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Volume 3, Number 4
April, 1998

Tales of the Geek Lord
This Looks Familiar

by Pelican Smith

 I'm an old computer guy. I remember the bad old days. Paper tape. Card readers. Core memory. Man, I'm glad those days are over.
 I also remember the old computer systems and their OS's. How horrible it was for the user, to have to use a dumb terminal connected to a massive mainframe. How expensive it was for the owner, having to pay for the special power requirements, air conditioning and on-site support to maintain those mainframe computers. Man, I'm glad those days are over.
 Except they're not over.
 Looking back in history, it was the whole "Client/Server" concept which killed off the mainframes. Users hated the dumb terminals, because during rush times the mainframe would be flooded and nobody could get anything done. In the Client/Server environment, each dumb terminal was replaced with a semi-powerful workstation, capable of doing the crunching and grinding itself. The server was supposed to just house the applications and data. A pretty good idea.
 Except it sucked. Maintaining and upgrading rooms full of workstations is tough. Special tricks had to be used to keep users from damaging their workstations (I've seen UNIX computers that had the power switch removed and the power cord locked down). Even worse, the Client/Server concept started getting expensive. Hard drives, memory, bigger, better, faster. The dumb terminal started looking good again.
 And Microsoft noticed this. And Microsoft is marketing this. Their concept: Turn the Intel based, Windows workstations out there into dumb terminals, fully configured and fully reliant on the main servers. Big servers, if they are going to be running NT. They call the software that will do this "Hydra". It's being heralded as revolutionary.
 And what about those big servers running NT and Hydra? Well, a Compaq 7500 is bigger than my old VAX. It also seems to put off more heat, and requires an UPS bigger than a microwave oven. We're back to special power and air conditioning requirements.
 Saving any money with on-site support? Please. If managers hated the money they were shelling out to feed those IBM blue suiters, then they are really going to hate the hourly charge of your typical Microsoft NT certified consultant these days. And don't kid yourself, the consultants will be necessary. Along with Technet, a couple thousand books, a fleet of administrators, and every waking moment you can spare - times two.
 I know how I can make my fortune now. I will become a Microsoft partner, developing this revolutionary new hardware which can take data and save it to reels of trustworthy paper strips by punching holes in the paper. I'll make these nifty new monitors that come with a black background and either yellow, white or (everyones favorite) green lettering.
 I love the new revolution in marketing, er, I mean computers. Everything has gotten so much easier.
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