Will software gallop to our rescue?

My first love, apart from my family and close friends, has always been software. I say ’always’ but, in truth, it’s only been since November 1965, when I got 100 percent in a programming aptitude test. “Good Lord,” I thought in astonishment, “And I can actually get paid for doing this?”

Since then, software has been at the heart of my life. Along the way, other skills have been added to the portfolio, particularly writing and teaching. And these skills have taken me into other areas, such as environmental sustainability. First in 1973 but then in a much more substantial way in 2002 when I became closely involved with an exceedingly large sustainability exemplar project. And now with Freeform Dynamics, where I am the environmental specialist, among other things.

While the economic and environmental bad news whirls around our heads, the one thing I know for sure is that software will be a major contributor to overcoming our ills. Not a panacea, but a fine contributor.

As Nicholas Negroponte has been saying for 15 years, “move bits not atoms”. And that is one of the major contributions that software can make. In fact, only software can make it. Whether it’s Citrix Online style screen-sharing or remote access or full blown telepresence conference rooms, they not only cut the moving of atoms, they also accelerate business processes and cut travel bills.

The other good thing about software is that it is a product with barely any environmental footprint. It can be delivered as a stream of bits and be paid for with another stream of bits.

For those that don’t know, I used to be a software publisher, banging out product in expensive boxes with clunky manuals and floppy disks. But since 2001, this very part-time business has been run wholly electronically from the corner of a server somewhere in America. The programmer and I meet rarely (once a year on average), but we’re in intimate, friendly and fairly continuous, contact online. And, of course, all support, ’paperwork’ and accounting is done electronically.

Our product was lovingly crafted in C++ (following my initial development using the 8080 assembler) and it is tiny for what it does.

I’m not trying to sell anything here, but I can’t help noticing that, by contrast, most of the systems I see today are packed full of bloatware, along with programs and data files which have become moribund. But most users are incapable of dealing with such issues unaided. They need software tools.

If larger programs could be debloated and users helped (in plain English please) with program and file removal, we could stall the madness of buying new equipment just because our old stuff has become clogged up and slow.

As with the organisational benefits of ’atoms to bits’, users will benefit from slicker running, gain a financial benefit and reduce their environmental impact all at the same time.

Now, someone tell me these things exist. Please?

Or, if not, why not?

Thank you.

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