NPR on Windows95
Date: Wed, 13 Sep 95 23:41:34 -0700
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: NPR on Windows95
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NPR Commentary, August 24, 1995
Everything about computers seems new, but the Windows95 phenomenon
is about as old as electricity. Its underlying principle is, Sell the
sizzle and not the steak. What Microsoft has achieved today is like what
Detroit's automakers pulled off thirty years ago, back in their era of
world dominance, as they unveiled each year's new cars.
Each spring and summer in those days, newspapers and magazines
would speculate on what the new Ford Fairlane or Chevy Impala might look
like. In the fall, just before release date, dealers would cover their
showroom windows with paper -- and then, on that wonderful first night,
searchlights would rake the sky, the paper would be ripped off the windows,
and you could join the crowds to see and touch the 1963 LeBaron.
In retrospect it was all a charming hoax. The cars were pretty much
the same each year -- bigger fins, different sheet metal -- and the real
achievement was the collaboration between business and media in making the
model change-over a riveting news event.
It takes me back to those innocent boyhood days -- with Sandy
Koufax on the pitcher's mound, and the sporty Falcon in the dealer's window
-- to witness the spectacle of Windows95. Two groups of people watch the
mounting frenzy with astonishment. One is the tribe of Macintosh users, who
hear about Win95's marvelous new convenience and know that they've had the
same, and more, for the last ten years. The other group includes users of
the OS/2 Warp operating system from IBM, which for at least three years has
had much stronger technical features than those in Windows95. In automotive
terms, the Mac users are like Ferrari or MG drivers, the OS/2 crowd is like
owners of some tightly-engineered German machine, and both are watching in
dumbfounded admiration as this Buick Skylark, this Windows95 draws the
spotlights in the sky.
Windows95 is a historic feat, but it is an achievement of commerce
and promotion rather than of technology. The groups whose lives will be
different because of it are software companies, who have a new standard for
upgrades; hardware companies, since Win95 demands more memory and disk
space; and of course Microsoft itself. A generation from now we will
marvel, as with yesteryear's autos, not at the ingenuity that went into the
product but that of the salesmanship, which has included getting the press
to beat the drum for this new software as it once did for new cars.
Americans often think of themselves as a nation of innovators or
tinkerers, but long ago the world saw us as a nation of salesman. With
Windows95 we are returning to our roots.
© 1995 Peter Langston