Saturday, May 07, 2005

Files, folders, and directories -- oh my!

Matthew Yglesias has a post about this new Macintosh OS that's making the rounds, and something called "Spotlight" and "Smart Folders" in particular. Since I'm a PC user who sees little reason to switch to Mac any time soon, my interest in this whole thing is little more than sporting, but I note one thing Matt says:

[I]t's a method of data organization that I think could transcend the entire "files inside folders inside folders" paradigm that's dominated computer usage since Mac OS first came out and then Microsoft mimicked it.

The whole "files inside folders" idea goes back farther than the original Macintosh. I remember using the mainframe computer at my father's university in the early 80s, when the pinnacle of home computing was either the VIC-20 or the Commodore 64 or the TRS-80 or the Texas Instruments TI-99 or whatever, and on that mainframe (built by a company called "Prime", if memory serves -- their logo was PR1ME), files were organized into folders and directories. The only difference was that the whole thing was a text-based, command-line interface, so there weren't any little pictures of manila folders on the screen. But you still heard users saying things like, "Geez, I can't find this file, and I'm certain I saved it to such-and-such a folder. Dammit!"

The Macintosh didn't revolutionize everything, folks.

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