Friday, December 24, 2021

A Niche to Fill

Computer software is mostly designed and written by young technophiles, fond of new and clever things. It is largely used by old non-technophiles of conservative tastes, people who would rather not have to learn a new interface and a new way of doing things every year, not even every decade.

That suggests the need for a middleman, a firm standing between software producers and users, providing the service of making life easier for the latter. Part would be pointing them at software that still works the way they are used to, part showing them how to configure the new version of a program to make it as much as possible like the old. Part would be telling them how to get at files written under software that no longer runs on their current hardware and operating system. 

I have come across a couple of solutions to that last problem but know of no way short of an extensive google search to find more. WriteNow is an elegantly written word processor not  available for decades — but OpenOffice can read WriteNow documents. MacDraw was long ago consigned by Apple to the trash heap of history, but EasyDraw, not the current version but one of the older versions still supported, can open documents created with MacDraw. There are doubtless many similar cases. If all else fails, the user who insists on sticking with his long obsolete software, perhaps a favorite game, could be given detailed instructions on how to emulate an old machine on a new one, along with any necessary software to do it. Running a program in emulation is considerably slower than running it natively — but current computers are a great deal faster than the machines the old programs were written to run on.

It looks like a market niche so far unfilled.


Anonymous said...

That problem is limited to commercial operating systems, where consumer interests are sometimes (often?) poorly aligned with OS vendors. The middle men you're imagining exist in the Open Source world. They're called distributions.

Debian is a very mature, long-running example pure opens-source play; Red Hat, now IBM-owned, is another.

Ubuntu is built on top of Debian. They customize it for people who want more of a slick, commercial desktop OS. Scientific Linux is built on top of Red Hat's open source line, and caters to STEM researchers. Kali linux is yet another that is geared towards security researchers. There are many others, because there are no barriers to entry.

There are efforts looking at automatic virtualization for old software, again, in the open source world (Microsoft is not going to sell you software to reduce your need to upgrade).

This is not about any of that, but I personally still run Windows 7 on a VM, in order to run some CAD/CAM software with my machines. There has been zero reson to upgrade that software, so I just virtualized the original physical machine, denied it network access for security, and have been running it for over a decade (under Linux).

Anonymous said...

In the gaming world there is Very Old Games On New Systems.

DinoNerd said...

At the rate market niches I care about get filled, you and I will be long dead - of old age - before anyone even tries, and like as not some large software company will promptly buy them up in order to shut them down. (Big software doesn't want to lose the business of those unhappy conservative users, but they also don't have a clue how to satisfy their needs/wants.)