Christopher B. Wright is a technical writer in the Richmond, VA area, and has been using OS/2 Warp since January 95. He is also a member of Team OS/2.
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A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing in a Den of Lions, Part 3
If you've had the "opportunity" to read the internal IBM document outlining their alleged position on the future of OS/2, you might be feeling a little depressed right now. After all, it's not every day you read that the company that makes your operating system wants to phase it out in three years, without telling you, while claiming the entire time that they're not really doing that.
It's easy to get depressed when you think about the current state of OS/2 compared to what it once was and what it has the potential to be. It's so easy to get depressed, in fact, that it's tempting to overlook what our community has going for it right now.
Let's accept for the moment that the OS/2 community is in a period of struggle. People want to dismiss OS/2 as an 'also-ran' operating system, as a computer platform that may or may not be technically superior, but has been allowed to slide into irrelevance by its neglectful parent. This kind of stacks the odds against us in many respects, but we're not down yet.
First off there are still OS/2 users, period. After being told that OS/2 is dead for 10 plus years, after being run around by IBM and other vendors that make promises they don't keep, after all the prophecies of doom from high-paid "industry analyists", we haven't gone away. We still use OS/2 because we believe in the product, in the technology behind the product, and all the potential it still has as a client & workstation platform.
What's more, we're still vocal and active users. If you're not sure what that means, why not attend Warpstock '98 in Chicago, roughly two weeks from now? Despite various and sundry challenges, including internal and external strife, Warpstock is still a go, and it looks like it will be an amazing event.
Warpstock is a classic example of the almost mythical "Let's put on a show" Hollywood storyline come to life. With little financial backing, the group has found an old barn they could turn into a stage, and managed to assemble an impressive set of vendors and presenters to put on quite a show, indeed. (Ignore the fact that I'm speaking there, and it will be even more impressive.)
Of course, this "barn" is the Wyndham hotel, a location familiar with many people who have attended conventions in Chicago. And I expect you'll find more polish and professionalism at Warpstock than you would in, say, the show that saves "the old homestead" on a Hollywood black & white musical. But the thing that made those movies so charming -- the idea that a bunch of "just plain folks" can save the day all by themselves -- is the same kind of energy that's driving the OS/2 Community right now.
The OS/2 community has always, in my opinion, displayed a tendency to find a way to survive in difficult times. When resellers like CompUSA stopped selling OS/2 software on their shelves, the ISVs and software companies moved on line. OS/2 was the first computing community to fully embrace the idea of e-commerce and e-distribution -- largely because we had no choice! OS/2 users soon learned to use the World Wide Web and Usenet Newsgroups as a powerful communications and organizing mediums for the OS/2 community. The fact that OS/2 users are accused of being rabid ballot-stuffers is clear proof of how mobilized we can become (when given enough reason).
Any success that OS/2 has had to date has been the results of OS/2 users and OS/2 ISVs. There is an internet community that, if only we had a reliable and enthusiastic distributor for OS/2, would provide a great structure for future market expansion. Companies like BMT Micro, J3 Technologies, and of course Indelible-Blue -- as well as the newcomer, Centauri Computers -- have really been there for OS/2. Even though many of them are expanding their markets to include operating systems other than OS/2, their commitment and dedication to OS/2 and OS/2 users is still plainly evident.
Warpstock is an excellent example of what we, as OS/2 users, have going for us and what we can accomplish, even without Big Blue sponsorship. An all-volunteer event, it shows how we're willing to pull together and put our time and energies into a common cause. It's an event where enthusiastic users will get to meet enthusiastic vendors, and people can see that they are not, in fact, the only OS/2 user on the planet. It's an event that will remind us of what is our biggest strength -- community.
It seems somewhat poetic that this year Warpstock is going to be held in Chicago, the birthplace of some of the biggest US labor movements at the start of this century. The laborers, once the biggest underdogs in the industrial age, were able to band together and use their solidarity to change the miserable conditions they were forced to endure by people who just didn't get it. Socialists, anarchists, communists, and activists of all kinds -- people who wouldn't usually associate with each other, like each other, or even admit each others existence -- were willing to work together because they understood that they had a common goal. The OS/2 community has seen its share of scandal and upheaval: The Warpstock Steering Committee vs. the Warpstock Chicago Organizing Committee, OS/2 e-Zine! vs. 32 Bits Online, OS/2 e-Zine! vs. Warp City, Warp City vs. Stardock, Warp City vs. the IBM Netscape team. Some of these conflicts have been real and heartfelt, some of these have been blown out of proportion, and some of these have been decidedly one-sided. None of these, however, have been fatal, and all are minor in comparison to the goal that all of us should have: having OS/2 realize it's potential as a client and workstation operating system. Perhaps we can take our cue from all those anarchists, liberals, communists, socialists and other activists who were willing to put aside their differences, and get the ball rolling again.
I'm excited about Warpstock 98, and I hope to see all of you there. (But leave the brown acid at home.)
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