It’s pretty cool having control of the screen: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade meet with their friend Timothy Meaney, VP Product & Quality at Insight Catastrophe, to talk about what makes software great. Between the earliest spreadsheet programs, the hidden databases upholding Manhattan, and the ChromeBook interface that makes Paul’s kids cry, we learn how the best software is characterized by its simplicity.
Tim Meaney — talked about people who knew how to organize their — their layers in Photoshop but then you look at someone else’s spreadsheet. Oh yikes [mm hmm]. That’s rough.
Paul Ford Oh you should see Rich use a spreadsheet.
Rich Ziade It’s bad.
PF It’s really bad [laughter]. I don’t know why it’s so rough but it’s like — it’ll be like ok 10,000 and he’ll put in 100,000 [laughter] then he’ll stop, and then he’ll like get his — his eye will be like two inches from the screen, and then he’ll put in ten [laughter]. And meanwhile it’ll be like, “Oh it looks like our annual revenue will be 48 dollars this year for Postlight.”
TM “Hold on, lemme correct that. Actually 48 trillion.”
PF Exactly. It is — it is — it is extraordinary.
TM “Fire everybody!”
PF The guy can program, he’s a good entrepreneur, I don’t know why and how but watching him use Google Sheets is like watching a dog compose an orchestra [laughter].
RZ [Laughing] It’s really bad. It’s true. I’m like, you know, like certain brains have certain —
PF Honestly it’s very comforting though cuz you’re much better at like Business, capital B, than I am [mm] but I can at least use a goddamn spreadsheet [laughter].
RZ You can add numbers to a spreadsheet [music plays alone for 18 seconds].
PF Rich, we should — normally now we just jump into — let’s just tell people who’s here.
RZ An old friend. A very good friend. I’ve known him for years. His name is Tim Meaney.
PF Tim is great. We should be — we should let people know that what we did here [music fades out] is we said, “Tim, we wanna have a little booze [Rich laughs] and let’s record a podcast . . . with a topic.”
RZ Yes, well let’s disclaim: Tim works for a client of Postlight.
PF That’s right.
RZ We don’t have to get into that here.
PF No. That is — but full disclosure: Tim — we have a paid relationship with Tim but we’ve also known Tim for many, many years. This is actually — it harkens back to a conversation we started having probably like seven years ago. Um. And one day we were walking, I think sort of fittingly on the streets of San Francisco and one of us turned to the other and went, “What are the ten greatest works of software?”
RZ Was it ten or five?
PF I think we started — we had to like narrow it down cuz it got — it got out of hand.
RZ Oh ok!
PF So I would say we talked about that almost for like a week. It is like — it’s a really interesting problem because people — people don’t think about software as a whole category and they don’t think about what makes it good in a broad way versus good in like a, “Oh that’s not problem.”
TM People also don’t think about software.
PF That’s a really good point.
RZ See we bring the guy on, he makes us look like schmucks in like five minutes [Tim chuckling].
PF No, that’s right. People don’t think about software. What do they think about?
RZ Food —
RZ They’re job.
PF Yeah a lot of politics.
PF Their clothing.
RZ They’re job.
RZ Sax [chuckles]. Playing the saxophone at their job. What do people think about? That’s a great question, actually.
TM Kids activities.
PF Yeah, kids. Their kids.
RZ “I messaged her yesterday and she hasn’t messaged back.”
PF That’s right. People think about all sorts of stuff. But I don’t they’re really out there going like, “Hmm, Microsoft Excel.”
TM They’re also isn’t like a critical view of software like there is other disciplines.
PF No, not really. I mean —
TM People don’t look backwards with software very often. It’s very forward oriented.
RZ Mm hmm.
PF There’s more than there used to be. Like MIT Press now publishes some stuff and so but there’s isn’t this — it’s certainly not a discipline in the same way that like Civil War history is a discipline, right? Like and I would argue that it’s — it has enor — you know software has enormous impact and so it’s —
TM There’s also a big impact of not looking backwards a lot. We tend to make the same mistakes quite often.
PF Well the story of software is it’s marketing, right? As opposed to its history.
PF Like we don’t talk about the fact that this stuff has been around for years and years and that there’s — there are things to learn. We talk about Facebook’s market cap and we talk about the awesome new features that are available in Product X. So, ok, let’s jump ahead.
RZ We’re each gonna pick one?
PF Let’s pick one.
RZ I’ll go first.
PF Ok go.
PF The beginner’s all purpose language.
RZ Yes. And here’s my explanation: Basic is the very first user experience because . . . Basic even though it was clunky and kinda slow and a bit putsy, it tried to bridge the gap between . . . the guts, the really lower, lower, lower, lower level stuff that is so hard to process and maybe if I put this in front of a tenth grader, they’ll get it.
PF And there’d been other programming languages. There was Fortran and Lisp and all this other stuff but Basic was the one where it’s like, “We’re gonna be able to teach this to anyone who wants to understand computers.”
TM And we’re all of a certain age but that was a big moment.
PF Yeah well —
TM In my life in particular —
RZ Mm hmm.
TM — you could tell the computer to do something and then it did it for you.
PF And it was kind of a given that when you bought a computer it would have Basic. Right? Like you’d turn it on and it’d be like, “You’re ready to program?! Let’s go!!”
TM And you just talked about software being about marketing: pretty good name.
RZ Ah it’s a beauty isn’t it?
TM Pretty good name.
PF Alright so ok. That’s a good — a 200 year old man just told us that Basic [Rich laughs boisterously] is a great piece of software. Tim — Tim Meaney —
PF What do you think?
TM Alright. I’m gonna go in a different direction.
TM AOL’s Instant Messenger.
TM And I’m gonna go for it for a very specific reason which was that you could talk to other humans. There were other ways to talk to humans [sure] prior: CompuServe, you probably were on it cuz I was.
TM IRC. There were plenty of ways and there have been plenty of ways since Slack Text Messaging but AOL Instant Messenger was the way that you communicated for a very long time. Ten years maybe. And there was something very powerful about computing from being what you just described: me being alone in my room writing a game that I wanna play myself to talking to other people.
RZ So you’re implying that’s not even the invention. You’re saying they just went ahead and made it — cuz it was invented, chat was invented already.
TM Sure. Good point.
RZ But you’re saying —
TM It was so accessible and so widespread —
TM — that it became a network. It was like your telephone.
PF It had little noises, it had a directory.
RZ My mom got it with AOL.
TM And you could talk to her through AOL.
PF That thing was amazing and once it caught on it really was the big platform for awhile and I think you’re right: it was the first one that wasn’t um something that just kinda nerdy people used.
TM There was websites, there was games, but this was people. And [yeah] the web since then has been about people, largely.
TM That was the first thing that inverted it to be about people.
PF And honestly it was bigger than like text messaging . . . for a long time.
RZ Oh yeah!
PF So what’s interesting for the two of you is that the quality of greatness is accessibility.
PF It’s not invention — inventing anything, it’s about making it accessible. I have a lot in this list but the one I would throw out is Mac Paint . . . which was the first [mmm] like just draw a picture with a mouse. You didn’t have to plug anything in, it was built into the Mac, it came out in the eighties, and I mean you wanted a circle, you drew a circle, and then you printed it out. And it was kind of blocky in retrospect, kind of pixel-y, but there was nothing like that.
RZ Cuz you used your mouse to draw.
PF Like it was this whole category of communication . . . and reproducibility that had required like good art skills and access to a Xerox and sort of a different kind of thinking uh it was suddenly just sort of built into the computer.
RZ It’s magic. You’re writing, you’re drawing.
PF Well and it looks real! You know there’s a quality when computers make things look or act real. Like [yeah] that was just big. Like suddenly AM replaced a whole category of communication. Basic made it possible to program Mac, Paint made it possible to draw. Now these are all . . . very old. I think we should talk about what’s good now.
PF Well alright fine.
TM You didn’t steal mine, excellent.
RZ So —
PF Great Macintosh program from the early days.
RZ Alright so Photoshop shows up on my IBM PC compatible computer.
PF [Chuckling] 486.
RZ [Chuckling] 486.
RZ And —
PF What was your brand? Was it Micron?
RZ I uh I — actually I think it might’ve been Gateway for awhile.
PF Oh god!!
RZ And then I started buying just the grey box stuff from like —
PF Yeah. You used to be able to do that in New York City. You could walk into random stores —
RZ Yeah. It was way cheaper.
PF Yeah. That’s the thing [I remember] they weren’t actually — they were cheaper than what was in the back of the magazine.
RZ Oh yeah! So . . . first off: just to disclaim, Photoshop has gone straight to hell. To hell with Creative Cloud [others snickering], to hell with whatever is happening in Photoshop today. I don’t understand it —
PF I am tired of subscribing to things.
RZ I can’t — first of all —
PF The magazine industry died. Why do they have to make me relive it everyday?
RZ I don’t know it’s — there’s a version, by the way [uh huh] that designers hold onto. I think it’s CS5.
PF CS4 or 5. Yeah. Before the Cloud.
RZ 4 or 5. Before the Cloud.
TM They just can’t connect to a network.
RZ And it’s fast and good.
PF Because what the hell do you need to do?!? You know?
RZ Well they keep pushing, “Oh we’re up to Creative Suite 17!”
PF I have not seen a new Photoshop feature that isn’t like, “Oh my god this is an atrocity now,” in like seven years.
RZ It just puts — it’s unbearable.
PF And then they’ll emphasize, “Oh, no, it does content aware resizing now.” And you’re like, “Ok.”
RZ Exactly. And stuff like.
PF But then do you really wanna get — anyways, alright, so early Photoshop.
TM Why Photoshop?
RZ Oh man I bought a book.
PF What makes it great?
RZ I bought a book cuz I didn’t why everybody was saying it was amazing.
TM Teach Yourself Photoshop in 21 Days?
RZ Exactly! Like one of those! One of those.
PF Wait, wait, was it Classroom in a Box?
RZ I don’t know which one it was but it’s the one where they replicate that —
PF Did it have a CD-ROM included? [Tim says something inaudibly]
RZ No CD-ROM. Once it came to me like the mental model kicked in around layers in Photoshop. I lost my mind. I was like, “Oh my god. This is how everything is done.”
PF Well what happened is suddenly you didn’t have to destroy things as you were working.
RZ It was — it just blew me away —
PF It used to be like, “Oh I’m gonna use — I’m gonna put a third eye on the baby instead of just two eyes,” and you’d like have to destroy the baby picture, and you’d practice, and you’d screw it up, and you moved stuff around, and you had to —
TM The people who were good at organizing their layers and naming them and you could take them away —
RZ The namers!
TM — and bring them back.
RZ The namers are a whole other level.
TM That was like magic.
TM We haven’t talked much about data. We talked about creation and communicating. What about data? What about information? Honorable mentions: SQL [pronounced Sequel] —
RZ Oh boy.
TM And Access.
PF Structured Query Language and Microsoft Access.
TM Talk about Access just for a moment. People don’t know what Access was.
RZ Microsoft Access. You’re not saying access generally.
TM Microsoft Access. It — it gave you access to your data.
PF Well it was a database program.
TM Yeah. And it — it more specifically was like real humans can interact with data.
PF That’s right.
TM You didn’t have to file a ticket for some engineer to do something with your data.
TM It like . . . gave you access to it.
RZ It didn’t scale —
TM It gave you access to it but the number one, greatest work of software of all time . . .
RZ Uh oh.
TM — is Microsoft Excel.
PF I think that might be real . . . is that if you walk up and down the streets of Manhattan where we happen to be right now, billions and billions of dollars of decisions will be made this week based on Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint. Those are the tools and the software that people will use to move entire markets. And then they’ll — that stuff might go into software, it might go into trading platforms, whatever but like —
TM If you wanna do something to data [yes] which is often the use case people want to do, that’s probably where you’re gonna do it.
PF Those are the true power tools in our culture and people in technology because we really can’t really change them that much [right], we tend not to talk about them.
PF But if you all of a sudden said, “Microsoft Excel doesn’t work,” the world economy would crash in the next day.
RZ Yeah. Do you think anyone has been fired because someone calculated against the wrong column in Microsoft Excel?
TM Today: yes [wheezy laughter from Rich that breaks into boisterous cackles].
PF In the last 15 minutes. No, I mean honestly —
RZ Can you imagine? Like, “We did the ma — ” Or your performance metrics or whatever —
TM Think about your bonus pay out —
RZ They did it wrong!
TM A million mistakes. A million mistakes.
PF You know what I think about? Is that like everyone’s talking about how Amazon um warehouse employees are treated poorly, meanwhile you’ve got Jeff Bezos worth uh tens and tens of billions of dollars, right? I mean Google went through something similar where it’s temps weren’t like really were being badly treated. Like this is something — it’s kind of a reckoning for tech is like why does one team get everything and one team get nothing? My point is like in my head, and I don’t think this wrong, like all of that could be resolved or made worse with one cell in the spreadsheet.
TM A factor.
PF Yeah. Like this whole thing, this whole situation —
RZ Oh yeah. 100 percent.
PF — is like, “Oh but you know we were able to optimize that, we got that — we got that wave down to like, you know, 11:45.”
RZ So are we saying this is the greatest piece of software —
TM Most impactful.
RZ Impactful and — and still, to this day —
TM Not the greatest like art, the biggest influence on the world.
PF I don’t think you can — You can’t do greatest like art cuz I mean like then — Like the most intense experience I’ve had with a piece of software has probably been like playing Half Life 2 when I was a little depressed.
RZ Half Life 2 is a gorgeous game.
PF It’s a gorgeous game. Mist was a gorgeous game. Like those are wonderful, those are games, those are like really deep, interactive, amazing experiences but like greatest in terms of world impact.
RZ First off I’ve heard this, so I may be talking out of turn, that the core calculation engine in Excel has not been touched in like 30 years.
TM That’s amazing.
RZ Cuz it’s so good.
PF But also math hasn’t changed on computers in 30 years.
RZ True. True. The other thing I wanna mention is that —
TM Wasn’t there like one weird bug that was like —
PF Oh yeah.
TM Didn’t they have one weird bug that —
RZ Like brought down —
PF It was, yeah.
TM Like ten years ago.
PF That’s why Trump is the president now [laughter]. That’s — that’s what happened.
TM Ok. Second point?
RZ Dan Bricklin. I mean it’s a lovely piece of software. It really is great but —
TM Credit, you’re saying?
PF No, that’s true. VisiCalc by Dan Bricklin was the —
RZ He is the father of the spreadsheet.
TM Fair point.
PF Well there was the — the killer app. That was the initial kill — LIke people had to go out and buy Apple IIs all of a sudden.
RZ Cuz that’s how you did ledgers and that’s how you did stuff.
PF That’s right.
RZ Um alright go [Paul sighs heavily].
TM Bring it home.
PF Well I — I’m actually — Tim, you stole my thunder. The one that I think about a lot: it’s just infrastructure and it’s this little database called SQLite [pronounced Sequel Lite].
PF SQLite is —
RZ Define SQL!
PF Structured Query Language is like an official standard and it lets you talk to any database and so you can ask it things like um, “How many people in our customer list uh — ”
RZ “Are younger than 25?”
PF “25,” that’s right. And then you can sort of link them uh to other tables. You can link that customer table to another table and you can say, “How many people under 25 recently bought — ”
PF “Bananas.” Right. And so you can do and extrapolate that like the world runs on SQL databases. There are other databases. There’s other kinds of things but like if you’re wondering how your bank organizes itself or Amazon or anybody.
TM Or how Russia knows to show you that ad.
PF That’s right. That’s right. It’s SQL. So there is this tin — there’s a lot of wonderful software out there. Like I mean this is — this is a very tough one for me. But this particular —
PF A little bit because there’s lots of things that I would probably put — Like it’s hard —
TM We didn’t talk about music at all.
PF No, I mean it’s — yeah the mp3 standard is huge, Excel is huge —
PF The web browser probably emotionally is the one that I’m closest to.
PF I think the web browser is probably the most impactful.
RZ For you personally?
PF Just in general in the world. Nothing’s changed the world —
TM I think you’re right there. That was on my list —
PF The web browser is probably the greatest — but it’s now — we’re now 25 years in.
TM And which one would you pick? That’s hard.
PF I just sort of wanna pull SQLite out and just point at it because it’s like, it’s a tiny piece of software and it runs and it’s storage data. That’s all. It’s a tiny database. These used to be — it used to you go to oracle and you spend 30,000 dollars to have this database. SQLite is on every Android phone. It’s on every iOS phone. It’s in just about every computer, in every platform. And it’s this like super accessible, super well tested way to store and access data and it’s incredibly convenient and it’s everywhere. So I think in terms of greatness —
PF Yeah! And availability and uh it’s unencumbered by licenses and it’s extraordinarily stable. So I think almost as like a cultural and aspirational aspect to it. Like if more software was like this, more people would be more empowered [music fades in].
RZ Strong argument [music plays alone for six seconds, ramps down].
PF You know, Rich, usually you and I talk about how great we are [music fades out] at building software.
PF But I got in the studio today, our friend Tim Meaney . . . who we’ve been working with for years.
TM And is here to talk about how great you guys are at building software.
PF Seriously! We are — Tim is — Tim . . . is our client. We’re his vendor. This is a chance for people to hear what it’s like to actually work with Postlight.
TM Oh I can do that.
PF You’re over at a company called Insight Catastrophe Group.
TM Yes, I am. We’re an insurance company. We sell homeowners insurance.
TM And we’re growing really, really fast . . . and we’re trying — I’m trying, we’re trying to scale a technology platform to keep up with the business and build a culture where people want to work. And working with a firm like Poslight is like uh an excelerant. It’s like a special power on Mario Brothers when you step on the mushroom, you get bigger [Paul laughs]. No seriously like —
PF What’s — what’s your job over there?
TM I run our software. I’m responsible for our software.
TM So working with a company like you guys has the benefit of the awesome work that your team does. Design and development, specifically for us [mm hmm] but also what — the impact you guys have on our internal teams is immeasurable.
PF This is something we’re really proud of because we really — we take our process very seriously. We wanna deliver great stuff and we bring that to the client. And we say, “How can we help you deliver the great stuff?” And then we work with your team.
TM My engineers often cite working with your engineers as a huge reason they love to do what they do. Seriously cuz they get to —
RZ That’s like the biggest compliment.
PF This is the thing — it’s hard to articulate, it’s great to have you in here cuz like we tell this story but it’s like, “BRAH BRAH BRAH they’re really great.”
PF This is the — this is the thing we do.
PF We deliver the software but we build the careers of the people around those. That is the goal.
TM That is the two things. Right?
TM I get two things from you. I get the output [yeah] and I get the change internally from working [right] with you.
PF As a leader, that’s right. That’s incredibly hard to get. I’m gonna flatter us for a second: it’d be really hard for you to do that solo. You’d have to hire —
TM No, it would be impossible [right]. We acknowledge that.
PF That’s right. And we — we’ve been working with you guys for years. We love you. You’re a great client. And um we’re continuing to expand and work on new things with you because your business is going well.
PF And that’s — that’s sort of the place we wanna be.
RZ Yeah. For sure. Churn is not our game.
PF No, that’s right.
RZ Relationships are.
PF Building the trust.
PF Building the trust. And knowing that it’s on us. We’re the — we’re the vendor.
RZ Also, if you enter coupon code DL [boisterous laughter] ZR4.
TM great works of software, all lowercase [laughter].
PF Meany Meany Meany —
RZ [Music fades in] You get 15 percent off [music plays alone for six seconds, ramps down]. Name of software, one sentence, let’s go around. Speed round.
PF Alright, you start.
TM Do they have to be like super meaningful or can we get a little weird?
RZ Ah, do whatever you want.
PF You can do whatever you want.
TM Get a little weird?
RZ And once it fizzles out, we’ll know it fizzled out.
RZ Alright. Go.
PF Facebook. I hate it but it’s two billion people knit together through software on the web.
RZ Um Doom.
PF Mm yeah.
TM Good one! Good one!
RZ It made me feel like I upgraded my computer.
PF Yeah like all of a sudden you had a 3D super workstation.
RZ I couldn’t believe that my computer was doing that without me spending more money.
TM It was also a great history of software in Doom. Like them chasing Doom II for like 14 years.
PF Right. Right right right.
RZ John Carmack —
TM That’s such a great story of software.
RZ And the other dude. There’s the other dude who had that long flowy hair.
RZ Romero! [Laughs]
TM Alright. Weird one: TiVo.
TM Here’s why . . . I’m in control of — [Paul clicks tongue, mimicking TiVo] — accessing content. Seriously. For a moment.
RZ What is that sound? Is that TiVo?
PF I’m just making —
TM Yeah it was.
PF I’m making TiVo sounds.
RZ I don’t even know what — first off: nobody’s gonna know what you’re talking about.
TM Ok before TiVo [Paul continues making tongue clicks] —
TM — you had to watch 60 Minutes when it was 7pm on Sunday [correct] unless The Jets were losing and there was overtime and then you had to wait till 7:18.
PF You could in theory set your VCR but —
PF — no one was able to do it.
TM Only Howard Stern fans did that but yes [Rich laughs].
PF God! It was a nightmare. I don’t even think people — you know culturally that’s been erased. Like nobody, nobody was ever able to successfully record their —
TM TiVo was the first on drive.
TM And since then the I mean all media is on drive. There is no more 7pm [Paul clicks tongue].
PF No, there’s —
TM 7 pm doesn’t exist anymore.
PF TiVo was the first step on our cultural path to Netflix.
PF This is the thing, I want people who are listening to this to make arguments and write in about the greatest works of software so we could talk about it.
TM We clearly missed one. I know we missed one.
RZ We missed a big one somewhere.
TM We missed a big one.
PF We missed a thousand! I mean cuz you could argue —
TM No, but we missed a big one.
PF Oh, yeah, that’s true.
TM Windows 95.
PF There’s Windows — Windows 3.1 [pronounced three-one]. That changed everything.
RZ Three-one. Uh —
TM Windows 95 had like the — The Rolling Stones song and —
PF You start me up. I used to —
TM — and Jay Leno and people were waiting on lines for an operating system.
RZ People were crying.
PF I use a text editor that’s like 30 years old that changed —
TM Talk about the power of marketing. Why were people waiting on lines . . . for an operating systems?
RZ For the colors. It was the first time it wasn’t this complicated thing finally. The branding —
TM They didn’t know that going into it!
PF But you know people — people get excited —
RZ The box was like primary colors and clouds.
TM There were people waiting on line. True?
TM That morning?
PF People get excited —
TM Did you wait on line?
PF [In a low, cynical rumble] No!
RZ No. I downloaded it [all laughing]
PF It would’ve been like an Iranian FTP site.
RZ It was bad.
PF Yeah yeah yeah.
RZ It was FTP.
PF Yeah I mean well this is — the other great thing about Photoshop is no one bought it.
RZ Nobody bought it.
TM You just needed that key.
PF [Laughs] Nobody bought Photoshop.
RZ They would cra — I was in the cracking piracy — am I allowed to bring this stuff up?
PF Well the statute of limitations is well over [laughter]. Do you remember like the cracking software? [Rich laughs] You’d get like —
RZ Can I — can I bring up the single most impressive cracked software project I ever saw?
RZ There are probably more impressive ones. There was really expensive 3D rendering software that essentially they sent you a — a card to put in computer —
PF Oh sure.
RZ Hardware. In your computer.
PF We’re recording this on ProTools with a dongle. We pay a subscription fee to record this ridiculous podcast.
RZ There you go.
RZ So somebody . . . released a hardware — what they essentially did was they built another piece of software that essentially mimicked all the IO that was happening between this piece of hardware —
RZ — and . . . I think it was 3D Studio Max, if I’m not mistaken.
PF Yeah I mean this is — thank you whoever the Germans were who did that [Rich laughs].
TM It sounds like the —
RZ Holy hell! That’s a hell of a —
TM The NSA Iranian centrifuge story. . . from Wired a couple of years ago.
RZ it’s kinda like that. I’m like, “Wait. Uh. That was the end of it. I can’t get through these — ” And then somebody figured it out and that’s impressive.
RZ Also . . . what’s the like 4K demoscene that —
PF Oh [stammers] the demoscene is actually is actually a great topic for the future.
RZ That’s another one for the future.
PF Let me hit pause for a sec. What people are hearing right now . . .
RZ Love. There’s just so much love right now.
PF That’s exactly it. Like . . . this is three people in the room like we spend a lot of time on this podcast talking about why you should engage Postlight for services, what it means, and what’s blah blah blah —
RZ You should still do that! Don’t get us wrong.
PF Oh without a doubt [laughter]. But the reason we’re in this room and this is all three of us . . . we actually all could’ve done other stuff. Tim, what was your undergrad?
PF Business. Tim is a very good entrepreneur. Rich was a lawyer. I was pretty successful as a writer. We could be doing other stuff. We freaking love software.
TM It’s because of that — that high that’s — can I sound corny for a minute?
PF Go! Absolutely!
TM I still ship a lot of software and it’s still the greatest high.
PF Ah it’s so good!
TM You have an idea, you wrote it on a whiteboard —
TM — with those squeaky markers [yeah] and then a couple of weeks later, it’s in production.
PF You start to see the shape of it, too. It’s when you see that skeleton and you’re like, “I’m not full of it, I get what’s going on here.” And then it starts to flesh out and —
RZ Oh it’s so good.
TM It’s all starting with Basic. We are of a particular age. I like Rich’s call because that was the transformative moment.
PF You got that moment —
TM You could talk to the computer.
PF You could feel the power. You’re like, “Wait a minute, this’ll just do — ” . . . I think what was nice about that era was that . . . it actually was very limited what you could do, you didn’t — you didn’t feel like —
TM Oh yeah it was constrained.
PF Yeah and it wasn’t like this sort of — you didn’t worry that you were gonna —
TM You couldn’t make a robot.
PF Yeah and it wasn’t like, “Hey, I’m gonna be the next Mark Zuckerberg.” It was like, “I can make — ”
TM “I can make this game!”
PF That’s right. Or, “I can do something that used to take a lot of time, I can do it in like a minute.”
TM “Hey, mom, come here and play this game.”
PF That’s right. “Look at this, I made — ”
RZ It’s crazy.
PF That’s the thing I used to draw crazy rectangles all over the screen and it was cool that I had control of the screen. And so yeah I mean it’s just love.
RZ It’s funny. The cycle’s funny, right? Like . . . it’s reached a point where it’s so transparent that we’ve ceded the control. So now I can’t get . . . a ten-year-old is not getting excited about gaining that control. They just have everything.
TM Watching YouTube.
RZ They have everything. It’s passive.
PF My kids have Chromebooks. And if you ever wanna see a six-year-old have a temper tantrum, just give them the interface to a Chromebook [laughter].
TM Alright a common interest of ours is music. Can we just have one quick speed round on music?
PF Ok. Let’s go.
RZ Music and software?
TM Yeah music and software.
RZ Fruity Loops [FL Studio]!
PF Ableton Live.
RZ Ooh. Soulseek.
PF Ooooooh [Tim chuckles].
RZ That’s a dark place [Tim laughs].
TM That was a Rich special.
PF I went next door to my neighbor when oink.cg shut down and was just like, “I’m going to jail now.” [Rich laughs] I didn’t understand what was going on. I’m like, “They’ve shut it down, they’re coming for me.” [Rich laughs] I thought the NYPD was gonna arrest me for downloading [laughter] like Chicago 17 [laughter].
RZ I had a — I had a shared FTP server with uh —
TM Of course you did.
RZ I don’t know who the person was. I think they were in Russia . . . We didn’t do anything. We didn’t talk to each other. I would go in every couple of days and there would be new stuff he put in.
PF Isn’t that great?
RZ And every so often I’d put stuff in there and nobody — we never spoke to each other.
TM What was your music archive called that I got a clone of or I had access to?
RZ The Juke.
TM The Juke. Thank you.
PF God! I love a good shared file system between friends [laughter]. I miss that in my life.
TM On my next visit we go through the worst works of software of all time.
RZ Oh! Great idea.
PF The greatest betrayal. That sounds wonderful.
RZ That sounds good.
PF Alright, um, you know what, Rich? Let’s, you and I, just get the hell outta here! And let Tim Meaney take us out [music fades in].
TM So I’m gonna — I’m gonna evoke a Paul and a Rich from this podcast.
RZ Uh oh.
TM Man do I love 101 5th Avenue. This building [snickering in background] is [Rich laughs] gorgeous and —
RZ That’s all Paul!
TM — this address is lovely.
RZ I don’t know why. You would think we were like a speakeasy.
TM And then Rich: Rich/Seinfeld. What’s up with — what’s up with burritos? I hate ‘em! They’re like wrapped up and you can just —
RZ Oh man [Paul lets out a whistle].
TM So, yes, if you wanna get in touch with Postlight and have them love you the way they love me —
RZ Mm hmm.
TM You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PF hello!!! @postllight.com.
TM [Laughing] email@example.com.
RZ See that made it — made it sound more human [Paul makes a sad trumpet sound] [laughter]. Thank y’all!
PF Bye, everybody. Thank you, Tim [music continues for six seconds, ramps up for four seconds, fades out to end].