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Bob Frankston

You are here because you have a personal computer.
You have a personal computer because of a program called Visi Calc.
Bob Frankston co-created Visi Calc. He is way beyond that now.

About you

What did you do before the Web?

Played with computers and online services. Used markup languages and word processors for writing. Use the Internet and LANs for sharing information. Used Email. Played a little with Gopher. Sat in front of my PC’s and terminals. Created apps and services.

How did you find the web?

It was just another thing to try online. Better than Gopher, of course. Or did you mean “how” in the sense of “how are you”. It’s nice. And, for a while that was a lot of novelty. The best thing is that it is now so ordinary.

Why are you here?

Why indeed!

Methods of production

What do you use to create your sites?

Whatever it takes. FrontPage for www.frankston.com plus any other tools and as much hand tweaking as I need and have other parts I generate using my own tools. On my home machine I use FrontPage etc and a lot more hand coding including using HTTP for other kinds of access. For www.SATN.ORG I use BloggerPro and Dan Bricklin does some Trellix tweaking for parts.

About the Web

What do you see as the greatest strengths of the web?

The Web? Well, depends on what you mean by the Web. If you mean the Web but not the Internet, then my answer is it was a good example of what one can do with a simple idea. I’m using HTML for this response. Is that web? HTML is a nice protocol, not bad for a hack. The best feature is that it is loosely coupled and sloppy is just fine. Embracing sloppiness is important because it makes it safe to experiment and allows for rapid evolution. Just as with the underlying Internet and, for that matter, PCs.

The primary advantage has been to help extend Internet connectivity which is far more important than a single application like the Web. It makes it easier to accept the realization that so many people confuse the Web with a shopping channel on their television.

What do you see as the greatest dangers?

That people will think that the Web is important in itself as opposed to being a small part of much larger trends and the underlying Internet. The danger to the Web is that it spooks people who live in fear and they will try to help us by giving us freedom from choice. From our “friends’ there is the threat of people who try to make it work much better forgetting that their better might not be others’ better.

Of course, there is the danger of naiveté but that will be self-limiting just as those who come from the West Coast and don’t adjust to the proper pedestrian behavior on the East Coast (OK, Northeast, or maybe just Boston) are rapidly eliminated from the gene pool. Hopefully we’ll survive the various online traumas and learn how to live in world fraught with danger as well as opportunity.

What would you say to folks who want to work the web?

Again, ambiguity. Work “on in” the sense of fix it, change it, reinvent it? For those people, we need all the help we can get, especially from those who see the current Web as an interesting transient. Or do you mean work on Web in the sense of working on the railroad? My short answer is “get a life”. Any life including hacking. The Web is a means not the purpose.

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Bob Frankston
Bob Frankston

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