Hold on, I know this "old guy"…

Last week, I'd noticed headlines about a California appeals court reinstating an age discrimination suit brought by a "Google manager".  I sort-of ignored it, because I thought it didn't affect me in any meaningful way.  Then this morning, I ran into Lauren Weinstein's post about this and realized that the "old guy" was Brian Reid.

Hold on, I KNOW Brian Reid (or to be more specific, I know of him - he was a grad student at Carnegie-Mellon and had left the university shortly before I arrived there in 1980 (to my knowledge, we've never met)).  Brian's PhD thesis was based on a text processing program he wrote called "Scribe" which was the a major text processing system used at Carnegie-Mellon (it has since been supplanted by TeX).  Brian had left Carnegie-Mellon to form a company "Unilogic" whose purpose was to turn Brian's work on Scribe into a product (the first product I've encountered that was copy protected).  The Wikipedia entry for Scribe has some details on the program and some of the controversy surrounding it[1]. 

I still use "scribe-ism's" in my email - instead of saying <flame>(whatever)</flame>, I often write @flame(on)(whatever)@flame(off).


The thing is, I consider Brian Reid (and others who were at Carnegie-Mellon at more-or-less the same time as I was) as contemporaries - I don't think of Brian as an "old guy" (even though he's almost 10 years older than I am).  Heck, most of the people I hang out with outside of work are in their early 50s.

And that, in turn makes me feel old :).


[1]Carnegie-Mellon was given a license to the Scribe program due to the fact that the work was originally authored at Carnegie-Mellon, I remember at one point when the license to Scribe on one of the undergraduate computers expired (likely because of the suit mentioned on Dave Touretzky's site here).  It was NOT a fun (and may be a part of the reason why I have such a problem with subscription based software).

Comments (11)

  1. Kevin Daly says:

    We’re only considered old (I’m 46 and dealing with the joys of ageism in the job market) because society has been infantilised.

  2. Shawn says:


    And yet the majority of management jobs are by people who are in their mid to late 30’s no?

  3. But some of us aren’t in management (been there, done that, wasn’t interested).  

    I’m very fortunate that even though I’m the oldest person in my group, I don’t get the "you’re too old to get this, grandpa" vibe.

    On the other hand, the median age in my group is in the mid 30’s :).

  4. Norman Diamond says:

    Oh, then it wasn’t the same Brian Reid whose name I would recognize.

    > But some of us aren’t in management (been there, done that,

    > wasn’t interested).

    Yeah, no kidding.  And not only do managers fail to understand the kind of work we do, they can’t believe (or can’t understand) that we’re well suited to our work and not well suited to being a suit.

    By the way, what’s the nonsense about fair use.  DMCA doesn’t prevent anyone from making and distributing unauthorized copies — ordinary copyright law determines whether that combination of three factors is legal (fair use) or illegal (usually).  DMCA makes it illegal to view your own legally purchased copy.  I still want, sometime, to take the old dead-tree micrographically printed Oxford dictionary, together with a magnifying glass different from the one that was sold (authorized) with the printed volumes, to a US police station and get myself arrested for violating the DMCA.

  5. ericduran@hotmail.com says:

    I don’t know why this strikes you as a surprise, considering that even you own blog’s tag line clearly states that you are an "old fogey".

    Heck, he is ~10 years older than you, that should make you instantly put the "old" tag on him.  😛

    In all seriousness, this reflects how we (society?, media?) make age (or aging) a relative concept.

  6. JamesNT says:

    Larry Osterman: "It was NOT a fun (and may be a part of the reason why I have such a problem with subscription based software)."

    Yeah, I think licensing 6.0 sucks, too.


  7. JamesNT: As far as I know, the software licenses you get with Licensing 6.0 don’t expire – if you decide that licensing 6.0 isn’t in your best interest, your software shouldn’t stop working.

    Licensing 6.0 is just a mechanism to allow customers to subscribe to future releases of a product – it essentially allows them to amortize their purchases over time.  But I can’t find any evidence that the software that is licensed unde Licensing 6.0 expires if you don’t renew the licensing terms.

  8. JamesNT says:


    In that case it sounds like I need revisit licensing 6.0.

    One thing is for certain, the media had a blast with it.

    Thank you, Mr. Osterman, for all you do.  


  9. JamesNT: It’s possible that I’m wrong – I’m not a licensing person.  But the little I read up on licensing 6.0 made it sound like it is essentially an annuity – you paid less each year than the retail price, but were guaranteed the newest version when it cae out.

    Over time, the cost would be less than it would be if you had purchased the product new each release.  On the other hand, it only has value if Microsoft produces new products on a regular schedule.

  10. JamesNT says:


    Regardless, I trust you considerably more than I do the pure crap that is over at ZDNet (with the fine exception of John Carroll).  Therefore, it is still worth my time to take a second look.  Have no fear, your significant reputation is safe regardless of outcome (translation: as long as Raymond Chen, my programming God, vouches for you, you have a "get-out-of-jail-free" card).


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