen was, and had some vague idea you could do things like manipulate a model of something, but the thing about this app was that it presented analogies you could manipulate. They weren't literal models (like Microsoft's amazingly misbegotten "Bob"). They were things boiled down to the essence off what might be usable for the task: palettes that weren't palette shaped; "windows" that contained scrolling surfaces that were somewhat like a sheet of paper. And there were other things that were, well, new, but somehow logically fit with these idealized analogies: drop down menus, and scrollbars for example. They were easy to grasp (both literally and figuratively) because they were a kind of meta-analogy; they were simple mechanisms you could figure out because they somehow worked on the same principles of the things that were analogies. They were like analogies that didn't refer to anything we knew, but we kind of grasped they style of the thing.

      • Re:MS Paint (Score:5, Funny)

        by spydabyte ( 1032538 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @08:55PM (#28162679)
        Yeah, we can definitely see that you grasped this product quite well in your very concise description.
        • Re:MS Paint (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @10:59PM (#28163631) Homepage Journal

          Well, it's one of those things you take for granted if you grew up with it. But it really is remarkable how weird GUIs are. They're a kind of visual language, and like with regular language a heck of a lot of what we take for granted is just tradition.

          Imagine everyone you ever heard of spoke different Germanic languages; you might think that there's a huge difference between Dutch and English, but there's no intrinsic reason that we couldn't be speaking some Sino-Tibetan language instead. That's kind of what the difference between something like Gnome and Windows GUIs are like. They share vastly more than they differ by, and all the common bits work (more or less) but I often wonder how much of those bits are, well, a bit arbitrary.

          Any really fundamental improvement in UI conventions will almost certainly be something that takes a lot of unconvincing words to describe, but somehow makes sense when you use it. Gestural input is an example with potential. I just haven't seen the application that makes it really, really important to put into the common UI lexicon. Nothing as compelling as, say, the checkbox/radio button dichotomy. But it might exists, and if it does you'll have to use it to understand.

          • VisiCalc (Score:3, Interesting)

            by EvilBudMan ( 588716 )

            I think lotus 123 was on this list but VisiCalc gave small businesses a reason to buy what was considered a hobbyist device. This was before the IBM PC. You could get it for the Apple II, TRS 80, Atari 800, etc. Also, WordStar should be included as well because without the word processor and spreadsheet, computers made no sense to a business. They bought and still buy the majority of equipment. I forgot to mention DBase from Ashton Tate.

            Of course Office improved all of this stuff but it was basically there

      • Re:MS Paint (Score:5, Insightful)

        by carlzum ( 832868 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @10:46PM (#28163531)
        I had a similar experience at a mall when I was a kid, in a Sears I think. There had been computers on the shelves of Radio Shacks and electronics stores like "Crazy" Eddies (showing my age) for years. But those machines drew about as much attention as a typewriter. The Macintosh displayed the Mona Lisa created in MacPaint, and people gathered around it in amazement. It may not have been a significant application in business or entertainment, but it demonstrated everything revolutionary about personal computers like no other application. Users saw pictures instead of monochromatic words, the program was controlled without a keyboard, windows and icons made it seem intuitive and approachable, unlike cryptic text commands.

        For everyday people in the suburbs, it was a glimpse of the computing experience that would become ubiquitous in the next 10-15 years. The people crowded around weren't awed by the pictures on the screen, they were amazed by how powerful home computers were becoming. They studied me and my friends playing around, looking for clues to what exactly we could do with it.

        Frankly, it was a profound experience. Those machines soon replaced bank tellers with computer screens, letters with email, encyclopedias with Google, and on and on. For a lot of us in middle-America, that possibility first dawned on us when we saw MacPaint 25 years ago.
      • Re:MS Paint (Score:5, Interesting)

        by faffod ( 905810 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:31AM (#28165325)
        I used to sell Macs in '84. I once gave a demo to a group of guys that came in from CERN. I showed them Mac Paint and Mac Write, I copied and pasted between the two apps and they were fascinated. At one point someone asked about the price and I quoted the price in French Francs. Someone asked what that was in Swiss Francs, and one of them had a watch with a built in calculator so he spoke up and asked for the conversion rate. Meanwhile, I pulled down the apple menu and brought up the calculator and typed in the same numbers. I cut the converted price and posted it in the Mac Write document I was typing. The guy with the watch calculator was frozen staring at the Mac. So was the rest of the group. I found out after the demo that they were part of the UA1 team that had just won the nobel prize in physics. Just a simple calculator that could easily integrate with other apps left them completely speechless. Today an application that doesn't support infinite undo is not worthy of a second look, but back then the notion of a GUI, with [limited] multi-tasking, was amazing even to guys who had access to most advanced technology.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:05PM (#28161957)

    Rather than seeing all the techie stuff scrolling by the screen, I think the Windows NT splash screen with its "loading" progress bar did a lot to NOT scare people who were normally scared of computers.

    • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:08PM (#28161979)

      Um, you mean like the Mac?

      Ah the days of watching the Extensions loading.

    • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @08:46PM (#28162619)

      1. WordStar/WordPerfect/Word
      2. Visicalc/SuperCalc/123/Multiplan-Excel
      3. AutoCad
      4. dBase/Oracle7/MySQL
      5. Duke Nukem/Wolfenstein 3D/Quake
      6. Zelda.....WoW....etc with a branch to Second Life
      7. Mozilla/Apache/Tomcat/II6 ad naseum
      8. C/Java/php (note the absence of VB)
      9. Napster/xTorrent/Amazon/iTunes/eBay/and other Business Distribution online apps
      10. McAfee/Norton/AVG/etc.

      Ten is too short a number for categories, but these IMHO all started billion dollar industry segments

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by moonbender ( 547943 )

        9. Napster/xTorrent/Amazon/iTunes/eBay/and other Business Distribution online apps


        Ten is too short a number for categories, but these IMHO all started billion dollar industry segments

        Actually, number 9 also threatens to shut down a billion dollar industry. ;)

  • On One Page (Score:5, Informative)

    by russlar ( 1122455 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:06PM (#28161965)
  • Tie for first... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by viyh ( 620825 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:08PM (#28161977) Homepage
    For me it's either "vi" or "screen".
    • Re:Tie for first... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fermion ( 181285 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @08:43PM (#28162601) Homepage Journal

      I leanred ed on a teletype. vi changed everything.

      Shape table on the Apple were the next big change in my life.

      Although I am sure 123 and all the clones are interesting, and Excel does deserve a place of it's own, visicalc changed the way I think.

      Same thing for Mathematics.

      I am not going to say anything about WYSIWG editing, because I truly think that combining content and presentation is a bad thing. It was a good idea, but it shouldn't be done on a regular basis. For any non trivial project, content and presentation has to be kept separate. I blame the fact that it isn't for all the bad code in the world.

      Autodesk inventor was an excellent way to migrate from the drawing board to the computer. However Solidworks and later Inventor actually provided the means by onw which should draw on the computer. There is no reason to pretend that the computer is a drawing board.

      It is kind of the same with C++. Lets us look at coding by modeling the world, but does not hide the code of the model behind arbitrary gibberish.

      Anti virus software is very important because it allows us to used the cheap PC. Without it we have to buy the drones expensive computers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
        Interesting that you speak against WYSIWYG for combining presentation and content, but in favour of VisiCalc, which does exactly the same. It's a shame Microsoft copied 123 and not Improv.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      emacs has a mode for that!

    • The "C" Compiler (Score:3, Insightful)

      by msobkow ( 48369 )

      Being introduced to "C" was a major breakthrough, as I'd cut my teeth on TRS-80 BASIC and Z-80 machine language (not assembler -- POKE'ing values into memory.) "C" was a portable assembler, so close to the PDP-11/70 metal that I could almost taste it.

  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:08PM (#28161981) Homepage Journal

    The earliest C and Pascal compilers on a home computer really changed the landscape of who had access to serious software development tools. I believe this is what made the difference and created a vibrant Shareware scene.

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      True enough. I'd also put Norton Guides or the ORIGINAL Norton Utilities ahead of Norton Anti-Virus. Basil's CopyAll and Ripoff 9 changed things in the anti-piracy scene, rendering most copy protection obsolete and forcing vendors to make software people were willing to pay for. For a while.

      Zork I, Wizardry and (gasp!) Microsoft Flight Simulator changed the expectations of the gaming market, and ultimately the gaming market dictated the hardware produced.

      Superior Software Speech! was the first serious attem

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jd ( 1658 )

        Oh, and MUD I. Without which, there would be no MUDs, MUSHes, MMORGs, or much of any other gaming online.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eulernet ( 1132389 )

      Nope, the compilers that revolutioned compilation were Borland's Turbo compilers (and Megamax compilers on 68K platform).
      Compiling took only a few seconds, even on the slowest computers.
      Before that, it was painful to compile even the smallest piece of code.

      TurboPascal also provided an impressive debugger, compared to Microsoft's Debug at this time.

      Later, Watcom introduced 32 bits compilation on PC.
      And it seems that Delphi was the leader before MS bought all the team to create .NET.

  • Lotus 1-2-3? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gilgoomesh ( 966411 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:08PM (#28161985)

    The article gives the nod to Lotus 1-2-3 over VisiCalc? Great -- award the theives and ignore the innovations that *actually* changed the world. Nice job.

    • There's an earlier (#7 i think) mention of Microsoft Office.... I thought Excel was part of office, making either point #3 or #7 redundant.

  • internet explorer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by postmortem ( 906676 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:10PM (#28161999) Journal
    activeX malware and exploitation worms made huge difference in our lives
    • by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:21PM (#28162063) Homepage

      Bonzi buddy.

      How did people live before they had a malware purple ape on their desktop?

      • by superslacker87 ( 998043 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @08:00PM (#28162337)

        Oh the days of ignorance and when system administrators didn't bother locking out the computer from installs. I installed that at work back in 2000 and was on Amazon surfing for a book called The Multiorgasmic Man: Sexual Secrets Every Man Should Know. Bonzi Buddy popped up and naturally my speakers were blaring and decided to tell the entire cubicle section I was in what I was looking up.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Opportunist ( 166417 )

          Ahhh, yes, the good old days when the people who installed malware on their computer and the people who had to suffer from it were still the same...

          Sometimes I'm tempted to create an "old school" virus that trashes the infected machine instead of pestering everyone else on the internet, just to educate people, of course.

      • by jd ( 1658 )

        They were too busy dealing with the Cascade and Headbanger virus to care.

      • by rantingkitten ( 938138 ) <kitten@mirrors h a> on Sunday May 31, 2009 @09:53PM (#28163127) Homepage
        You may jest, but consider how much money some people have made by making careers of removing that crap from people's Windows computers. Bonzi Buddy and his malware ilk have helped many freelancers and consultants earn a tidy sum. Even today, if I need a little extra cash, I might take a quick twenty minute, 100 dollar job purging crapware from some Windows machine.
  • by goldaryn ( 834427 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:15PM (#28162029) Homepage
    Whither, Mavis Beacon?
  • If they're saying it bought about the World Wide Web, aka the internet (to most nontechy people). I wouldn't say it wasn't inevitable without mosaic, but since it was first, it probably can be credited with making the computer a must-have device in the home, perhaps even superior to the TV in time to come. That surge also probably helped bring the computer prices down to what we have now instead of looking at $1500-2000 systems as midrange/economical, as well as allowing niches like netbooks and smartphon

    • I think it's easy to forget just how amazing Yahoo was initially. A huge tree of knowledge that could be expanded by Joe Public. The main difference between it and Google (or Alta Vista before it) was that it relied on human editors rejecting crap links rather than automated spiders and clever algorithms.

      Is there room today for an ad-sponsored user-submission, human-edited Yahookipedia ?

      I miss the old Yahoo categorized listings. Do they still exist in some shape or form ?

  • by Ryan Stortz ( 598060 ) <ryan0rz&gmail,com> on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:23PM (#28162077)
    This article seems to have forgotten some of the biggest players in the social revolution of the business PC.

    ICQ (and later AIM) should be on the list. How many people here can still remember their original ICQ number? How many are running something similar right now?
    • I still prefer good old fashioned talk to modern instant messaging.

      The old days.

    • IRC? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @08:06PM (#28162383) Journal

      Granted, the earlier networks didn't have NickServs so you had to /whois to semi-make sure the person you were talking to was actually the person you think you're talking to, but in terms of instant messaging, IRC is certainly by far a predecessor to all of the IM apps.

      and I'm guessing there were near-instant messaging utilities for BBS's back in the day; I know I chatted with a SysOp once through... Terminat, I think?
      Ahhh, Bi-Modem protocol... no carrier indeed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
        It's a question of UI. IRC was a multi-user chat system that supported direct chats. ICQ was a single-user chat system that supported multi-user chats. This changed how people used them. Far more people were willing to leave themselves logged in to ICQ while doing something else than did the same with IRC.
  • More recent ones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:24PM (#28162085)
    1. Firefox, it showed that it was possible to reopen the browser to innovation and standardization after the rise of IE.

    2. Ubuntu (yes, its not an application), it gave Linux to the masses and made it, for the first time in many years, to get a popular brand of computers (Dell) preinstalled with something other than OS X or Windows

    3. BitTorrent, Limewire, (the original) Napster and other P2P technologies, took out the last hurdle in independent content distribution, bandwidth.

    4. Skype and other VOIP technologies, let people abandon phone companies for the first time while letting them talk to landlines and cell phones alike

    5. AIM, MSN, IRC and other IM services took e-mail and made it much better
    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      5. AIM, MSN, IRC and other IM services took e-mail and made it much better

      Say what now?

      So the problem with email is that it wasn't fast enough, but that the telephone was 'too realtime'?

      Or was the problem with email that we didn't have to create accounts with the provider of the people we wanted to talk to?

      Or was the problem that we didn't have enough smiley icon sets in our lives?

      Seriously, how did IM make email better?

      • by artor3 ( 1344997 )

        Email was too slow, and being on the phone with multiple people all over the world simultaneously was too impossible.

  • SSH (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TCM ( 130219 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:25PM (#28162091)


  • Internet Explorer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

    My ISP uses Intuit for payment and last month I could pay with Firefox on Linux but this month I have to use IE (and IE6 in IES4Linux doesn't work.)

    Die, Microsoft. Die.

  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:34PM (#28162139) Homepage
    While their comments about Photoshop and Quark are more or less valid, they overlooked an app that was more important than both of their claims: Pagemaker. Photoshop may have saved Apple in the 90s, but that never would have been an issue if Pagemaker hadn't put the Mac on the map to begin with in the 80s. Pagemaker was to the Mac what Lotus 1-2-3 was to the IBM PC: the sine-qua-non reason to buy one. And although Quark came to dominate the desktop publishing industry (for a while), that honor would be beside the point if Pagemaker had not created practical DTP to begin with.
  • by scotch ( 102596 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:38PM (#28162175) Homepage
    No matter how you measure it (number of copy cat programs, efficiency and failure rates, importance to computer science), this program tops them all. Where would we be without it?
  • by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:43PM (#28162209)

    Those two games introduced me to computers (in my elementary school classroom). I had no idea before that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by WindBourne ( 631190 )
      That is ok. Before your generation, it was early leisure suit larry that introduced a lot of kids to computer games.
  • Turbo Pascal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoeD ( 12073 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:46PM (#28162245) Homepage

    In a day when serious compilers cost $300 or more, most people used the free Basic that came with DOS.

    Then Turbo Pascal came out at $49.95, and proved that there was more than a niche market for compilers.

  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:58PM (#28162315) Homepage

    1) TJ-2. Written by Peter Samson for the PDP-1, it is at least a plausible candidate for "first word processor." It used a text input file, with command reminiscent of later word processing program "dot commands," although the commands were identified by an overbar character rather than a period. It produced two-column output with justified lines, and had provision for hyphenation. Because the PDP-1 facility had output equipment based on IBM electric typewriters, the output was "letter-quality." It showed a generation of hackers that computer software could be used to edited and print finished-looking text.

    If not TJ-2, then TYPSET/RUNOFF, which must have been used by tens of thousands of people at universities to perform what today would be called "word processing."

    2) Spacewar! Another PDP-1 program, a plausible candidate for "first video game," and certainly introduced thousands of people to the idea that computers could be used purely for fun. A somewhat subversive idea, since commercial facilities rented PDP-1 time at something like $60 per hour.

    3) Bolt, Beranek and Newman's RS-1, or perhaps its antecedent, Prophet. It was not a spreadsheet, but it was, nevertheless, an easy-to-use and powerful system for medical and scientific research calculations, with "tables" as its fundamental data type, and flexible vaguely SQL-like commands for extracting data from them and performing statistical tests and calculations on them. I don't know whether Bricklin and Frankston ever saw it, but I suspect that it was "in the culture" and influenced Visicalc in a very general way.

    4) FORTRAN. Unlikely as it sounds, it was a breakthrough in computer ease-of-use. Long before computers started to make headway amount the general population, they first had to make headway in the scientific community among people who were not computer experts. It was FORTRAN that brought computing within the grasp of the average scientist. It also, oddly enough, became a breakthrough in portability and the loosening of IBM's monopoly power, at least in the academic community.

    5) MacWrite. Or, if you prefer, the earlier Gypsy word processing program for the Xerox Alto. Gypsy was probably the first WYSIWYG word processor that could display multiple fonts and images. MacWrite was the program that first showed hundreds of thousands of people to that style of editing. In my case, I was utterly blown away by the ability to create superscripts that were actually in smaller type than the main text.

    Before MacWrite, WYSIWYG meant only that the word processing commands could be hidden, and that lines on the screen broke at the same places as the printed copy. Before MacWrite, I never saw a system that show justified text as justified on the screen, or that showed multiple columns on the screen, or showed headers, footers, and footnotes in their proper places on screen.

  • My personal list: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drolli ( 522659 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:59PM (#28162329) Journal

    -Borland Pascal: One of the first complete affordable OO IDE environments with well organized UI elements
    -matlab: finding the eigenvalues of a Schroedinger equation numerically takes roughly three lines of code
    -macsyma/maxima, mathematica: automate handling of symbolic expressions
    -perl: the web 2.0 language before web 2.0 was named web 2.0
    -emacs: Still the most feature-rich editor. The number of "emacs-like" clones which try to capture its core functionality without the bloat is impressive.
    -tex/latex: If you make a book, there is nothing better.
    -man: i think there was a time when manuals came on paper only
    -gopher: the web before the web.....

  • Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

  • by SmlFreshwaterBuffalo ( 608664 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @08:08PM (#28162395)

    Clippy definitely changed my life. If not for little Clippy, I would still be trying to format that letter. I think everyone here can agree that the ability to detect when a letter was being written was nothing short of magic.

  • I'm sorry, but for something to be considered 'industry changing', we should consider the first instance of an app with that capability... for IT is the app that truly 'changed the industry' to the point where it spawned imitators that may be more successful.

    By that standard, Visicalc, PageMaker, and MacWord absolutely need to be on this list.

  • was the original application that changed computing and led to the explosion of use by average corporations in the 60s and 70s (and beyond).

  • Quaterdeck Mosaic. It is, afterall, what brought the web to the masses.
  • ubuntu (Score:2, Informative)

    by kloffinger ( 837670 )
    they listed ubuntu, but oddly it's also on their "disappointing technologies page" see? []
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by value_added ( 719364 )

      Hardly surprising given their existing Top Ten list. The rationalisation for MS Office, for example, is that it put thousands of secretaries out of work. No acknowledgment was made that they were already out of work long before Windows appeared, and wordprocessing software didn't need a toolbar with a ribbon to be effective.

  • MS Windows would be the ultimate killer app. MS killed so many apps, it isn't even funny.
  • Doom
    Turbo Pascal
    Red Hat Linux 4

    For one reason or another, those apps changed my entire computing landscape.

  • PGP (Score:5, Funny)

    by burris ( 122191 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @08:50PM (#28162653)

    I'm so glad that PGP has been honored on this list. Let us take a moment to reflect what life would be like had Zimmerman not put his freedom on the line to write PGP.

    1. Without PGP, almost everyone would send their emails in the clear. Today, cleartext email is the exception, not the rule.

    2. Without PGP, emails, blog posts, and the like would be unauthenticated. Today, with the ubiquity of digital signatures and the public's expectation that they be valid, its virtually impossible to impersonate someone else or misquote them.

    3. Without PGP, huge volumes of personal data aggregated onto easily transportable laptops and DVDs would be vulnerable to petty thieves. With the strong encryption tools in wide use today everyone can rest assured that their personal can't fall into the hands of some crackhead who broke the window of a bureaucrat's car.

    Clearly, PGP has changed computing. No no, PGP has changed the WORLD!!

  • Postscript (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wandazulu ( 265281 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @09:17PM (#28162831)

    Though technically a programming language, most people didn't interact with it as such; it was the hidden application in printers that made them produce such gorgeous text and graphics from Pagemaker, Quark, Illustrator (wasn't as important for bitmap-based programs like Photoshop).

    The article talking about Quark, other folks have mentioned Pagemaker, but it really was Postscript that showed that mere mortals could produce camera-worthy output, and now we absolutely expect it, in both the most ephemeral print out and our displays. It's no surprise that the most advanced windowing system at the time, IMHO, was NextStep, which used Display Postscript as its rendering engine. Now we have the Mac (descendant from NextStep), and Windows, which uses its own rendering system.

  • AutoCAD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @09:28PM (#28162943) Homepage

    AutoCAD, the program that wiped drafting boards off the face of the earth. There was CAD before AutoCAD, but it required very expensive hardware, and was usually sold with a special purpose workstation.

    During the 1980s, AutoCAD drove the graphics card market and the plotter market, and created the tablet market.

    Drafting is an incredibly laborious process. Making changes to a drawing was a huge pain. (The previous big breakthrough was the electric eraser.) AutoCAD provided a huge productivity improvement, far more than a word processor vs. a typewriter.

  • by Mean Variance ( 913229 ) <> on Sunday May 31, 2009 @09:49PM (#28163095)

    What a professional article. They couldn't review the content or run a simple spellcheck.

    "Before Office, business software was a collection of different applications from seperate vendors"

    Those loosers who aren't dependant on quality editor review will dye a painfull death ... I tell ya.

    Also, I hate minesweeper.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Just Some Guy ( 3352 )
      My English teacher taught me that "seperate" was an adjective and "separate" was a verb. Or maybe it was the other way around, since it turns out she was just making crap up.
  • No GCC? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by colinrichardday ( 768814 ) <> on Sunday May 31, 2009 @09:58PM (#28163155)

    Where would FOSS be without GCC?

  • No HyperCard? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mfnickster ( 182520 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @10:19PM (#28163311)

    What about HyperCard???

    Without HyperCard, there would be no Web as we know it today. We'd all be surfing Gopher!

  • Unrecognized Apps (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nitewing98 ( 308560 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:06AM (#28165027) Homepage

    Not sure I agree with their pick of Lotus 1-2-3, as Visicalc was the app that made Apple computers suddenly "useful" for something other than hobbying. And granted they mentioned Visicalc, but it was Visicalc that convinced IBM that there might be something to this "personal computer" craze.

    Not sure if operating systems count, either, but both Unix and the Mac GUI should count as "killer" - Unix for its longevity and hardiness some 40 yrs later, and the Mac GUI for proving that people would use a GUI rather than a command line.

    I'd agree with a previous post that MacPaint (and later Photoshop and Illustrator) should be in there.

    Hypercard, while a huge hit on the Mac, never translated to the PC, so I'm afraid it doesn't make the cut.

    I agree with their inclusion of Quark XPress, though again it was another app that led to its creation - Framemaker, originally written for Sun, was later paired with the Mac and Adobe's Postscript printers to create desktop publishing.

    I also disagree with Minesweeper. I'd vote for one of the earlier computer games, like, say Zork or the Hitchhiker's Guide. There were lots of folks like me spending their nights mapping Zork or trying to figure out what the pocket fluff in Arthur's pocket was for.

    On balance, it seemed their picks were very PC-centric.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"