Microsoft: Boiling Frogs Since 1975
Posted Apr 17, 2012 16:25 UTC (Tue) by khim
In reply to: Microsoft: Boiling Frogs Since 1975
Parent article: Paoli: Microsoft will engage with the open source and standards communities
Tell that to Donald Knuth, who came up with TeX in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
I'm pretty sure Knuth knows limitations of TeX better then me. It was basically unusable on 72dpi printer. If you had high-quality printer with real double-strike 144dpi mode then yes, it was possible to use TeX - just barely. When 24pin 180dpi/360dpi printers TeX become reality on PC, but it was way too late: WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 were the “established standard” by then. Later MS Office replaced them.
These scientists certainly gave Microsoft's »engineers« a run for their money.
Rilly? You mean in your universe Joe Average uses TeX and not MS Word to print his creations? This is some kind of interesting universe, I must admit. But here and now TeX is historical curiosity (even mathematical journals often use MS Word instead of TeX and general public does not even know TeX exists).
Even the 24-pin dot matrix printer I used to have in the 1980s was capable of 360-dpi output in graphics mode, and was actually reasonably fast at 180 dpi.
By that time battle was basically already won: in the era of 9-dot matrix printers TeX was doubly unusable (typical computer had no memory to run TeX and 72dpi printer generated unreadable output if you used it) and people used WordPerfect and WordStar. WordPerfect was more popular by far. Later MS Office won the crown (that's why you see so many WordPerfect warts in OOXML), but, of course, it needed compatibility to do that.
Which makes the strange printer driver issues even more mystifying considering that, even leaving TeX out of the game, there were various other word processing packages on the market at the time, for different platforms including not just DOS and the Mac but also the Apple II and Atari ST, which managed to produce output on a par with (or surpassing) Word but identically across a range of different output devices.
Which ones do you have in mind? How popular they were back then?
People rarely moved documents between computers in that era, but quality of the output was important. Even if printers had 144dpi mode it was slow and unreliable. MS Word was actually not widely used (it came later but of course it inherited warts of previous editors), but layout in most popular editors was already dependent on printer driver. Later MS Word needed to keep the status quo to be accepted.
The lesson here is simple: scientists may create truly beautiful things… which will be used by other scientists (and scientists wannabe). But engineers produce things for “real users” and this is quite different art.
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