Originator of term "Shareware" Dies
September 25, 2002 5:55 PM   Subscribe

Originator of term "Shareware" Dies
Bob Wallace, was born in Washington, D.C. in 1949, the author of PC-WRITE, and one of three persons credited with coining the term "Shareware" was found dead at his Northern California home on Friday, September 20th, 2002. In 1978, Bob joined Microsoft (the company that wrote MS DOS for IBM) when the company had only ten employees. He was employee number 9. Five years later, Bob decided to break with Microsoft (which by then had grown to company of over 300 employees) and establish his own company: Quicksoft. Among Quicksoft's innovations in software design and marketing was the "shareware" concept. Cause of death was determined to be pneumonia.
posted by jackspace (24 comments total)
 
Bob joined Microsoft (the company that wrote MS DOS for IBM) when the company had only ten employees.

Y'know, just in case you'd never heard of this little "Microsoft" upstart.
posted by ChrisTN at 6:07 PM on September 25, 2002


More like "modified an existing operating system to produce MS-DOS for IBM."
posted by eyeballkid at 6:13 PM on September 25, 2002


Well, that's sad. He sounds like a pretty cool guy. Certainly the term 'shareware' is brilliant. As is the idea of shareware, come to think of it. Is anyone still making a living just off shareware I wonder? I don't see very much shareware these days. Did it only thrive in an earlier era of computing, a distant age of 386s, floppy disks, and dial-up BBSs?
posted by crunchburger at 6:30 PM on September 25, 2002


In lieu of flowers, Wallace's family asks that you send a small donation of $19.95, in which you will be eligible to attend the complete funeral.

I had to. I'm sorry.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:36 PM on September 25, 2002


I don't see very much shareware these days

It is alive and well. tucows and download.com are prime examples.
posted by birdherder at 6:41 PM on September 25, 2002




Is it just me, or does the photo quonsar posted look more like a "Most Wanted Terrorists" list than a corporate photo of a software company?

And condolences to Wallaces family. Truly a great man.
posted by oissubke at 7:06 PM on September 25, 2002


Is it just me, or does the photo quonsar posted look more like a "Most Wanted Terrorists" list than a corporate photo of a software company?

I'd guess they were picking up extra cash by touring around the Pacific Northwest performing "Godspell."
posted by adameft at 7:29 PM on September 25, 2002


The fact that one dude positive achievements in life are recognized more after his death than when he's alive puzzles me. Is there some hidden logic in such a behavior ? And why isn't it applied to other guys like Bill Gates, father founder of Bloatware and Vaporware?
posted by elpapacito at 7:32 PM on September 25, 2002


father founder of Bloatware and Vaporware?

i think that's giving billy goat too much credit.
posted by trioperative at 7:37 PM on September 25, 2002


It is so sad when these gifted guys are found dead from pnemonia and other infections and so forth which are easily treatable if you just have someone at home to tell you, "hey, go to the doctor." Reason #82 to get (and stay) married...
posted by MattD at 7:46 PM on September 25, 2002


Damn. PC-Write was the first word processor I used on the PC. I think I got the disk from my local computer user group. It was quirky. Files couldn't be larger than 64k, but were 7-bit ASCII, which meant you could use PC-Write easily as a text editor, rather than the horrible EDLIN that shipped with MS-DOS. Most wp's of the time used high bit characters for formatting, which made editing text files problematic. Because PC-Write kept its files < 64k, was non-modal between entering and editing text, and most of its commands were based on function keys, it was very fast to use, compared to other wp's in the mid-80's. But its dot-command formatting I found frustrating to work with, for any but the simplest document the most plain-vanilla printer. Like a lot of other software of the 80's, it never made the transition to the GUI.

Requiescat in pace, PC-Write. And your creator, too.

I wonder whether Bob Wallace's interest in 'shamanic plants' contributed to his death. 53 is awfully young to die of pneumonia.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:22 PM on September 25, 2002


If he was employee #9, then how did he join the company when it had 10 employees?
posted by devbrain at 8:42 PM on September 25, 2002


Reason #82 to get (and stay) married...

Please end the suspense and post #s 1-81 as well.
posted by HTuttle at 8:55 PM on September 25, 2002


Slithy: 53 is awfully young to die of pneumonia.

I've noticed that a lot of home computer pioneers have been dropping off lately around the 50-60 something range. Perhaps the sedentary lifestyle of the programmer has more to do with it. I've never heard of a connection between psychedelics and an increased risk for infection, but I can certainly tell you if you've consistently carried 20-30 extra lbs and spend 10 hours coding everyday it will eventually catch up with you somehow.

There was an interesting discussion about techies and health on slashdot not so long ago. One poster commented on how techies should really stop seeing working out as a "jock thing" and consider that the people who need it most are probably them.
posted by skallas at 10:02 PM on September 25, 2002


Bob was a great guy. I had the privilege of working with him in the late 70's. The complete story is here.

After knowing him and seeing how much "community" meant to him, it was no surprise that he came up with the concept of shareware.
posted by jeffbarr at 10:36 PM on September 25, 2002


Who gets pneumonia? If we assume he smoked pot, that might have something to do with it. But it could have been any number of things, and he doesn't look that heavy in the photo.

Today shareware thrives in certain niches and not others. There are a number of decent shareware games, for instance. In many ways the concept has been taken up by the game industry's reliance on demos. But the way most PCs come fully stocked with the things most people need has eliminated the market for "major application" shareware. Still, there's a handful of utilities I couldn't live without -- image viewers, unzippers, even command-line interfaces, so as far as I'm concerned it's alive and well and disappearing no time soon.
posted by dhartung at 10:44 PM on September 25, 2002


dhartung: If we assume he smoked pot, that might have something to do with it.

That's something of a stretch. The article you linked to had to do with cigarette smokers. Obviously, the smoke intake of a pot smoker is no where near that of a cigarette smoker.
posted by skallas at 10:54 PM on September 25, 2002


What I was thinking of is aspiration pneumonia. It occurs when the normal reflexes that prevent us from inhaling our own saliva are impaired, by brain injury, stroke, or intoxication. Saliva, which is loaded with bacteria, or even stomach contents in the case of vomiting, can be aspirated down into the lungs.

Alcoholics are notoriously prone to this, but it can happen to anyone who is heavily intoxicated on any substance (or brain-injured for any reason). Pot used in the usual fashion would be unlikely to lead to aspiration pneumonia, IMO, but the article talked about 'shamanic plants', which could be anything, and might include opiates.

It also might be that he was trying to cure himself by herbal means, and simply refused to seek medical care.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 3:27 AM on September 26, 2002


Obviously, the smoke intake of a pot smoker is no where near that of a cigarette smoker.

Depends on who you hang out with.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:43 AM on September 26, 2002


devbrain:If he was employee #9, then how did he join the company when it had 10 employees?

We can only surmise that the vast quantities of pot smoke had something to do with it.

Of course, if Microsoft acknowledged Timecube, then being employee number nine would only be possible if there were thirty-six employees. Am I right on this?
posted by vraxoin at 8:57 AM on September 26, 2002


Right, plus who uses filters on their doobs? I was interested to read about his promotion of psychedelics in the Times obit (which ran that hair-farm photo as well, by the way — he is in the center of the back row). Since the obituary didn't mention a cause of death, I found myself wondering if he was involved with other drugs.

53 seems to be a popular ago to die too young, next to 27.
posted by xian at 9:06 AM on September 26, 2002


I don't see very much shareware these days.

Yeah, I don't see much shareware either, these days. Sure, there's Tucows, Download.com, and the like, but most of thae software there doesn't fit the classic definition of try-it-and-then-you-can-buy-it.

Too much of it is crippleware, trialware, and so on. Though I believe that shareware users should register the software if they choose to keep it, I'm not a fan of all the software that doesn't even allow a thorough evaluation.
posted by abischof at 9:58 AM on September 26, 2002


Bob was well known for his support of the free exchange of information about psychedelics. After he retired from Microsoft, he spent a lot of time founding an online bookstore. He was an outspoken and enthusiastic supporter of Erowid, the world's most extensive site dedicated to psychedelics.
posted by bug138 at 11:05 AM on September 26, 2002


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