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8/18/2006
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Software That Should Have Made The List
informationweek.com/1101/list.htm

Virtualization software on x86 is, in my opinion, one of the greatest software advancements. IBM did it first, but with virtualization on x86, the world has been changed. Whatever your favorite VMware product is, you can run nearly every piece of x86 software in its own environment. Yes, there are some operating systems that aren't supported. I'm playing games I created in college on one that I co-wrote. It won't even boot on today's hardware. I have a library of virtual machines with every development environment and app environment that I've ever used.

My kids use a virtual machine for all their Web downloads to test them out--when it blows up, they just roll back to a safe image. Sure, there's other software that will allow you to do similar operations, but they just had to learn how to click on two buttons to get this to work in a virtual machine. --C. Bear

I was a little surprised to find the Java language on your list. As you correctly pointed out, "Java implemented the virtual machine on clients, allowing code to move over networks and run at a destination PC without knowing much about the machine itself." Which is surely a great tool for software development--just as great as Fortran or C. The concept of a universal program running on a virtual machine can be found in the early days of operating systems. I remember writing a program in VAX assembly that could be run in virtual machines on DEC, Wang, and IBM operating systems in the '80s. As ironic as it is, Java tries to solve the most daunting problems created by us: running software in incompatible operating systems! --S. Fang

How can you have overlooked VisiCalc? It put Apple on the map and fueled the PC revolution. It's what convinced businessmen that desktop computers weren't toys. --J.V. Noble

The original Flight Simulator 1 for the Apple II computer from subLOGIC showed that a tiny computer could do amazing virtual simulation. Doom, from iD software, did the same thing later. The reality they managed to pump out of a PC was amazing. --Ron Larson

OS/2 Warp should be included in the top software. It works great, it's reliable, and there are many who are still using it (some in the updated version called eComStation). --BigWarpGuy

What about portable C itself? Unix was acknowledged, but the language on which it was built should have gotten more than a passing reference. Coding in assembly language and machine code is very hard stuff. Writing in C is at least comprehensible to mortal minds. --Stan Hartin

It's interesting to see all the hoopla about virtualization and know that true, complete virtual hardware was available in 1968 with VM/360. There's a story about how the MVS team wanted to kill VM but the plan got derailed when management found out that the MVS developers were using VM to run multiple quickly rebootable virtual MVS machines for development. --Jim Garrison

On the almost-made list--before VMWare, IBM released the VM operating system, developed in the early '70s by MIT. You forgot another MIT product, Multics, which was kind of the Unix predecessor. And Multics had MRDS, which was one of the first implementations of a relational database. Of course, Grace Hooper and Cobol, which took software from scientific to business applications. Other mentionables: Douglas Englebart for the invention of the mouse and TEX, the original Text processing language. --Raj Kattil

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