Open Source convention focuses on exploding Web technologies

by Andy Oram

After three days of hard conferencing, all of it spent tired and only part of it spent sober, I got an insight into where the computer field is heading. In his keynote on the last day of the O'Reilly Open Source Convention one of the developers of the IBM PC, Dave Bradley, showed a photo of an IBM machine from the 1970s. This state-of-the-art system offered, as a user interface, a five-inch screen next to a removable disk drive. And I realized at that moment how far our computer use has advanced beyond our terminology.

The early screens, keyboards, disk drives, and other devices were truly computer interfaces. They were a shared ground where the human being and the raw computational power of the machine met. While programmers still have to develop interfaces (there's no way around it) we now have to reach toward the much more difficult goal of providing a meeting ground for human being. The computer has to get out of the way as much as possible.

The most talked-about technology at the conference--the new ways of programming the Web introduced by Ajax--give us an opening toward that goal. Ajax is based on a small enhancement to HTTP, even smaller than the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) that led to dynamic websites and the whole dot-com revolution of online ordering. In Ajax's turn, it combines the quick feedback and rich interactions of desktop applications with direct lines to the data being thrust out by servers and by other people throughout the Internet.One could argue that Ajax wasn't necessary (and I'll explore that later in the article), but at this moment in computing history, it's driving the recognition that people are here to interact with each other, not with computers.


2006-07-30 09:43:37
"Why doesn't everybody use OpenLaszlo?"

I can only speak for myself...but I don't use it because I think just about every aspect of it goes against good thinking. A one-off XML spec so that Flash can emulate a browser within the browser. No thanks, I tried it and the memory/proc use skyrocketted.

So, source = good; XML = good. But they couldn't pay me to use it. Now if we can just get something other than JavaScript into client-side scripting...