Mobile, the new TRS-80

I’m embarrassed to tell this story, but it gives a sense of where I come from. I was in high school in the early 80’s. This is when the personal computer world had mystique. You had the Commodore PET’s, VIC 20’s, and 64’s. You had Radio Shack’s TRS-80. Before I made enough money to buy my own Coleco Adam, I used to head down to the local Radio Shack in Regina, not far from Wascana Lake, BTW, and the sales guys there would let me type away at the TRS-80 they had there. This was where my passion for computer programming got it’s first taste of fuel. It was great.

The Coleco Adam which ran Apple Basic was where I got my first full time experience and wrote my first program, a simulation of the old Stock Ticker board game. For university, I convinced my parents to lend me money for a Commodore Amiga 500. That was amazing. It was also my first experience with the mantra, the best technology doesn’t always win and the IBM PC blew Amiga and Apple II and the TRS-80 et al away. It wasn’t until I had kids that I finally broked down and bought my first PC.

Anyway, I’m telling this story because I see that same mystique in the new mobile platforms that we have today. You have that same diversity in operating systems and user interfaces and hardware shapes and sizes. You have the fight in processors, this time ARM versus Intel Atom, that we had back then with Intel’s 8086 versus the 6502 and Motorola 6800. Who’s going to win? I hope they all tie.

It’s an exciting time. Programmers have a whole new set of platforms to build applications for. We’ve been getting pretty bored building the same old apps for desktops. And now we finally have good development tools that we can use to target any of these platforms (and yes, we need to get Eclipse working for iPhone app developers). For the Ottawa Demo Camp, I plan on showing what I’m doing with Android using their Java environment along with the CDT for native libraries. The productivity I’m getting is exactly what we hoped.

I’m having a blast. Programming for Android reminds me a lot of those days I spent down at the Radio Shack with that TRS-80. This time, though I’ll probably hedge my bets and take a look at the other platforms out there as well, like iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia’s Qt on Symbian, and even at Moblin, which I plan on getting up and running on my Via Artigo box.

Can you tell? I’m glad that mystique is back…