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Dan Bricklin's Log
The life of Dan Bricklin as Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Trellix Corporation, PC industry old-timer, and amateur photographer

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Dan smiling at you!
Monday, March 13, 2000
PC Forum 2000 starts
I made it to Scottsdale Arizona for the PC Forum 2000 conference. I've started posting lots of people pictures in the PC Forum 2000 Album. I'm not spending much time checking names or linking to affiliations. I figure sleep is more important at this conference. I got to talk to Dave Winer and Tim O'Reilly a bit about patents. Hopefully we'll get to talk about other things, too. I got to explain the Trellix business model several times to others.

Dave smiling  Head and shoulders of Tim looking to the left
Dave Winer and Tim O'Reilly at PC Forum 2000

Friday, March 10, 2000
Patents again
All the discussion about patents and software brought on by Amazon.com is a real deja vu for me. Ten years ago this week, on March 7, 1990, Mitch Kapor and I testified in front of the Intellectual Property subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, DC. I decided to look at the video tapes I have of that day for the first time this evening. Things haven't changed much. We said many of the same things then that people in the software industry are saying now. We were both on the side of less protection rather than more. Our warnings are still valid and coming to fruition.

The question before the committee was how intellectual property protection, copyright and patents in particular, relate to the software industry. I gave a short tutorial on the software development process and we both made statements. The testimony was about an hour long, and I haven't had time to digest it all or figure out a way to make it available on a streaming server. I'll try to make a copy of the video tape and bring it with me to PC Forum. I did try to transcribe one thing I said:

There is great concern in the software industry about the Patent Office and that it is not set up to adequately examine software, in many parts due to the lack of experience [at that time due to hiring rules] that the examiners would have as well as the prior art they have access to.
Dan Bricklin, 3/7/90, testifying before Congress

Last year I posted some of my feelings on this web site in an essay titled "Patents and Software". (Note that all of this was even before business process patents became popular.)

Commenting on today's uproar:

Learn as much as you can about the details of patent law. Some reactions I've read show little understanding of issues or legal terms that have been argued since before the Constitution. Otherwise, to legislators and the Patent Office you will appear quite uninformed and be dismissed. This is not as simple or straightforward as many think. Intellectual property protection is not all bad, nor are patents all bad. Even Richard Stallman uses copyright law to help enforce the GNU General Public License. (To further his arguments, Richard has become very well versed in intellectual property law.)

Why is Amazon.com such a catalyst? Is it because they are a "good guy" that let you down? Was Stac any worse when they sued Microsoft? Did you defend Microsoft? (Have you read Stac's patents? Are they more valid than Amazon.coms?) What about other software patent litigation over the last 19 years: Did you stand up for Novell? Do you boycott AT&T because of their various controversial software patents? Is this patent just closer to home because it may affect your business, or is it because you understand the patent better?

Many of us have been pointing out the problems of software patents for years. To the new people: Welcome.

Despite all this, let me re-post what I said last year:

That said, I also feel that no matter how much you might feel that patents don't work for the software industry, and how much you may take up the torch to change the law, it is the law today and a fact of programming life as much as Microsoft, the instruction set of the machine we write for, the turning of the century number, and the need to pay for food. Ignoring them won't make them go away, nor protect you from those that do not have the same beliefs.

Dan Bricklin, 1999

If I were a shareholder of Amazon.com, I think I'd feel that they are now doing the right thing: doing what the law encourages (applying for patents), and trying to help the country reexamine the application of those laws in light of the realities of software.

Thursday, March 9, 2000
PC Forum 2000
I will be attending Esther Dyson's EDventure Holdings' PC Forum 2000 conference next week. Check back here for postings that I hope to start no later than Monday morning. One of my first web photo journals was about last year's PC Forum: PC Forum 1999 Album. They're holding the conference at the same place.

Wireless is like batteries
Driving to work today I saw a small video camera attached to an overpass on I-95/128, probably used as a webcam. It had conduits going across the bridge frame and into the ground. It struck me that this was an example of what Judith Hurwitz was saying about wireless (see March 3, 2000 entry). Wireless is not about cell phones people carry. It is about removing the need for wires for anything to "work".

Let me elaborate.

Mechanical power used to come from water: mills had to be next to rivers. Steam and internal combustion engines removed that need. Factories could be anywhere. Railroads were possible. Cars were possible. Lawnmowers can be powerful.

In the electrical world, power came through wires, but batteries removed the necessity of being tethered.

The microprocessor removed the need to be connected to computing power. You could put computing power anywhere. Together with batteries, you could use it anywhere in anything, in almost any physical form.

In our new world, being "connected" (by IP) is as much a part of a device "working" as having electrical power or computational abilities. Wireless removes the requirement of being connected physically with an unbroken wire. Just as batteries and microprocessors let us create watches, calculators, cell phones, digital cameras, CD players, game machines, blood sugar testers, etc., wireless connectivity to IP will open up whole new possibilities. (IP is for communicating data; the Web is just one application built upon it.) Letting any device with computing power take advantage of being able to communicate with other devices and "applications" running on "servers", without building specific infrastructure for that application, will be the revolution. The applications that are mainly people reading screens will be in the minority. (Already my cell phone probably communicates more frequently with base stations telling them where I am than I do making calls.) Wireless will not just be for browsing web sites anymore than internal combustion engines were just for giving us home grain mills.

(I have no pictures of the cameras I saw: I was driving alone...)

Previous log entries...

This log covers my thoughts on making web sites, the computer industry, digital photography, PC history, conferences I attend, and people I know or run into.
New readers may want to see my "Best of this log" page.

--OCTOBER 1999--
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26 27 28 29 30 31
-JANUARY 2000-
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30 31
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27 28 29
---MARCH 2000---
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Some Links Mentioned in the Last Few Days

Bob Frankston's Content vs. Connectivity paper
ChiaPaint demo
Script for Demo 2000 Presentation
The Option Value of Open Connectivity
Reactions to my discussion of the use of bold
Don Rose's web site
My Good Documents web site
Reactions to my researching links entry
High school MLK Day paper
Judging Mr./Miss Tall Boston
Washington Post Gates article
Andersen report on shopping
IP and government
William Coakley Sound Design
Digital Photography Review
Telecom Rush article
CompuDudes radio show
CIO Magazine interview
Norman Rockwell
Celtics, Bill Russell, parquet floor
PC evolution essay
Y2K preparation silliness
HypertextNow: Beyond the Portal
Writing for the radio
Cell Towers
Dan Gillmor column
Homework questions
Build your own log
Living with the Stowaway Keyboard
Entrepreneurship book
Stowaway Keyboard essay
Washington Post quote
"Austin Gates" WAV
Silicon Spin
NPR on Gates at Comdex

Read the items from previous days: 3Mar00   |   14-29Feb00   |   8-10Feb00   |   24Jan-1Feb00   |   18-22Jan00   |   14-17Jan00   |   10-13Jan00   |   31Dec99-06Jan00   |   27-30Dec99   |   20-24Dec99   |   13-17Dec99   |   7-10Dec99   |   2-6Dec99   |   21-30Nov99   |   12-19Nov99   |   6-11Nov99   |   3-5Nov99   |   1-2Nov99   |   27-29Oct99
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