IUBio

molecular biology software

David Tinker dtinker at gpu.utcs.utoronto.ca
Mon Feb 18 21:27:36 EST 1991


In Article <1991Feb18.170310.2344 at gpu.utcs.utoronto.ca>,
lamoran at gpu.utcs.utoronto.ca (L.A. Moran) writes:

>> Brian R. Smith writes,
>>
>>     "Yes, there are platforms that do not (or cannot) support X.  I don't
>>      mean to sound snobbish, but I think they'll fall by the wayside.
>>    ....
>
> This opinion seems to be shared by Chris Dow who is also a fan of X-windows
>and UNIX. 
>
> I use PC's and Mac's. They are quite sufficient for all of my molecular
> biology needs so I find it quite puzzling to read comments such as those
> expressed on this newsgroup. Most of us do not need to manipulate complex
> structures in three dimensions - this is the only reason that I can think of
> to purchase an expensive workstation and software that is so complex that
> I would need to hire an expert just to run it.

Well you're both right!  First of all, the most common mistake of novices
in the computer world, as we all know, is failure to analyse requirements
before proceeding with implementation.  This applies to the purchase of
hardware/software as well as to writing programs.  As a person with some
reputation for knowledgeabity about micro-computers, I'm sometimes approached
for advice by students who intend to purchase a personal computer - it's
common to find they haven't really thought about what they plan to use it
for!  So Larry is correct in thinking about applications first, platform
second.

On the other hand ... there is technological advance:  while technology is
not an end in itself, it does have the effect of putting power in people's
hands.  There is a nice quote at the beginning of "MS-DOS Developer's
Guide" by Angermeyer et al (Sams, 1989):
   > He felt like somebody had taken the lid off life and let him look
   > at the works
   > ... Dashiell Hammett, "The Maltese Falcon"
Computers can do this.  I can do things with my PC-AT clone I wouldn't have
even thought of doing before they were available. But I just had a note from
my son who works in plant genetics and has just acquired a Sun SPARC station.
He notes that programs which took 10 minutes to run on an AT without a math
processor, run in 10 seconds on the Sun (these are BIG programs!).  It's
probably obvious which kind of desktop computer I'd prefer!  What now seems
fantastically remote and difficult will in the near future be considered a
routine tool.  Does anybody still use a TTY43?

-- 
! David O. Tinker / Department of Biochemistry  / University of Toronto /   !
! TORONTO, Ontario, Canada M5S 1A8 / Voice: (416) 978-3636 /                !
! UUCP: dtinker at gpu.utcs.utoronto.ca / BITNET: dtinker at vm.utcs.utoronto.ca  !
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