Sandberg-Diment’s 1983 ThinkTank review

Last week I was telling the story of how the NY Times played a big role in getting my first company, Living Videotext, off the ground. It was 1983, and I had just shipped the Apple II version of ThinkTank, a product that’s actually a lot like Fargo. I was having trouble getting anyone to look at it. I was pestering Erik Sandberg-Diment at the Times because I was reading his software column, then a very new thing for such a mainstream publication. I felt he’d get the idea, because he approached software from a non-traditional point of view. He was the kind of person I had made ThinkTank for. I could just feel it.

His review came out at almost the exact moment I was giving up, and getting ready to look for a real job. I looked up the review today, it’s in the Times archive, and read it again, 31 years later. The computer industry still doesn’t understand outlining software, and Erik’s review still cuts through all that, especially the last paragraph:

It was after running the tutorial that I came upon what may be one of the best uses of all for Think Tank, and it’s not any of the myriad organizational tasks stressed by the program’s producers. Rather, it’s simply putting people at ease using a personal computer for something besides games. Think Tank is so easy to use, and so relatively errorproof, that even a first-timer feels as if he’s in charge of the computer, instead of the other way around. And being in charge of the computer is what enables you to do with it things you may never have thought of doing before.



About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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