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After 22 Years, Walt Mossberg Writes Final WSJ Column

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:27PM (#45741039) Journal
    Why did the NYT let a report called 'Walt Mossberg' write newb-level electronics reviews, rather than pushing him in the direction of being a hard hitting, hard drinking, crime-beat reporter with a tolerance for risk and a taste for vigilante justice?

    It seems like such a waste...
    • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:57PM (#45741355) Homepage Journal

      Why did the NYT let a report called 'Walt Mossberg' write newb-level electronics reviews, rather than pushing him in the direction of being a hard hitting, hard drinking, crime-beat reporter with a tolerance for risk and a taste for vigilante justice?

      It seems like such a waste...

      Only in comics, man, only in the comics. Real world reporters on crime-beat tend to blame society now, it's the PC thing to do.

      • by timeOday (582209)

        Real world reporters on crime-beat tend to blame society now,

        And oddly enough crime rates have dropped drastically in the last 20 years. Turns out finger-pointing wasn't all that effective after all.

      • Real world reporters on crime-beat tend to blame society now, it's the PC thing to do.

        No, it's because when crime reporters talk to criminals, they discover the criminals' dads beat the snot out of them daily, or their mothers abandoned them or they were sexually abused by their teachers. They discovery they are drug addicts who turn to crime so they don't have to prostitute themselves, and they're addicts because they have untreated mental illness...

        • by sFurbo (1361249)
          This raises the questions whether there is a correlation, and if there is, what the causation is. Is it the violence and the abuse that leads to people being criminal, or is that merely an indicator of people coming from the social classes who have the least to lose by becoming criminals (or is there some other possibility that I am missing)?
    • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

      I'm not sure how much nyt cared, since he worked at wsj.

    • OK, I know they seem like the same thing to you, but RTFA, he retired from the WSJ, not the NYT. Would you confuse Apple and Windows? LA and San Diego? Washington DC and Washington state?
  • by DSElliot (3445351) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:29PM (#45741073)
    Humm... lose the MacBook Air and toss in the Garmin Forerunner GPS. The MacBook Air didn't exactly revolutionize anything. But handheld GPS has changed the way we drive, walk and find restaurants.
  • by Marrow (195242) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:31PM (#45741097)

    So ubiquitous people forget we have them. And where we left them :)

  • This seems like a huge omission. It's hard to think of a more influential computer game.

    Apple Newton???
    • Re:Doom (Score:4, Funny)

      by KatchooNJ (173554) <KatchooNJ@DEBIANyahoo.com minus distro> on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:42PM (#45741203) Homepage

      Space Invaders?

    • Re:Doom (Score:4, Interesting)

      by RR (64484) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:55PM (#45741329)

      This seems like a huge omission. It's hard to think of a more influential computer game.

      Apple Newton???

      Mossberg's editorial point of view is of the average consumer, and I don't think most people care about computer games. I don't.

      But choosing the Newton because of AI? Everybody has been working on that, and the Newton's approach was a dead end. The Newton had an even bigger impact that Mossberg omitted: It launched ARM into the low-energy device market, which it now dominates.

      • by msobkow (48369)

        So you think a low market share device that effectively failed to achieve significant penetration on launch in 1998 is responsible for the success of an embedded low power processor that's been around since the early '80s? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_architecture [wikipedia.org]

        Man, I know fanbois really like to pump up Apple, but that's a stretch even for your ilk.

        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          Huh, the Newton came out in August 1993, not 1998.

        • by RR (64484)

          So you think a low market share device that effectively failed to achieve significant penetration on launch in 1993 is responsible for the success of an embedded low power processor that's been around since the early '80s? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_architecture [wikipedia.org]

          You're looking at the wrong Wikipedia page. I didn't say that Apple invented ARM. I said, "It launched ARM into the low-energy device market," which Apple did by founding ARM Holdings in 1990, [wikipedia.org] along with Acorn and VLSI. After the Newton introduced the ARM architecture to an international audience, then DEC, etc. started licensing it. Apple reaped the rewards, by selling their ARM stock for hundreds of millions of dollars in the late-90's, when they were digging out of a crisis.

          ARM was not the overwhelmingly

      • by westlake (615356)

        Mossberg's editorial point of view is of the average consumer, and I don't think most people care about computer games. I don't.

        He wrote for readers of the WSJ.

        The kind of people who never lose sight of the numbers.

        Size of global video game market revenue, including mobile games on smart phones and tablets: $66 billion, up from $63 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow to $78 billion in 2017.

        FACTBOX - A look at the $66 billion video-games industry [reuters.com]

        • by RR (64484)

          Mossberg's editorial point of view is of the average consumer, and I don't think most people care about computer games. I don't.

          He wrote for readers of the WSJ. The kind of people who never lose sight of the numbers.

          Exactly. They're busy looking at the numbers. They don't want to be bogged down with useless technical information about which game has the best visuals, or which game is the most innovative. They just want the numbers. Do you think the bosses of EA actually play the games that they publish?

          But even dirty capitalists need to have some down time, and Mossberg was there to help them find the easiest devices to use.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DSElliot (3445351)
      I would argue Wolfenstein 3D before Doom. The Apple Newton is important because it introduced the concept of a handheld. The industry learned from Apple. Without Newton's handwriting recognition failure, Jeff Hawkins would not have invented Graffiti, which was a "simpler" way of entering data into a handheld through a stylus. Graffiti worked until the Treo and Blackberry keyboards came along, followed by Apple's adaptive touchscreen.
      • by 0123456 (636235)

        The Apple Newton is important because it introduced the concept of a handheld.

        Are you suggesting that no-one had a hand-held computer before the Newton? Is this some 'Apple invented everything, even when it already existed beforehand!' thing, or are you just talking about hand-helds with handwriting recognition?

        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          You're missing the point that a lot of the other replies are. I don't think he's implying (just like the original article isn't) that the Newton literally introduced it, as in being the first.. But just like many other Apple products, it "introduced" it as in was made known to a wide audience with (arguably) a simpler/more coherent interface.

      • I would argue Wolfenstein 3D before Doom.

        The Apple Newton is important because it introduced the concept of a handheld. The industry learned from Apple. Without Newton's handwriting recognition failure, Jeff Hawkins would not have invented Graffiti, which was a "simpler" way of entering data into a handheld through a stylus. Graffiti worked until the Treo and Blackberry keyboards came along, followed by Apple's adaptive touchscreen.

        Grafitti still works. I prefer it to touch keyboards, as I can enter text faster and more accurately using Grafitti.

        The downside to Grafitti is the need for a stylus, since those critters are entirely too easy to lose. Fortunately a toothpick makes a good emergency substitute.

    • OK if I had mod points, I'd give you one, but not many readers of the WSJ (yes, WSJ) play Doom. For better o.r worse, more WSJ readers own Ferraris than every played Doom. Ponder on that.
  • How could anyone take this paper seriously after a posting like that? The guy is supposed to know what he's doing and look at this list he's come up with?

    5/12 of the products are from Apple. I'm surprised he didn't include polo necked sweaters and jogging shoes in the list :) Apple doesn't understand Software Libre at all. They're just a commercial firm trying to circle the wagons against competition and use IP to control the market for digital goods. Apple is turning technology into appliances and the W
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by harperska (1376103)

      Yes, Apple may be a bit over-represented. (MacBook Air? Sure its form factor sparked a slew of of copycats known as 'ultrabooks', but it didn't exactly change the UX or how the general public used computers) But to use 'software libre' as the reason why they shouldn't be in this list at all is just stupid. For all that FOSS has done, it has been almost nonexistent as far as influence in general personal computing, largely because FOSS for the most part has still not figured out how to make UX not suck. And

      • by WillAdams (45638)

        The MacBook Air's form-factor was first exemplified in the NEC Ultralite back in 1988: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NEC_UltraLite [wikipedia.org] --- even was diskless w/ only solid-state storage (I bought a 2MB model....).

        Arguably the first ``clamshell'' laptop was the GRiD Compass six years earlier: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grid_Compass [wikipedia.org] (my GRiDcase III was one of the best-engineered / made / crafted objects I've ever owned)

        If you want to look at changing how people used computers, one company which was missed was Go

        • I didn't know of the NEC Ultralite. What did it make popular? How many people used PenPoint?

          Mossberg's listings are of things that more or less caught on among the general population (or at least journalists *cough*Newton*cough*TRS-80 100*cough*). The MacBook Air was a new concept to most of the people that encountered it.

          Therefore, things that are relatively unknown are unimportant for the list, however important for history. You're missing the point.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      RMS: I'm not dead yet!

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @07:31PM (#45741683)

      Apple doesn't understand Software Libre at all

      More like, you do not understand Apple, and the HUGE degree to which they have based success on top of open source.

      BSD, and LLVM are but two of the largest and most obvious examples. But also Apple has used open standards when possible, like CalDav or VNC...

      Yes Apple (like ALL companies currently) uses IP for competitive advantage. But they do so on top of a very thick layer of Free software...

      the marketing dollars from Apple are just too tempting.

      He got nothing from Apple for writing the article. What you and others misunderstand is the simple fact that many people LIKE using Apple products. That must go double for a guy like WM who tests many new electronic devices, you have to figure he gets a lot of stinkers and so more than most can appreciate something built well.

    • Richard Stallman must be turning in his grave.

      Curious, because you seem like a native English speaker, what exactly do you think the word 'grave' means?

    • by Yunzil (181064)

      Apple doesn't understand Software Libre at all.

      The article is about products that affected the consumer market. Consumers don't give a shit about "Software Libre". They just want their gizmo to work.

  • Never read any of his reviews or advice because he was so blindly biased. He mentions a failed Apple handheld device for its for AI innovation but then fails to mention all the original devices Apple stole their ideas from? iPod? Why not the Creative Nomad. Utterly biased until the end.

  • Never read any of his reviews or advice because he was so blindly biased. He mentions a failed Apple handheld device for its for AI innovation but then fails to mention all the original devices Apple stole their ideas from? iPod? Why not the Creative Nomad. Utterly biased until the end.
  • He has Google, FaceBook and Twitter on his list. In those three cases the product is You.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @07:03PM (#45741417) Homepage Journal

      He has Google, FaceBook and Twitter on his list. In those three cases the product is You.

      He should have had Alta Vista, USENET NEWS and IRC.

      These successors have only made scads of money off ideas from real pioneers.

      • by westlake (615356)

        He should have had Alta Vista, USENET NEWS and IRC.
        These successors have only made scads of money off ideas from real pioneers.

        IRC and USENET clients were left behind as users found easier ways to communicate.

        Today...IRC... has around 400k users at peak hours.

        IRC [wikipedia.org]

        Skype at peak hours, 55 to 60 million. Skype Numerology [blogspot.com]

  • by BUL2294 (1081735) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @07:17PM (#45741531)
    While there was much excitement & media hype to the Win95 launch, Windows 3.1 (1992) is definitely a better candidate for this list--it had all the foundations including advanced font support, multimedia, mouse access, networking (Windows for Workgroups) and even 32-bit application support (Win32s)--all for personal consumers. By 1995, everyone who was buying Win95 already had Win3.1 (except DOS-only holdouts) and even the DOS-only folks were using their mice to interact with their PCs. (I would argue for Windows 3.0 over 3.1, but 1991 was his starting point...)

    To add, I'd say that Microsoft Office would have been a better choice than the Apple Newton. Around 1992-1994 was when companies dropped, en masse, their DOS-based WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, and Harvard Graphics installations for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. So why does that count for "personal" uses? Because now, MANY households, almost all students (including those on Macs), and almost all businesses use it. Home users used to pirate copies of Office, and Microsoft now gives it away for less than $150 for non-commercial use. Back in the '90s, Microsoft was trying to foist Microsoft Works on consumers, with Office having a $400+ price point. Word and Excel file formats are ubiquitous now... (And while I applaud & appreciate "office" FOSS, they only exist because of MS-Office's successes & intentionally maintain compatibility with MS-Office file formats).
    • by msobkow (48369)

      Wasn't Win95 the first one to actually incorporate the whole OS instead of riding on top of DOS? Or was that Win98?

      As much as a consistent UI is important, I think that's a noteworthy piece of historical change in the life of desktop software.

      • by Sique (173459)
        Actually, it was Win NT (which predates Win95). With Win95, you still had DOS and the Win32 as a shell programm separated, Win98 brought its own DOS but was still a Win32 subsystem running on top of it, and Win ME was just Win98C.
      • by BitterOak (537666)

        Wasn't Win95 the first one to actually incorporate the whole OS instead of riding on top of DOS? Or was that Win98?

        Win95 was also the first to incorporate Internet capability (a TCP/IP stack) in the operating system, which by 1995 was a very big deal. On Windows 3.1, you had to use third party software (such as Trumpet Winsock) if you wanted to get onto the Internet in a meaningful way (such as running a web browser.)

        • by GauteL (29207)

          Win95 was also the first to incorporate Internet capability (a TCP/IP stack) in the operating system, which by 1995 was a very big deal. On Windows 3.1, you had to use third party software (such as Trumpet Winsock) if you wanted to get onto the Internet in a meaningful way (such as running a web browser.)

          Not quite. Windows 95 shipped without TCP/IP and it required the Plus-pack (which TBF was included in many OEM-versions) with Internet Explorer 1.0 to get a TCP/IP stack installed (or install third party software, like Netscape Navigator). Also Windows 3.11 for Workgroups got a TCP/IP add-on pack from Microsoft before Windows 95 was released. Microsoft eventually bundled their TCP/IP stack with Windows 95 in Service Pack 1 which also came with Internet Explorer 2.0.

  • Over 22 years of experience writing columns, he ends on a 'best of' list. This stupid meme (using the more traditional definition of the word) is so frustrating to witness. I understand why writers do it (because it's easy), but it's depressing to see a good columnist in a respected publication end his career with one.

  • Clippy would've made the baker's dozen list.
  • That old goat is still alive???
  • by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @10:43PM (#45742809)

    Mossberg's list is pretty good, but a little too device-centric for my tastes. Some of the broader improvements in technology weren't specific to particular devices:

    1) The Web Browser
    Tim Berners-Lee's Nexus -> NCSA Mosaic -> Netscape
    How we first look for info on any topic moved from rummaging in card catalogs and old encyclopedias to an online way to read about anything. Browsers are everywhere from the desktop to phones to TVs and game consoles.

    2) Search Engines
    AltaVista -> Yahoo -> Google
    The cream of the web was only to rise to the top with the help of search engines. Early books about the web included specific URLs on various topics.

    3) Non-Dial-Up Internet
    DSL / Cable -> Fiber
    The web became much more capable with increased end-user bandwidth. Media available online today was only possible because of bigger pipes, without it we'd not have YouTube, Netflix, or torrents.

    4) Windows 95
    DOS Shell -> Windows 3.x -> Windows 95
    The first modern Windows had its flaws, but the interface changed how the average end user accessed his computer. The GUI was simple enough to push OS/2 out of the market and let Microsoft dominate the desktop for the next 15 years.

    5) Microsoft Office
    VisiCalc -> Lotus 123 -> Microsoft Excel
    Having a single package that allowed every business user write documents, spreadsheets, and email made the computer indispensable both at work and at home. It is a cash-cow that powers Microsoft to this day.

    6) Windows XP
    Windows NT -> Windows 2000 -> Windows XP
    The relative stability of NT-based Windows came onto the public's computers over a decade ago and is still marching on as its End of Life is on the horizon. Thanks in part to hardware advances, XP meant computers were still useful for longer periods than they were previously.

    7) Smartphones
    Palm -> BlackBerry -> iPhone -> Android
    In a mirror of so many other young industries, early devices were not standardized, but the potential for something great was there. BlackBerry's killer app of push email made the smartphone professionally useful for the first time. The iPhone made it cool.

    8) Digital Music
    The cassette tape, record stores, and even the CD have started to become things only for old people. With high-speed internet, file sharing and early MP3 players, most radio of the future will be done online.

    9) Social Media
    Geocities -> Friendster -> MySpace -> Facebook
    Facebook and Twitter made sharing minor updates and day-to-day events into community discussion, without having to know HTML.

    10) Linux
    It's cheaper than Windows, and goes more places, even your toaster. It may be under the hood to end users, but it's there, more ubiquitous than Intel processors.

  • "Netscape Navigator: The first successful consumer Web browser, it was later crushed by Microsoft's Internet Explorer [wsj.com] " ..

    Only because Microsoft sabotaged Navigator on Windows, mainly by extending the protocols [edge-op.org] and cloning Netscape [edge-op.org] eg. a full embrace strategy [edge-op.org] and excluding them from the development program [edge-op.org] and implementing a common Netscape/Corel attack group [edge-op.org]

    "What kind of date do we have about how much software companies pay Netscape? [edge-op.org] In particular I am curious about their deals with Corel, Lotus and

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