66 points by bluerobotcat 4 months ago
> In 1990, Marc Porat convinced then-Apple-CEO John Sculley that the future of computing lay not in desktop personal computers, but much smaller portable devices combining computing power, communications systems, and data located on network-accessible servers.
Well that was staggeringly prescient.
Here's something few people know: Sun saw Telescript as a threat (because Sun was all about "the network is the computer" and now Telescript was invading this space) and started the Java project in response. Microsoft saw General Magic's social interface and deemed it to be a threat to Windows. Their response was "Microsoft Bob".
This is probably posted now thanks to the Andy Hertzfeld interview from the other day  where he discussed Telescript as a failure.
The notion of a restricted server-side language for user scripts still sounds useful and an unfilled niche.
Mobile code was dying before, but the final nail in the coffin is the Spectre/Meltdown class of vulnerabilities (with new variants coming out monthly).
It seems modern microprocessors simply aren't designed to run untrusted code.
True, Java applets largely died off, but that was as much because it took Sun WAY too long to ship the "Consumer JRE", coupled with a rash of Java security issues over a certain window of time, that made people scared to enable Java in their browsers. I doubt many more people disabled Java after Spectre/Meltdown, than before.
Couldn’t one run user scripts on separate servers with non-OoO CPUs: low-end ARM or MIPS or RISCV or whatever?
Sure, but requiring separate hardware to run code is a pretty high cost.
That interview was discussed at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17475413.
I actually worked on General Magic circa 1994-1995 at France Télécom. The whole tech stack was garbage, despite AT&T’s valiant efforts to salvage it.
It would be much better if you could turn that word "garbage" into a sentence, or better a paragraph, so readers could learn something. I'm sure people would be interested to hear your experiences.
In retrospect, Telescript and mobile agents were a bet against the Internet; if you have good connectivity it's easier to use RPC.
I loved this language. I still have all the papers somewhere. Unfortunately, the announcement of Java killed the few remaining chances it had of outliving General Magic.
Was the stack-based assembly it compiled to similar to Forth?