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Cover image for What's the Betamax of your field?

What's the Betamax of your field?

Ben Lovy on December 07, 2018

As in - what technology or tool came to prominence and then disappeared despite its technical merit? Do you miss it? Would you use it today or was it a product of its time?

Me? I'm a WordPerfect man. I know it's not "gone", exactly - but when was the last time you came across an installation in the wild?

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fluffy

I feel like RSS/Atom are getting this treatment with the proliferation of the new hotness of ActivityPub and a widespread (but incorrect) belief that "nobody uses RSS," or that Google killed it by killing off Google Reader. I hope that with the renewed interest in the independent web that Atom can make a big comeback; there's a lot going for it with use cases that ActivityPub simply can't handle (and it also supports optional push via WebSub).

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Jan van Brügge

Yeah, i agree so hard. I am always so dissapointed when a blog of someone does not have an rss feed. I can't keep track of all the blogs I like, so I have an rss reader to do it for me. Every time there is no feed, I am like: "I guess I would read your blog then"

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Daniel Golant

I think consumer RSS is gonna make a comeback as people get tired of email digests.

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fluffy

I hope so! My big fear is that developers focus on ActivityPub for everything, when it’s a protocol that handles the same basic use cases but not nearly as well or as simply, and adds a lot of extra overhead and limits your publishing opportunities (but is being billed as a universal standard that everyone must do).

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Daniel Golant

I feel like I've heard of ActivityPub, but only just barely, so... I guess you might get your wish?

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fluffy

It's the underlying protocol for Mastodon, PeerTube, and a few other things. Right now it's the darling of the distributed social networking crowd (because there's a lot of well-deserved reactionary attitudes towards centralized social networks) but the reasons it's caught on instead of a resurgence of Atom or whatever feel a bit... contrived.

The main things I hear from ActivityPub folks is "it's a W3C standard!" (yeah, and? Atom is an IETF standard and its components are also part of W3C recommendations?) and "everyone's using it! RSS died when Google Reader did!"

Also I feel like the fact Atom is XML with a fairly strict schema while ActivityPub uses JSON as its primary serialization spec might have a lot to do with it. Even though the actual nuts and bolts of serialization don't really matter, and there's a lot to be said for self-describing data structures and so on (and not to mention that Atom also functions perfectly fine in a static publishing context and tolerates failure better and don't need a lot of resources to scale based on subscriber or subscription count and so on). But whatever.

Obviously I could rant about this quite a lot, and in fact I have on my blog way too much, especially lately. :)

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Ben Lovy Author

You know, you've just reminded me about the whole concept. I guess I kinda dropped my newsreader at some point.

Case in point?

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Mihail Malo

Rust, lmao.
It's disappearing under golang xD

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Ben Lovy Author

No! Say it ain't so!

No, though, really - why do you say that? I'm not sure I agree with that perception. Rust appears to be growing, and I think it's still got a few years of development before hitting its stride.

Golang is establishing itself (or already established) as the cloud systems language. Which is great. Rust encompasses far more domains, though.

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Mihail Malo

For me the biggest red flag is that performance-critical projects such as Traefik, CockroachDB and dgraph are in golang.
I understand how things where memory safety is important for security but performance isn't so crucial, such as Docker and k8 use go, but not those former ones.

I guess I really want it to win in that niche, while it's making the biggest progress in system utilities and embedded.
Who knows, maybe frontend web will save it :D

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stereobooster

Don't throw in all in one bucket. For sure you can write CockroachDB in Go, but you can't write memcached in Go, because for this task GC would be noticable. You can write a lot in Go, but there are still performance critical tasks which need to be done in non GC languages, like caches, kernels etc

Unless we are talking about non-stop GC, like in Ponylang

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Mihail Malo

It ain't so. But I do have this fear.
Maybe async/await in core will get more people on board.

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Ben Lovy Author

I have the fear too, but not because of Golang. I don't believe the two languages are direct competitors - there's room in the market for both.

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Mihail Malo

Oh, also new editions of C++ are stealing good stuff.
How dare they? They have a bad module ecosystem and should be ashamed of themselves!

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Ben Lovy Author

Well, C++ is a fact of life - it may as well soak up every last drop of usability it can

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K

I think Go had a few quick wins, but will lose to Rust in the long run.

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Anton

Hack without fear. This ain't going anywhere.
You can mark my words Rust will gain more traction.
The folk behind Rust they listen.
If you visit the Rust's website you'll see it was redesigned, and they took the feedback into account.

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John Bull

IBM I-Series. Still in heavy use at my new employer. Apparently it was the Bee's Knees 25 years ago. But they hired me to help modernize, so here we go.

It uses some language called RPG... I never heard of it before I came on board.

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Ben Lovy Author

Thanks for the rabbit hole.

This looks...less than ergonomic:

     H main(GetCustInf)
     D ARMSTF1       E DS
     P GetCustInf      B
     D GetCustInf      PI                  extpgm('CUS001')
     D  inCusNo                            like(arCNum) const
     D  outName                            like(arName)
     D  outAddr1                           like(arAdd1)
     D  outAddr2                           like(arAdd2)
     D  outCity                            like(arCity)
     D  outState                           like(arStte)
     D  outZip                             like(arZip)
      /free
       exec sql select arName, arAdd1, arAdd2, arCity, arStte, arZip
                into  :outName, :outAddr1, :outAddr2, :outCity, :outState,
                      :outZip
                from   ARMSTF1
                where  arCNum = :inCusNo
                fetch first 1 row only
                with CS
                use currently committed;
      /end-free
     P GetCustInf      E
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John Bull

Ha, You are a legend for diving into that Rabbit Hole!

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Ben Lovy Author

Or I need better hobbies :)

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Karan

I loved the command language, but never understood RPGLE!

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Royaljerry

TextMate – I know, I know, I should switch to Sublime or Atom or VS Code or whatever, and yes, I will do that as soon as I will have time. (Disclaimer: coding from 9 to 5, then teaching math, then creating generative art as experiments… no time left. Shoot me down. :)

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Yoandy Rodriguez Martinez

I guess Corel? Are they still around?

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K

They just bought Gravit Designer, a Web based Sketch/Illustrator

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Ben Lovy Author

Great answer! I tried getting into Pharo a while back but it was a little too foreign for me - I didn't like leaving my comfy dev environment for it. It's definitely the purest distillation of the concept imaginable.

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James D. Bartlett III

I miss MiniDisc! 💽
Talk about technologically superior formats getting left in the dust. Man, what a wasted opportunity.

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Matt Scheurich

Hi-MD was amazing. Used to record all sorts of live band jams and it was good (enough) quality audio.

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Ben Lovy Author

I love the wiki blurb: "...offering a capacity of 74 minutes and, later, 80 minutes..."

I'd never heard of these, even though they've existed almost my whole life.

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James D. Bartlett III

They're virtually indestructible, and re-writable! Can't believe the standard got abandoned.

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K

At least you could fill them with your own music.

My brother had an portable MD player and a portable Zip drive.

While they didn't much spread, at least they were flexible enough to use them in their own for a few years.

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James D. Bartlett III

I still use my MiniDisc for field recordings sometimes. If I put it in mono, I can get a much longer recording time than the standard 80 minute disc.

It's really a shame that the fundamental concept of putting a magneto-optical disc in a plastic case that is only opened inside of the player/recorder didn't catch on. Imagine if we had blu-ray discs like this; Fully rewritable and virtually indestructible... I mean, I guess USB flash drives are getting there these days, but it would have been really cool to have that kind of reliability for the past 10 years or so.

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ComputerSmiths

Wire-wrap’s been supplanted by easy custom circuit boards.

Palm Pilot faded away before smartphones, but I sure miss the all-month battery life.

Wouldn’t use them now, any more than I’d do Z80 assembly, though I do miss them!

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Thomas Iguchi

Commodore Amiga.

It was my first personal computer and loved it to bits. Would have been great to see it around a little while longer.

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Thomas Iguchi

What a nice coincidence. Just minutes after I posted that I found the following video about the history of Amiga

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Ivo Limmen

JINI. It was awesome when it came out. We used it in a project and it was great. But it was ahead for it time. Too complex. A simple hello world was like 4 pages. This was microservices back when microservices did not exists...

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Ben Halpern

The document-based web!

Not that the web as a platform for rich applications isn't lovely, but it's a shame that the brilliant simplicity of shipping markup around has passed.

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Michiel Hendriks

Aspect Oriented Programming.

It's not completely gone, but it sure feels like it will be in a few years. Even when new languages are created little of the principles of AOP are included.

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rhymes

Delphi?

Delphi totally missed the switch from desktop to web apps but it was a great environment. It caught up super late.

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K

VHS: JavaScript, Java, C++, Angular, React, JQuery, Kubernetes/Docker, Windows, Linux...

Betamax: OCaml, D, Cycle.js, MooTools, Nix, Unix...

Just the things on the top of my head 🤔

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Yoandy Rodriguez Martinez

You do know Mac OSX is Unix?

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Yoandy Rodriguez Martinez

ESTAMOS DONDE QUIERA!!! PIONERITOS DEL 80!!! :D

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Gerard Klijs

I keep hearing good things about it. I might try some next year, mainly out of interest and to see how proper oop works.
With just a bit of code you could do the same with Closure.

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Gerard Klijs

From just a bit googling before pharo.org seemed also decent? To much other stuff this moment anyway.

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rhymes

I don't know Pharo, I'll check it out. I suggested Squeak because it's the only Smalltalk version I've played with

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Yoandy Rodriguez Martinez

Pharo is very mature and it's community is quite active, you can even do some web development with it :D