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Happy (Belated) Birthday OS/2: A Multitasking Pioneer

Happy (Belated) Birthday OS/2: A Multitasking Pioneer
OS/2 on an ATM
    image courtesy of William Cabrera

    As pointed out on Slashdot, IBM’s OS/2 turned 25 last Monday. As a long-time computer user, and not a fan of Windows, I do have some experience with the operating system. Unfortunately, I was pretty much anti-GUI for the longest time, so I missed out on OS/2 up until Warp 3.0. By then, the operating system had matured a great deal, and, had IBM done better marketing (it didn’t help that Windows was installed on PCs, including most of their own hardware), the computing world may be much different than it is today.

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    One of the things I remember most about OS/2, aside from the price tag, is the built-in voice recognition. I believe this as introduced into Warp 3.0 and, at one point in time, voice recognition was going to be the next greatest thing, and IBM had it integrated into their OS. Not only that, but it worked great! It did require a minimal amount of training, which I immediately did when I did my initial install, even though I had a cold at the time. Amazingly, OS/2 recognized what I was saying with what I am sure was greater than 99% accuracy. Even more amazing is that as my cold cleared up, the accuracy did not go down. IBM also marketed this voice recognition software as third-party software for other operating systems branded, I believe, as either VoiceType or ViaVoice. Regardless of the name, at the time I did not feel it worked nearly as well as it did in OS/2.

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    Another thing that I remember quite well was the multitasking. For the general population of computer users, multitasking was not something in great demand. However, for those of us who ran dial-up Bulletin Board Systems, good multitasking was the holy grail of computing. Back then, there were two real choices. Either you ran DESQview, or you ran OS/2. The final option was that you dedicated a computer to running your BBS, which was quite an investment back then. For many, this made the price tag of OS/2 worth every penny, especially since it was able to multitask DOS programs extremely well. Many of the multi-line BBSes of the time ran under OS/2.

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    Warp 3.0 also made it to market before what Microsoft eventually named Windows 95, but was code-named “Chicago” at the time. The TV commercial for Warp 3.0 is one of the earliest computer-related commercials that I can recall. Only because of the Internet’s constant reminders am I consciously aware of Apple’s “1984” commercial, and the only other part of a commercial that I remember from earlier than the Warp commercial is Apple’s tagline “and we even throw in the mouse” or some such for their commercial for, I believe, the 2e. The fact that IBM did not take advantage of this market lead illustrates just how poor IBM was at marketing OS/2. It didn’t help that many people considered IBM’s main competition to OS/2 was Windows NT. The running joke was that the choices were either half an operating system or a nice try. Even the “grassroots” Team OS/2 could not overcome IBM’s poor marketing.

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    The final thing that I recall about OS/2 was that it was (and in some cases, still is) installed on a large percentage of ATMs. I don’t know that I ever discovered why that was the case, but it’s one of those little useless tidbits of information that sticks with you over time.

    And lest you think OS/2 is gone for good, it evolved into eComStation, which is published by Serenity Systems. There is still a small, but enthusiastic, community around it. Many open-source packages are available, from Mozilla’s Internet applications, to development tools, server software, games, and office suites.

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    Happy (Belated) Birthday OS/2: A Multitasking Pioneer

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    Last Updated on December 18, 2020

    Can Technology have Biases Like Humans?

    Can Technology have Biases Like Humans?

    Technology has taken a vantage leap in providing solutions for man. Before now, technology used to appear complex and would require a great deal of expertise to handle solutions available. Today, we have technology applicable in the simplest human activities as smart products with intelligent algorithms powering them as they make error-free judgments and provide intelligent and analytic solutions.

    Does technology have all the answers?

    This article from Credit Suisse, tells us that technology does not have all the answers because it has been found to exhibit “similar biases,” as humans. No one can discredit the impact of technology, but it is not totally free of human input and this is the reason we experience these biases in many areas we have technology holding foot.

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    Creating technological solutions transparently

    This article suggests that the process of creating technological solutions be made transparent and subject to contribution from many people who would end up as users of the product – male, female, young, old, learned, unlearned and all other preferences as we have them. It also underscores the importance of having women on product development teams. This approach is not sure to eliminate all forms of bias, but it is a good way to start in order to appraise the full benefits of technology.

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    Technology as the connecting tool

    Technology so far has been a major connecting tool amongst us humans. It is used and appreciated by all regardless of race, language and sex. In order to keep it less subjective to these arguments about human biases. I believe we should gather opinions on products and solutions before making them available to the public. This could be done by gathering input from intended target users and receiving feedback across the stages of production.

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    “Recognizing the problem is a start…success will depend on inclusive technologies that meet this vast untapped market.” This cannot be more apt especially at a time when we look up to technology for solutions. We should not muzzle our progress with technology by battling algorithm bias. The first way to avoid this battle is by reading this article here.

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