Zen And The Art Of Software

The end of last month, Friday 30th November to be precise, saw the 24th birthday of a venerable piece of British software called BrainStorm, created by this blog’s very own David …

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11th December 2007 at 12:27 pm

The end of last month, Friday 30th November to be precise, saw the 24th birthday of a venerable piece of British software called BrainStorm, created by this blog’s very own David Tebbutt and first published in 1983.

Like the proverbial Zen master, despite its very advanced software years, BrainStorm continues to retain passionate devotees and inspire new converts.  And I’m struggling to think of any piece of software that is doing that 24 years after its first incarnation.

So what’s the secret of its success?  Well in my opinion it’s down to simplicity and clear thinking.  Rather appropriate for a program designed to ‘refine, enhance and organise’ your thoughts and your research online or offline. 

Its text-based, outliner-like interface is intuitive and easy to use, although not everyone’s cup of tea.  And its simplicity belies some of the more sophisticated and interesting connections the program makes automatically between the topics, ideas and lists you create.  Thanks to a nifty feature called ‘magic paste’ you can pull in content from web pages in a couple of key strokes which also makes it a very useful research management tool.  Oh, and it’s Windows only, so sorry Mac fans.

Take a look at this short demo to get an idea of BrainStorm in action.

For many years the art of simplicity in software has been replaced with ‘feature creep’ and ‘bloatware’.  Of course, David’s software was necessarily sleek because it was coded on computers that had less memory than your average toaster today, but it retains its svelte design.

And it seems that svelte is back.  Love it or loathe it Twitter is blogging without the verbosity.  Google Docs or Open Office are light and refreshing alternatives to the abundance and redundancy of choice in more complicated packages. 

Perhaps we’re moving into a new age of software development, inspired by the necessary virtues of the past.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the renaissance of simplicity.

In the meantime, a belated happy Birthday to BrainStorm!

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Alex is the founder and editor of SmallBizPod, the UK's first podcast dedicated to small business, start-ups and entrepreneurship. Alex writes about topical small business issues, entrepreneurs and anything else that catches his eye here on the small business blog. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk

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  1. This very non-svelte Tebbo thanks you for the mention. And adds, “It was just a case of waiting for svelte to become fashionable again.”

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