When Computing Was Reliable

Wednesday, 19 March 2003, 3:57 PM EST

Last week, in one of those moments that reminds us how far and how little we've progressed in the evolution of computer technology , vendors of some high-profile open source products were taken to task for newly discovered flaws in their code that required yet another round of software patching. Patching has been in the news a lot lately, particularly with the news that bug fixes available last year but never installed could have prevented the so-called SQL Slammer worm that infected users of Microsoft's SQL Server in January. The most recent patching debacle, involving the open-source Sendmail program, is prompting some to debate the merits of open source versus commercial code, which cannot be inspected.

To me, the whole matter suggests both how far microcomputers have come in software complexity, and how primitive these software systems still are, be they open source or proprietary. In the rush to embrace complexity, especially the downward spiral of glorious new features, computer users have given up some of the most important computing tools of the last 50 years.

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