It’s “Back to the Future” time at Microsoft, folks. In 1992, I wrote a long piece on The Road to Cairo about Microsoft’s plans for an Object File Store (OFS), an object-oriented database designed to make it easy to search documents and other structured data by content no matter where it was located. It was announced by Jim Allchin in 1991 and planned for release in 1993. In part, it was developed from the distributed object-oriented operating system that was based on Allchin’s 1983 doctoral thesis at Georgia Institute of Technology. Still, ten years later in 2002, Computer world reported that “Windows remains uncontaminated by many of the features originally slated for Windows NT and Cairo, including [its Object File System] OFS.
” It was, to use the poet Robert Frost’s words, the road not taken. While some of Cairo made it out the door as Windows NT 4.0, its charter to build technologies for a next-generation operating system that would fulfill Bill Gates’ vision of “information at your fingertips” promulgated in 1994 and made into a book published in 1995 called The Road Ahead,has sadly, never been fulfilled.
As the poet Robert Frost famously wrote, Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both . . . Why was the road to Cairo not taken?
Simply put, the infrastructure and technology just was not there yet. Moore’s Law, famously first stated in 1965, predicts that the number of transistors on a chip will double about every two years, a prediction that has held true for more than 40 years now. Indeed, computers today are 128 times more powerful than they were back then, at least. The average connection speed over the Internet has increased at least twenty-five-fold. Google gives each (free) user of Google Apps more than 7 GB of managed network storage (paid users get 25 GB), and services complex searches in fractions of a second. So we’ve made great strides in the past fourteen years in these areas.
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