Welcome to greatlittleprograms.com
I’ve been fascinated with technology for a long time. I can still remember the day (Christmas 1977) when my dad plugged a strange white box (a lloyds tv sports 812 video game) into our aging black and white television and magically white lines appeared on the screen. Even better, you could move the smaller white lines with a game paddle. The “pong” was “on”, as was my love of those little silicon chips that we could control via software and limited only by our imagination and ingenuity.
Although I have at times strayed off into other disciplines and fields of inquiry, something has always lured me back to “the silicone” that I first glimpsed (a 6502 CPU) shortly after I disassembled my 1977 Christmas present. After finishing Bachelors degrees in Psychology and Sociology, with music relegated to “hobby status”, I became fully entrenched in the IT space. First, it was my love of hardware and networked systems that kept me occupied for 8 years or so, but as my thirst for complete “dominance of the silicone” grew I was finally able to quench it with software — which has been the love of my life for the past 14 years.
But before exploring the “00s”, let me step back a bit to when I was a young tweenager in 1980 –another monumentally big year for me in my love affair with “little programs”. While I don’t recall the exact date, I remember it was close to summer break – probably May or June of that year, when a school chum of mine took delivery of a real (and real expensive) Apple II computer. My first glimpse of personal computing’s holy grail all set up in my friend’s basement was a moment etched on my brain like 9-11.
At that time, limited by memory, cpu, and storage capabilities, all “personal/home computers” mostly just ran “little programs”. And while the early commercial software houses soon began forming and shipping out much more ambitious and polished products on floppydisk, the vast majority of the software we enjoyed came from our own programming endeavors, magazines, or from our shared resources via the “computer club” at school. The coveted “commercial software” we were able to get our hands on spawned perhaps one of our first real needs for a truly “great little program” in the form of a “bit copier” program that enabled us “economically-challenged” teens to defeat the copy protection schemes of the early commercial packages and make duplicates of those expensive disks- which we all did back then. We did this not out of dishonesty or malice (nor necessity, even though it felt like that at the time) –but out of respect, appreciation and passion for computers and the great software that could be written for them with enough time, resources, and programming expertise. These early commercial disk-clones (many of which were, admittedly, games) I think really helped to educate a generation of teens that were hungry to learn the emerging computer revolution and to think beyond programming and more about the entire process of developing software. I believe it was a great benefit to be able to access the early commercial software in order to understand what was possible and to imagine what was going to be possible as the technology platforms (and our own abilities) progressed.
Even as the software and personal computer industry matured throughout the 90’s (as did I), I have always relied on great little programs to augment my development work and to get small-but-important tasks done. As software became more and more complex throughout the early part of this century, I came to rely on several simple/single purpose applications to perform many computing tasks quickly and efficiently without the steep learning curve (not to mention expense) of increasingly bloated software packages. Many projects I worked on (whether it was for print, multimedia, or software development) benefited from this approach and I attribute many of my accomplishments and shipping products to finding and utilizing the many “quick and dirty” applications that I collected (much to the delight of my bosses, clients, and customers throughout the years.) I have also written a number of my own small applications which many people find quite useful; some of which are available to check out through my consulting group website cdmediaworks.com.
Great Little Programs are now called APPS…long live the small and simple!
Fast-forwarding to the last 1/2 dozen years or so, thanks largely to Apple and the iPhone/iPad, there has been a whole-scale renaissance of great little programs, which we all now affectionately now call APPs. Now there are more of these little software jewels (and fans) than ever before. For my part, until fairly recently I worked as a software developer and systems analyst at the University of Victoria, BC. while I tinkered and learned the new ecosystem of iOS as it quickly grew to its now-epic proportions. I was immediately hooked on the idea that, like in those earlier days, a single developer could create and globally distribute their own work and perhaps even be compensated for their efforts –all thanks to Apple and their iTunes APP store! Among the more memorable APPs I have personally created is Yati: an aboriginal language dictionary so that younger generations can experience (and add to) an authoritative source for many words found in their ancestral language; and iPA Phonetics, an International Phonetics Speech tool which involved the use of endoscopic cameras and ultrasound equipment in order to present new ways in which our vocal system creates all the sounds it needs in order to make speech.
I’m also really looking forward to the eminent launch (at the time of this writing) of yet another new platform to propel even “littler” programs; the Apple Watch. Surely 2015 has all the making of “the best of times” thus far for great little programs –and with a future never more rosy!