The “Don’t Care” Architecture

In the late 80’s, I was introduced to the “Don’t Care” Architecture by Sherman Woo, of what was then US West (now Qwest). The Internet existed but the World Wide Web didn’t. Sherman was spearheading something he called the “Global Village.” I don’t remember a lot of the specifics of it, although I do remember that the team room he set up in Denver was one of the most eclectic and creative places I’d ever seen (sort of anti-board room, no right angles, projectors, videos and white boards all over the place), wired to other US West locations. What really struck me was how he described his technology stack. At each point in the stack, from the lowest layer (Token Ring v. Ethernet? “Don’t Care”) to the higher layers (Macintosh v. Windows v. OS/2 v. X Windows? “Don’t Care”) He would just repeat that mantra. And the more things you don’t care about the more flexibility you have. It’s tempting and comforting to specify everything in your stack, but it’s empowering to not care.

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