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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Built to last

The other day Michael Tsai pointed out that numerous Mac apps and developers are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, most notably BBEdit, PCalc, and the Omni Group. (Default Folder’s also been around 29 years, and the Omni Group for 25.)

(Five years ago I wrote this anniversary piece about BBEdit.)

I started writing about Apple 24 years ago, so these apps all have a leg up on me. Still, I clearly remember discovering and using Default Folder in 1991, and I was not very far into my career in tech before someone (probably Stephan Somogyi) sat me down and explained that I needed to use BBEdit whenever possible. I reviewed DragThing, James Thomson’s app that is not a calculator, circa 1995.

Older people like to accuse the modern world of being disposable, as opposed to back in the past, when things were built to last. But most of the software from the 90s is long gone. Surviving this long is extremely rare. It takes a bunch of factors to last as a product. The product has got to be good, it’s got to be financially successful, and then… well, then it’s all about the secret sauce. Some combination of persistence, perseverance, stability, doggedness, stubbornness, and adaptability allows a few hardy souls to survive.

Most of these long-lived pieces of software are inextricably linked with their creators. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Creating, growing, and maintaining software requires a personal commitment—like the ones Rich Siegel, James Thomson, and Jon Gotow have made to BBEdit, PCalc, and Default Folder respectively.

Selfishly, I hope their careers and commitment to their products continue for a long, long time—specifically, as long as I’m using their software! I want Rich to have a happy and long retirement someday—but only when I’m finished using BBEdit, and not a moment sooner.

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