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A choice between skill and luck? Choose luck

A reader says luck goes a long way in creating the winners and losers in the technology landscape.

In response to the Sept. 13 Perspectives column by Charles Cooper, "Ctrl-Alt-Delete: Is this it?":

I was a graduate student in information systems at Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., between 1974 and 1975, when "shipmate" Gary Kildall was instructing Computer Science there. So I can attest that he was a more skilled engineer than he was a lucky marketer.

The experience taught me that the world of desktop computing was molded more by chance than skill. I've learned that when Ms. Chance gives you a choice between luck and skill, always chose luck.

Would Harvard dropout Bill Gates have gone down in technology history as just another code-banging, awkward-looking software entrepreneur if Gary Kildall, Ph.D., had not blown his chance to supply IBM with their first PC operating system?


I confess that I am a "fallen" Apple-Macintosh "true believer." So, I know the Woz-ster's Apple-Mac OS rules as the best "collegial partnership between man and machine" to date. But as you, I, Steve Wozniak and the spirit of Gary Kildall all know: "techno-man does not live by engineering alone, but by all that marketing can promise the customer-client." We hope, that with luck, engineering can deliver just a few weeks, months or years behind schedule.

Gates knew and executed what Kildall did not--price sells. Whether it's $60 for a "buggy" MS-DOS versus $240 for a "mo-betta" DRI-CP/M; or a "free" Internet Explorer versus a $50 Netscape browser. As they say, "The rest is techno-history."

This is the "vision" of visionary Gates and Microsoft. Like you, and all Netizens who have been irradiated by blue screens of death since the 1980s, I continue struggling to get my state-of-the-art PC to heel. Ctrl-Alt-Delete may not be "as good as it gets," but we all continue to use PC Windows "ungainly attempt at human-computer symbiosis" because the "Gate(s)keeper" to cyberspace is Emperor Bill.

Joseph Poliakon
Satellite Beach, Fla.