Channels ▼

Andrew Koenig

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

The C-word

August 21, 2008

I've written a few notes before about my musical excursions, and will do so again.  Today, however, I want to highlight a particular aspect of system design, namely compatibility (or the lack thereof).

I seem to remember that when Windows 2000 came out, Microsoft went through a tremendous effort to ensure that as many hardware device as possible that worked under Windows 95 and Windows 98 would also work under Windows 2000.  When Windows XP came out, many device drivers that had worked under Windows 2000 continued to work under Windows XP.

The same cannot be said of Windows Vista.  For example, I have a synthesizer on my desk that does not work with Vista, period.  The manufacturer said that they behan work in January on a Vista driver for it, but here it is nearing the end of August, and that driver still has not been released.

Why is this compatibility problem so hard to solve?  In other words, why isn't there an abstraction layer between the operating system and its device drivers that can remain upward compatible even when the operating system changes?  I can understand realizing once that such a layer is needed, but twice?

 As I type this, my film scanner is busily scanning negatives from a trip I took in 1992.  I have pictures going back as far as the mid 1960s that I have no trouble scanning with that scanner.  In other words, images that I took before digital photograph even existed are nevertheless completely usable in the digital domain.  I think there's a lesson there.

Related Reading

More Insights

Currently we allow the following HTML tags in comments:

Single tags

These tags can be used alone and don't need an ending tag.

<br> Defines a single line break

<hr> Defines a horizontal line

Matching tags

These require an ending tag - e.g. <i>italic text</i>

<a> Defines an anchor

<b> Defines bold text

<big> Defines big text

<blockquote> Defines a long quotation

<caption> Defines a table caption

<cite> Defines a citation

<code> Defines computer code text

<em> Defines emphasized text

<fieldset> Defines a border around elements in a form

<h1> This is heading 1

<h2> This is heading 2

<h3> This is heading 3

<h4> This is heading 4

<h5> This is heading 5

<h6> This is heading 6

<i> Defines italic text

<p> Defines a paragraph

<pre> Defines preformatted text

<q> Defines a short quotation

<samp> Defines sample computer code text

<small> Defines small text

<span> Defines a section in a document

<s> Defines strikethrough text

<strike> Defines strikethrough text

<strong> Defines strong text

<sub> Defines subscripted text

<sup> Defines superscripted text

<u> Defines underlined text

Dr. Dobb's encourages readers to engage in spirited, healthy debate, including taking us to task. However, Dr. Dobb's moderates all comments posted to our site, and reserves the right to modify or remove any content that it determines to be derogatory, offensive, inflammatory, vulgar, irrelevant/off-topic, racist or obvious marketing or spam. Dr. Dobb's further reserves the right to disable the profile of any commenter participating in said activities.

Disqus Tips To upload an avatar photo, first complete your Disqus profile. | View the list of supported HTML tags you can use to style comments. | Please read our commenting policy.