If you've been in the PC game for a quite a while, you'll remember many great moments courtesy of Microsoft. But do you remember Microsoft Bob? It was back in March 1995. Windows 3.1 was running on most PCs and making it difficult for computer beginners to feel at home with their machines. User interfaces were visually barren and icons too abstract. That's when Melinda Gates, wife of Bill Gates, weighed in on project Bob and took on the role of product manager. Maybe the couple were already contemplating a bigger safe in the Gates mansion in view of the anticipated profits but things didn't turn out quite as they had hoped. Let's take a trip down memory lane to a time when great expectations weren't met, yellow dogs were roaming the virtual worlds and computers were turning into haunted mansions.
Lately, Mark Zuckerberg appeared a little shaken. Millions of data sets got lost and people suspected Facebook had been used to shape public opinion - oh, and especially younger users flocked to Snapchat, Instagram and Telegram. While the still steady flow of ad revenue certainly eased the pain, it was enough to trigger a change in thinking. Not only will Facebook receive a design overhaul, but it will focus on different content and provide a payment method. And most importantly: the private spheres and data of its users will be better protected. At a recent conference, Zuckerberg briefly chuckled over the term "private" but continued to make one promise after the other afterwards.
There are times when I feel especially proud, e.g. when technical knowledge and a healthy dose of skepticism dominate the blog comments. I'm not a fan of "I told you so", but this week was one of those moments! Amazon admitted to eavesdropping on and having staff members transcribe conversations from all over the world, through Alexa. Many of you had predicted this beforehand! Bloomberg were able to question seven Amazon employees, and what they had to report was more than interesting. Not only are vocal utterances from Alexa users computer-processed but they're also overheard by 7,000 Amazon employees.
I recently had the pleasure of enjoying a classic movie with a bunch of merry friends from all walks of life, all of them in their forties. We watched "Suspiria", an Italian horror classic from 1977. We had loads of snacks, drinks and comfy seats, so everything was set for a nice movie night. But, unbeknownst to my friends, I would also use this night to find out whether twelve people were able to focus on the screen for 90 minutes straight in the age of the internet.
There's hardly another software that is as controversial as Steam, even 15 years after its debut. Some gamers refuse to buy games that require activation through steam while others rejoice at the opportunity to manage all their software in a single place and never tire of praising the various additional features. Whichever side you're on, Valve has definitely pioneered online software distribution. But what exactly is Steam, why does it matter and what are its strengths and weaknesses?