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links for 2008-09-12

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Is Alex Serpo the worst journalist at ZDNet? Possibly so…

I’ve just read the most poorly researched article, and possibly worst ever published online, at the ZDNet Australia website. It’s a piece by their Australian Editor, Munir Kotadia, and their Australian Reviews Editor, Alex Serpo, titled “Do you love or hate Microsoft’s Seinfeld ads?“. The lead part by Munir isn’t too bad, it’s Alex’s part that has got me incised.

Alex ‘not too bright’ Serpo writes:

Let’s not pretend. Bill Gates isn’t like everyone else. This is a man who wrote his own operating system in his early twenties. Bill Gates makes Stephen Hawking look like a man with hobbies.

Frankly I wouldn’t let Alex near to a keyboard again if I were ZDNet after demonstrating such a phenomenal level of ignorance of his alleged IT industry speciality, but perhaps this is the level of journalistic quality coming out of ZDNet Australia (unless this is a super-ironic, post post-modern piece, of course, but I doubt that very much).

I tried to add a comment about the poor quality and paucity of journalistic rigour demonstrated, specifically of Alex Serpo’s research, however the ZDNet site wouldn’t let me, so I created this blog entry and here it is in full for your amusement.

Alex – try checking your facts before contributing to articles

Your piece is full of holes, and frankly reflects a very poor level of journalism, especially as your subject matter is the IT industry, and IT industry history.

Bill Gates never wrote an operating system in his twenties, nor in his life. He’s a significant and major figure in our industry, but you certainly don’t need to add false achievements and accolades to his legacy.

QDos, which went onto become MS-Dos was written by Tim Paterson, after being purchased by Paul Allen, Bill Gates partner, and joint founder of Microsoft.

Bill wrote a BASIC compiler and interpreter along with Paul, and as I recall one of his major achievement’s was writing InterSvr / InterLnk, although this may too be apocrypha.

As to the Seinfeld adverts, I don’t like Seinfeld, so no big shakes to me. They can waste their money in a vain attempt to stop the coming dominance of Open Source operating systems and I’m sure it’ll help sell a few copies of Windows and Office for the short term at least.

Frankly the best advert for PCs was the Apple sponsored Mitchell and Web adverts, because although Mitchell was plainly representing the PC, his character in Peep Show, upon which the advert appeared to be based, was the more likeable. Talk about Apple shooting themselves in the foot.




If you need any help with IT industry history in the future give me a shout, but for God’s sake please don’t produce drivel like this again.


If we ignore the sadly unfunny swipe at Hawkins, what upsets me about the quality of the ZDNet article is that it denigrates the achievement that great technologists such as Ken Thompson (father of UNIX, Plan 9, and Inferno, along with Dennis Ritchie), Bill Joy (the genius behind BSD and SunOS / Solaris), Linus Torvalds (writer of the Linux kernel), and a relatively small number of others, have made in having actually written an Operating System.

Oh and by the way Alex, the offer still holds, if you need any help with IT industry history or research in the future then give me a shout.

¨C14C ¨C15C¨C16C

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