Freesteel Blog » NC Graphics sells out yet again!

NC Graphics sells out yet again!

Thursday, May 17th, 2007 at 1:15 am Written by:

The wikipedia article for NC Graphics is now up to date.

A tip-off brought to my attention the press release which, since it’s on the internet, is officially public, meaning I don’t need to explain why I know about it, since it I can claim that I am sufficiently sad that I spend my lonely evenings after the pub browsing through the press releases of the Parametric Technology Corporation, purveyors of Pro/Engineer machining software products.

Indeed I do! It’s all very interesting. As the originator of the 3-axis machining algorithms that seem to have now infiltrated a surprising percentage of the world’s CAM systems, I can confirm that none of these multi-million dollar deals between men in suits dealing out the fruits of my intellectual labour that I contractorally handed over lock-stock-and-subroutine to my capitalist employer before it had been technically possible to prove my worth, result in so much as a post-card to say thank-you for doing such a wonderful job.

It would appear that this set of code is one of the more widely successful and sought after pieces of work in the business; these companies have spent decades investing their own employees’ time and patience in their own versions of 3-axis kernels, so for them to go and buy this “mastery of high-speed machining” means something.

None of this cash goes back to the original developers in any theoretical sense, in that I’m sure I would have got paid the same, if not more, had I done shoddier job and wrote algorithms that crashed more of the time, since they’d need to call me back to fix it.

But it’s not the money I’m bugged about. It’s the respect. Sure, while Picasso’s oil paintings were being exchanged for millions of dollars between New York art dealers, he didn’t get a cent. But every so often they’d hang one up on the wall, and say, “Picasso did that. It’s good, isn’t it?” And then if Picasso stopped by in town, they’d probably be keen to take him out to dinner if they could, and then afterwards to one of their favourite late-night topless bars. He’d have a good night out being the centre of attention.

I don’t know. I think the expectation of respect is what drives programmers to do good work. It can take years to tell whether some code or other was designed and executed well, long after the job is done. The long delay in the assessment, and the systematic lack of recognition when something works well, means that good code is impossible to incentivize financially. You have to want to do a good job. Irrationally. No one actually notices, and any expectation that something else is going to happen is merely the delusion of youth. You will not get treated to lunch in the executive dining room at any time.

Meanwhile, I just discovered that my old pre-university 1986 computer game Fat Worm Blows a Sparky has suddenly got its own wikipedia page. That’s pretty cool. A complete stranger did that, and it’s made me happy.

So, here’s a question to pose to any young programmer setting out in life to make his mark on the world. Who would you rather be? Bill Gates or Linus Torvalds?

Remember, to become the richest man in the world, you have to devote your life to setting back the course of PC development by as many years as possible. You don’t get ahead by writing the best operating system in the world; you do it by preventing anyone else writing and selling another operating system, or browser, or programming language that could compete with you. As Judge Jackson wrote in 1999.

Microsoft deprived consumers of software innovation that they very well may have found valuable, had the innovation been allowed to reach the marketplace…

The actions that Microsoft took against [Netscape] Navigator hobbled a form of innovation that had shown the potential to depress the applications barrier to entry sufficiently to enable other firms to compete effectively against Microsoft in the market for Intel-compatible PC operating systems…

This campaign, together with actions that Microsoft took with the sole purpose of making it difficult for developers to write Java applications with technologies that would allow them to be ported between Windows and other platforms, impeded another form of innovation that bore the potential to diminish the applications barrier to entry.

It is clear… that Microsoft has retarded, and perhaps altogether extinguished, the process by which these two middleware technologies could have facilitated the introduction of competition into an important market…

Microsoft’s past success in hurting such companies and stifling innovation deters investment in technologies and businesses that exhibit the potential to threaten Microsoft. The ultimate result is that some innovations that would truly benefit consumers never occur for the sole reason that they do not coincide with Microsoft’s self-interest.

If you recall, the case magically disappeared once the Bush administration took power. Clearly, Bill Gates’s wallet would have voted for him. This then freed Microsoft up to use a front group of lawyers to attack and attempt to destroy Linux.

It’s easy to end now with this quote published in Computer World in January:

“They’re essential,” [the Microsoft technical evangelist James Plamondon] said about software developer pawns, according to a transcript of his remarks. “So you can’t win without them, and you have to take good care of them. You can’t let them feel like they’re pawns in the struggle… I mean, all through this presentation previously, I talked about how you’re using the pawns and you’re going to screw them if they don’t do what you want, and dah-dah-dah. You can’t let them feel like that. If they feel like that, you’ve lost from the beginning…. So you can’t let them feel like pawns, no matter how much they really are.”

1 Comment

  • 1. Freesteel » Blog Ar&hellip replies at 18th May 2007, 8:03 pm :

    […] nd. Meanwhile, scary emails from rich people are lurking in my in-box as a result of my rant yesterday. I’m too frightened to open them, and have forwa […]

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