For the past three months, my desktop monitor has been a shiny new Seiki 39″ 4K television. That’s right, 39 inches of glorious pixels, 3840×2160 of them to be exact. It works beautifully, and was worth every penny. Serious programmers who want to look at a lot of code at once, I welcome you to do your own research on 4K TVs and monitors and consider one for yourself.

Seiki SE39UY04

However, that is not what this post is really about, because life wasn’t always so easy.

This is where the Christmas story comes in: 8th grade. One of the most memorable Christmases of my life, because this was the Christmas when I got my first computer: a Commodore VIC-20. Hooked up to a TV, it produced a 176×184 pixel display, good for 22 rows by 23 columns of text. But, sadly, it did not start out that way. We had difficulties right out of the box getting the TV synced up, so there was no display at all. Did this stop this budding programmer to be? Heck no. I started typing in my first Commodore Basic program in the blind. Now, let’s not get into the details about how well that program turned out, but suffice it to say, that as far as computer monitor resolution goes, I started at zero.

The VIC-20That’s not me… my screen was blank.

Years later, the VIC-20 would be replaced with a C64, and my pixels nearly doubled. I now had 320×200, and 40 columns of text. They again doubled when I graduated to an Amiga 500 in college and found myself staring at a flickering interlace display of 640×400 pixels. I could see 80 columns of text!

My first taste of wide-column programming was the VT-100 terminal in the college computer lab which I could set to 132-columns. By the way, this annoyed other students who didn’t know how to change the display mode settings and also did not enjoy squinting as much as I did. I should take this opportunity to apologize to those guys, writing Pascal on a VAX 11/780 had enough pitfalls for a college freshman — I shouldn’t have made it worse for them. Another interesting side-note is that the Slick-C command record_macro_end_execute_key() which you might find assigned to Ctrl+Shift+F1–F10 was inspired by the macro recording features of the Eve editor on the VAX.

Terminally beautiful.

In graduate school, I was exposed to Sun workstations with 19 inch CRT monitors that were about the size of a mini-fridge and consumed about as much energy as a Nissan Leaf at a tractor pull. 1152×900 pixels of delightful X-windows wonder. I eventually would trade my Amiga 2000 for a Sun 3 of my own, which became my home computer for quite some time. These were the salad days of C and C++ programming with the VI editor.

Sun 3/60 (pizza box)

When I joined SlickEdit, I moved to Windows as my primary machine and eventually graduated to a machine with a 19 inch 1600×1200 CRT monitor that kept my desk firmly pinned to the floor. This served me well, until the day that SlickEdit started getting daily complaints about how list-members in SlickEdit 4.0 did not work correctly with a multi-monitor setup on Windows. Apparently, the list was coming up on the wrong monitor, and this would just not do. Happy with my one big monitor, I felt like these people were just being silly using two smaller monitors to get about the same amount of resolution, but I begrudgingly set up a dual-monitor configuration on my machine and proceeded to fix the display bugs. What I did not expect was that I would fall in love with having multiple monitors. It allowed me to work faster and keep track of more things at once. I thought I would never go back to a single monitor.

When 17-inch 1280×1024 resolution LCD monitors dropped below the $100 price point, I soon I had four monitors on my desk. This was the most pixels I’d ever had in front of me, but it was not enough, because they were too narrow for DiffZilla. I would eventually replace two of the LCDs with 21-inch HD monitors, one in vertical orientation and one in landscape for DiffZilla.

Where are they now?

All those machines and all those monitors are gone now, dust in the winds of change. 4K is the current zenith of display technology. A lot of people are already using dual 4K monitors, and Apple is shipping 5k retina displays. I look forward to seeing 50 inch curved 8k displays in the future.

The advancements made in computing hardware are normally broken down by speed, memory, storage, hardware size, and cost. Often the advancements made in display and input technology are forgotten. Compare the computer I sit behind today to that VIC-20.

  • CPU — 2.8 GHz vs 1 Mhz — even simplistically measured, thousands of times faster
  • Memory — 8G vs 5k — over a million times more
  • Storage — 1 terabyte vs a 170k floppy — more than 5 million times more
  • Size — actually, about the same
  • Cost — $500 notebook + $339 4K TV vs $199 VIC-20 + cheap TV — adjusted for inflation, a lot less expensive.
  • Display — 39 inch 4K TV vs 13 inch color TV (176×184 pixels) — over 256 times more pixels.

I could tile 252 VIC-20 screens on my current display. That’s a whole screen for every other character the on the VIC-20.

I concede that the gains in the other areas are somewhat more dramatic. But, when you are a programmer, what tends to matter the most to you is how many lines of code you can look at at once, and more importantly, with what degree of comfort you can absorb and navigate through the code. My personal opinion is that 4k has both improved my productivity and allowed me to award myself with a slightly larger font to cut down on eye strain. Given the current bargain prices (less than $400), it was more than worth it.


I wanted to keep you up to date on whats going on with SlickEdit.

In October of 2012, Uniloc USA, Inc. filed a lawsuit against SlickEdit, Inc., alleging patent infringement (U.S. patent 5,579,222) concerning a license management system.

Uniloc USA, Inc. is a patent-assertion entity or “patent troll,” i.e. a company whose sole business is to sue software companies including Adobe, Microsoft, Sony, and Symantec. It has sued more than a dozen companies over this patent.

In an unusual turn of events, after more than a year of litigation Uniloc USA, Inc. asked the Court to dismiss its own lawsuit against SlickEdit, Inc.  This came a week after the court held a three-hour Markman hearing on February 13, 2014 in which SlickEdit argued that Uniloc’s patent covered far less than what Uniloc was claiming.

Make no mistake, this is a BIG win for SlickEdit in what amounts to be a David vs. Goliath scenario.

Patent infringement suits are considered extremely costly to defend against. Even in cases like this where there is no infringement, small companies are often forced to settle due to the astronomical legal fees associated with patent cases.

I knew SlickEdit did not infringe. I hired a great attorney and worked closely with him. We were able to put together a solid case and ultimately saved the company a lot of money.

I interviewed nine different patent attorneys at nine different firms and easily chose Tim Shannon of Verrill Dana, LLP.  Tim and his team mastered the patent, mastered our product inside and out, and led a claim construction argument that literally threatened to derail Uniloc’s entire national campaign. Tim never let up and got us a great result. I highly recommend his service.

Glad to be done with this mess. Now I can continue to have a blast working on the product!

Clark, CEO

In observance of Election Day, we had planned to do a mock presidential debate between two competing technologies. Think Lloyd Bentsen debating Dan Quayle in the late 80s.

Moderator: The question back to you, Hg. What qualifies you to be the version control system of choice?
Mercurial: My implementation of distributed repositories is well regarded, and third party tool support is coming along nicely. If you look at my operating system support, you’ll see I support as many platforms as CVS did.
Subversion: Hg, I was born from CVS. My command syntax closely reflects that of CVS. I know CVS well as we have served side-by-side in datacenters across the globe. You sir are no CVS!

Or perhaps the classic Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter exchange

Java: Garbage collection, memory management, no pointers. These are the issues important to developers that compiled languages are typically against.
Moderator: C++?
C++: There you go again…

So as you can seen, politics and software technologies don’t really mix all that well. In fact, the results can be disastrous. We experimented with running a sophisticated source code indexing algorithm against internet-hosted code repositories. The indexing daemon was inadvertently pointed at site hosting political quotes. Behold the train wreck that ensued.









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