Bob Dubner
(Super Imperial Member)
12/25/17 02:40 PM
TapCIS R.I.P.

For those of you who are eagerly awaiting the next iteration of my TapCIS-
like user interface for SIG-III, I have a progress report:

I have been successful in writing C++ code that logs into the forum,
using the per-session challenge/response MD5 hash of the user's password. I
am parsing the forums page, I am downloading lists of forums, I am
downloading lists of topics, and from there I am downloading the contents of
messages. I am all set to start refining my GUI program to display those
messages...

....and I am going to hang it up.

Last night I became aware of Mike Overly's implementation of the "New Since
Last Visit". That, by itself, does much of what TapCIS does for a user.

With the demise of the threaded messaging model, and the rise instead of the
Topics model where new messages get added onto the end of an ever-growing
chain, with quoting -- or commenting -- the preferred method of referring to
a prior message, much of the remaining utility of TapCIS becomes moot.

Having noticed that, I took a step back and looked at what I was trying to do.

Back in 2004, when we shifted from SIG-I to SIG-II, a lot of our members were
using TapCIS. I believe my technical stunt of making TapCIS work with the
relatively clumsy Web interface, when many of us didn't want to use the new
interface, was instrumental in maintaining AVSIG continuity. I have always
suspected that a lot more people would have drifted away, otherwise.

Thirteen years later, the situation is very different. As far as I know,
there are three people still using TapCIS, with one additional frustrated
user who gave it up when she transitioned to Windows 10. The average
birthdate of the four of us is just a few months after Hitler invaded Poland,
and more than a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

TapCIS [unchanged since 1999] is a 16-bit DOS [obsolete] program that these
days can only run on Windows XP [obsolete] which these days has to be
virtualized under Windows 7 [end of life in 2020]. My TapLink program is
only barely useful because XP invokes Internet Explorer 6 [obsolete].

TapCIS was developed by Howard Benner [deceased] and taken over by Rick
Wilkes [now a life coach] to interface to Compuserve [defunct] and save users
money by minimizing connect time [obsolete business model]. The messages on
Compuserve were pure ASCII [superceded].

In short, the success of TapCIS was for two reasons: It saved users money,
and it worked better than a teletype [museum piece].

The world has changed more than I can keep up with. SIG-II, because of the
primitive nature of UBB and because Overly kept his foot on the progress
brake, has also been largely text based, which meant I could mostly goose
messages into a format that TapCIS could handle. Now? I have quickly
surveyed SIG-III. About half of the messages have content that I can't show
a user using just text.

Remember the Electric Pencil, and WordPerfect, and WordStar? All gone,
because WYSISYG GUI interfaces work better for casual word processing.

So, to be really useful, I'd basically have to create something that was
essentially a Web browser. And, frankly, Microsoft, Google, and Firefox all
have a head start on me.

Yes, I could produce something more efficient by downloading the messages
before you look at them. But so what? TapCIS was written when a 9600 baud
[a still useful, but quaint, notation] connection cost $19.95 per hour.

Now? Sure, a 20-character message has 7,200 bytes of overhead (no
exaggeration). At 9600 baud, that 20-byte message took 20 milliseconds to
download. But with a 1 megabit broadband connection, that 7,200 bytes takes
just 70 milliseconds to download -- and most of us have connections that are
even faster than 1mb.

So, I am going to cease development activity. It makes about as much sense
for me to develop an ASCII-ish off-line interface to SIG-III as it would to
try to power an automobile with a Newcomen [never mind] steam engine. TapCIS
solves problems that simply don't exist any more.

So, thirty-six years since inception, and eighteen years since the last
update, which may both be records, it's time to pull the plug and let TapCIS
pass away with dignity.

To my loyal users, thank you so much for the implicit approval of my
efforts. It's been quite the run.



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