The start of a new year is always a good time to check in with my mentor, Lester Stallman Raymond Bangs. I always call him on January 1st to get his predictions for the upcoming year. It helps me know what to focus on in my writing. He was always out in front of everything. He just has a knack for putting his finger right on things.
There was no way to tell what would be on his mind. In any event our annual New Year’s day conversations were always interesting - I was sure today would be no different.
I punched in his number and the phone rang. He picked after about 7 rings. “Hello…”, he says. (Gosh, you’d think at noon on New Year’s day he’d be up already - but it didn’t sound like it from is voice.)
“Ouch, man. My head hurts.”, he began, “I feel like I was out until 4 am with Peter Laughner’s ghost. Me and some people stopped at a party where they were playing some old MC5 records. I told them they were listening to a bunch of garbage and they threw me out. I ended up hanging out with someone across the hall that I didn’t even know. His place was a dump - it reminded me of CBGB’s old bathroom. But he was listening to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks CD so we hit it off. We ended up having a great time.”
He was waking up now. I could hear he’d put some music on. It was White Light/White Heat by The Velvet Underground. That would bring him to life, I figured.
“So come on”, I told him, “quit stalling. You know why I’m calling. I need your top 5 predictions for this year. I’ve got a weblog to put out. ”
“Ok already”, he says taking a draw on a cigarette. “Let’s get into this.”
“So what’s going to happen with Microsoft and Sun?”, I ask.
“Well, to begin with, you can count on J2EE deepening its hold on the enterprise. I know everyone’s talking about .NET, but let’s be real. What major corporation is going to pull their enterprise applications off Solaris boxes and put them on servers based on the latest version of Windows, whatever that is?”.
He went on, “I mean really. Windows just changes too fast. There’s new releases every year or two. Big companies build applications and keep them running for years in maintenance mode - who’s going to bet that the latest version of Windows is going to be supported in 7 or 10 years? Unix has been basically the same for years now. And these big companies have seasoned people with years of experience; they aren’t afraid of Unix, they like it. These companies are looking at J2EE as a way to save money by rewriting their mission critical Mainframe apps, not as a way of building small workgroup projects. Besides, Windows just doesn’t have the reputation for security and stability yet.”
“Hold on”, I said, “I’ve heard that C# is the fastest growing language out there.”
“Maybe”, he responded, “but look at the recent trends in programming languages. Java and “C” are still the dominant languages in use. Heck, even Perl usage far outweighs C#. It’s going to grow, but until mainstream enterprise applications running on Solaris can be built in C#, it will always be a fringe language. The real story is the fall off in Cobol usage - that shows people are finally retiring old mainframe applications. Those applications are begin rewritten using J2EE.”
“Ok, #1 - J2EE tightens grip on the enterprise“, I said, “what else?”
He paused for a moment. “The real stories this year”, he began, “are only loosely technology-based anyway. For example, the biggest story will be related to conflicts between personal liberties and the “War on Terrorism”. To begin with, the PATRIOT Act and other recent changes in law are giving the federal government much greater powers to gather information on individuals. In a nutshell, this means that anyone who types anything into the Internet may become more careful of what they type - and people who have sites where people type things in may be providing that information to the government. This will begin sinking in to everyone this year.
“So, #2 - Internet snooping goes big. That’s two”, I said, “I need three more.”
“Well”, he went on, “the the next one is a direct result of the last one. Individuals, Organizations and Local Governments will take steps to try and preserve their freedoms and minimize their electronic ‘Information Exposure’. This is already starting. For example, librarians - not usually known to be hell-raisers - are beginning to fight back. Right now, they may have to report your reading or web surfing habits though they are forbidden to tell you about it. But, as Dave Farber says, ‘Every rainbow has a silver lining’. They are already organizing in support of the First Amendment which they believe protects the individual’s right to a Freedom to Read.
“This is a sticky subject”, he said thoughtfully. “In the end it’s about how America comes to grips with balancing safety in society with the freedoms of the individual.”
“Interesting. #3 - The people fight back to preserve individual freedoms.”, I said, “Only two more to go!”
“I’m just getting warmed up!”, he said. In the background I could hear him changing the music. It sounded like Patti Smith. He lit another cigarette.
“Where was I?”, he asked, “Oh yeah, #4. The next big story will be how corporate America will learn to misuse the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) to censor the Net. You probably remember the time Microsoft invoked the DCMA to try and censor Slashdot? Well, just recently Dow Chemical invoked it and may shut down an entire ISP because ‘one’ of their clients ran a parody of Dow. We could see hundreds of these suits this year.
“Wow”, I said, “#4 - Corporations will use litigation under DCMA as a tool to control criticism. What’s the last one?
“I’m going out on a limb with this one”, he began. “The others are safe bets.
“Here goes, Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music CD will finally be recognized as the greatest CD of all time.”
“Come on”, I said, “you predict that every year and it never comes true. You’ve been saying that since forever. I still can’t believe how you fawned over him in that interview.”
“I can’t help it”, he said. “Some of this stuff is like rocket science - but other times you just have to follow your gut. Happy new year kid.”