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                        Back To Personal Computing
  Carl Sassenrath                                   future@sassenrath.com
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[Before reading Carl's message, it's worth pointing out that Carl is not
promising a new Amiga computer, a new AmigaOS, or even anything at all
related to what we consider the Amiga today.  But he has a vision to share,
so here you go...taken from Carl's website, http://www.sassenrath.com
-Jason]

Back to Personal Computing
A Message from Carl Sassenrath
20-Jan-1997

For more than 16 years Carl Sassenrath has been a leading innovator in the
field of operating system technology for companies like Hewlett Packard,
Apple, Amiga, and Commodore.  Mr.  Sassenrath is best known as the
architect of the Amiga multitasking OS kernel, a fast, efficient system
which pioneered the concepts of dynamically loadable libraries and devices.

Are You Satisfied?

We live in the age of tremendous personal computing power.  Our desktop
systems run hundreds of times faster than the large, expensive mainframe
computers of years past.  Yet, what has been the end result of this
unbelievable power?  Are you now satisfied with the operation of your
system?  Does it operate and respond as you expect?

Over the past decade the benefits of increased hardware performance have
been offset by an excessive growth in the size and complexity of the system
software.  Or perhaps it is the opposite -- the driving force behind
improving hardware performance was to overcome an ever-growing ineptitude
in software technology.  After all, how useable would Windows95 be on a 8
MHz computer?

The Complexity Problem

The developers of modern software don't understand the consequences of
their bloated systems on their users.  Operating personal computers now
requires us to devote as much time to set-up menus, installation programs,
configuration "wizards" and help databases as we do running productive
applications.  Companies like Microsoft mistakenly think that we either
have plenty of time to burn or perhaps actually enjoy endlessly fooling
around with their system.

This mindless attitude seems to manifest itself in every aspect of modern
software, from the development systems needed to create it, to the
application libraries (APIs) required to interface it, to the operating
systems necessary to run it.  This plague has swept through all aspects of
computer software -- as is evident when you download a 10MB C++ shareware
program, install an 80MB OS update, or receive a 10 CD-ROM developer's kit.

Many developers defend their software by arguing: "What is the harm with a
10MB program?  Don't you know that memory is cheap?" What they are really
saying is: "So what if it takes some time to download.  Who cares that it
consumes disk space and half the RAM.  Perhaps configuring it is a little
too complicated.  Alright, it does have many useless features.  But, after
all, it has less than a dozen obvious bugs, and it will run at least an
hour before crashing."

These developers fail to recognize the core problem: software complexity. 
In recent years it has become universally acceptable for software
technology to be absurdly complex.  Systems have grown both out of control
and out of proportion to their benefits, becoming wasteful, brittle, clumsy
and slow.  Like our federal government, these complex software systems are
now perpetuated by thriving bureaucracies of non-thought, propelled by
their own markets of desperate, inexperienced consumers who see no
alternatives.

Back to the Future

I have reached my limit when it comes to "modern" software practices.  Over
the past few years I've been dreaming not of the future, but the past. 
Perhaps you remember those days...  when a word processor was distributed
on a single floppy and what seemed like a huge OS took two.  Remember being
wonderfully productive on a 7MHz system with a 10MB hard drive?  If
something went wrong, you felt that there was a good chance you could fix
it yourself.

To me this is all about Personal Computing, not Personal Enslaving.  It is
about being the masters of our own computers, not the reverse.  A decade
ago this was true, but we are not the masters any more.  Is it possible to
reclaim that position?  Or, has it been lost to history like the Tucker
Automobile?  Everyone tells me that the world of personal computing is now
totally dominated by a single system -- one which I believe lacks not only
a consistent, efficient, reliable architecture, but an intelligent vision
of the future.
 
Perhaps we are at a pivotal point in personal computing, and this is where
we must take our stand.  It is my sincere hope that there are enough
scattered outposts of rebels who believe as I do and refuse to bow to the
&quot;empire&quot; (or have done so under duress and seek an opportunity to
flee.) With a critical mass we can build our own future and return to what
Personal Computing was meant to be.

My Part

For years after creating the Amiga's multitasking OS architecture I assumed
operating systems would continue to improve.  I figured that with five
million people using the Amiga and valuing its design, I had made my
contribution.  I set aside my new OS visions, naively thinking that others
would carry the torch onward toward the best possible future.  I know now
that I made a mistake, and I have come to regret it.

I am now prepared to develop the system that I have been contemplating for
the last decade.  I'm not talking here about making a clone of any existing
system (including the Amiga).  What I want is a personal computer that I
would like to use: a system that is genuinely easy-to-operate, consistent,
flexible, powerful, small, and fast.

My plan involves two phases.  The first phase is the completion of a new
scripting and control language.  I have worked on the design of this
language part-time for many years.  Within the last few months my efforts
have been full-time, and the language is nearly ready for its prototype
(alpha) release.  Versions will be available for each of the major
platforms over the next month.

Why a language?  Because I believe that the core of computing is not based
on operating system or processor technologies but on language capability. 
Language is both a tool of thought and a means of communication.  Just as
our minds are shaped by human language, so are operating systems shaped by
programming languages.  We implement what we can express.  If it cannot be
expressed, it will not be implemented.

Once the language is complete and in distribution, the second phase is to
develop a small and flexible operating system which is integrated in a
unique way with the language.  Attribute settings, control scripts,
configuration, installation, interprocess communications, and distributed
processing will be facilitated through the language.  Applications can
still be written in C and various other languages, but some aspects of
their system interface will be done through the OS language.  This system
is slated for prototype release later in the year and will be targeted at a
few different hardware platforms.

Your Part

The language and system described above are huge projects and will require
my best efforts for some time to come.  This is my sole mission, and I have
no other jobs or contracts to help pay the way.  Yet, I have absolutely no
intention of selling out to a big corporation or being driven by Wall
Street greed.  To do so would be to risk losing control (again) to those
who lack the insight and understanding to make the best decisions in the
years ahead.

Instead, my approach is to determine if there are enough of you out there
who feel as I do -- who want a choice, who want a system that makes you the
master, and who would be willing to help support it through financial
contributions.

I've been considering this for many months, but I've never done a
user-funded project like this before, and I don't know what to expect. 
Right now I am hopeful, but also a little nervous.  It's a big risk.  If
you like what I am proposing, please take to it to heart and consider what
I have said, because I cannot do it without you.  It's time to do something
different.  It's time to do something for ourselves.  I hope you will join
with me, rebel against software complexity, and return us again to being
the masters of our own Personal Computing.

Yours as always,
   Carl Sassenrath
   future@sassenrath.com

   PO Box 1510
   Ukiah, CA 95482

Copyright © Carl Sassenrath 1997

Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and repost so long as the
copyright is preserved.

Translators: there are numerous English idioms in this document, if you
need help with a clarification, please contact me.