Revisiting the Lessons of Timesharing
by Warren Juran
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana, might have been talking about how today’s Internet-based computing echoes computer timesharing from the 1960s and 1970s. How can the lessons learned from that early era of computing help us to design better systems and applications today? The tale of personal computing’s evolutionary path shows what experienced engineers and developers can bring to the design table.
Once upon a time, computers were so large and expensive that hardly anyone could afford to have one. Computer users punched their program instructions and data into cards and brought the decks of cards to a computer center. Operators at the computer center fed the cards into the computer’s input device. The printed results were available after a considerable wait. This inconvenient system seemed to take forever to debug software because of the delays after each cycle of correction and re-submission. There wasn’t much ready-to-use software and the benefits of computing were available to very few.
Computer timesharing let more people enjoy the advantages of “personal computing.” Hundreds of users could use their own keyboard/printer terminals to share the resources of one central computer. In the 1960s and 1970s, computer timesharing companies spread around the world, operating large data centers and communications networks to provide dial-up services for their users. Timesharing companies opened branch offices in large cities and employed armies of salesmen to locate and cultivate new customers. The new customers could do their own interactive programming, or use extensive libraries of ready-to-use software for their computing needs.
The timesharing companies provided the central computers, communications networks, software libraries, customer support and education, printing services, remote job entry for traditional “batch” computing jobs, client data storage, and a one-stop-shop for word processing, accounting, messaging, engineering analysis and other customer requirements.
Developers of early timesharing systems dealt with issues like utilizing limited bandwidth, providing rapid access to large amounts of data, and insuring that individual users didn’t monopolize computer resources. Tools like “linked lists,” “sparse matrices,” “hashing,” and priority queuing helped improve timesharing systems. Today’s computers and communication networks are vastly more powerful than their early counterparts, but disciplines like Information Theory, Queuing Theory, Distributed Computing and Peer-to-Peer computing can still enhance system performance and reduce costs.
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Can Business Software be Better?
We have all heard the horror stories regarding business software systems: The tremendously expensive system. The system that didn’t work. The system that couldn’t grow with the business. The provider who wanted $50,000 a module and five modules would be needed. Critical software changes that take weeks or months.
With fast-changing markets, demographics and new regulations, businesses need to be nimble and fast in their reactions. The last thing a business needs is to hampered by expensive and time-consuming system implementations. Hearing about the bad experiences of others’ raises the question, what are the characteristics of good business software?
Thinking from a business owner’s perspective, better business software should:
- Work reliably and securely
- Be adjusted to take into account the uniqueness of the business’ operation
- Come at a cost that doesn’t break the bank
- Come with easy access to the software’s actual developers for the best possible technical support
- Be quickly extendible when new features are desired
- Not be locked in to a specific platform that doesn’t have a bright future or comes with high monthly expenses
- Maximize connectivity from anywhere using mobile devices
A tall order, right? Not so with us. With DataPlex and AmpUp – our rapid software development tool for business enterprise applications – you get business software that offers modern capabilities that can easily be altered to meet changing needs, possibly giving your business a competitive advantage.
By leveraging AmpUp, you get:
- A reliable and secure system that take into account the uniqueness of your business’ operation. We start by doing a free assessment of your current operation and then work with you to develop effective new displays and processes.
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We introduced AmpUp six months ago because, frankly, we were shocked at what some of our clients were telling us about what they had to put up for systems and support. We didn’t think that a small business needed to spend six figures for a new system, wait six months for their so-called customizations, and then wait weeks for bug fixes which sometimes added even more bugs.
AmpUp, it turns out, is a software development game-changer. It is a stable “software as a service” or SaaS platform that is shared among many different applications. In four months, we have been able to implement four very sophisticated enterprise systems. That’s one per month. Yes, you read that correctly – you could have one of our completely customized enterprise-wide systems working for you in a surprisingly short amount of time.
Interested? Feel free to drop us a call or note. We look forward to chatting with you soon.
Posted in AmpUp, Business, Enterprises, Software Development, Systems
Tagged AmpUp, Android, Apple, Blackberry, business system, cloud, cloud computing, enterprise, enterprise system, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Microsoft, mobile, mobile platform, rapid development