Linked by Kostis Kapelonis on Mon 29th Nov 2004 18:55 UTC
Editorial The IT sector today is a complete mess. The end-users rarely understand this, but most insiders reach a point when they realize that things should be different. The problems are numerous but they all reduce to a basic principle. IT and consumer electronics companies are interested more about money than helping people solve their problems. Of course companies need to make a profit and nobody denies that. They should however make money by helping people and not by creating more problems for them.
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Regarding High Level Computing
by Michael Wassil on Mon 29th Nov 2004 21:55 UTC

While the author brings up numerous valid points I also agree with other respondants who point out that the computer is multi-task device which of necessity requires more complexity than an single task device such as an automobile or microwave.

Back in 1980 you could buy a word processor which basically was a glorified typewriter. It was fairly easy to learn how to use that device and you could edit and correct your spelling mistakes before printing what was basically typewriter output. Current wordprocessing software allows you to do much more with formatting, to the point that you can actually typeset your document before printing it.

But of course, having more capability necessitates more complexity. You have to make decisions about what type of formatting, type faces, margins, gutters, etc before you print the document. You could, of course, create "style" sheets that load all this information automatically, but you still have to create the style sheets beforehand. And even if the software could do this for you, you'd still have to make the choice of which pre-configured template you want to use. And, of course, the computer can do many other things in addition to this!

Yes, there are many "housekeeping" tasks that could be automated and require little if any user input: defragging is a good example; autobackup is another, both of working files and the entire file system. I think we are moving in the right direction and I don't think software and hardware companies are purposely making things harder for users just to make an extra buck.

Just a couple of quick examples from my own experience. My wife and dad are both typical non-technical users. My wife has digital camera and makes hundreds of photos which she sends to her family friends via email. She uses a SuSE 9.0 system which permits her simply to plug-in the camera via USB. A camera icon appears on the desktop and she simply copies the photos to her harddrive. She then attaches them to her web-based emails. She has learned to do these things relatively painlessly and seldom has any problems. She has even learned how to resize and rotate photos in GIMP (no small task!).

My dad uses an XP system and was continually complaining about the popup ads while using IE. Even though he has only a dial up connection, his computer also got infected multiple times by viruses and spyware. This required more than one trip to the local shop to have his system cleaned and restored. Finally, at my prompting, he downloaded and installed Firefox. Now he browses realively safely and sans popups. He is contemplating a second computer purchase and says he may try installing Linux on one of the two!

Both my wife and my dad need help using their computers for stuff they are not yet familiar with, but they both learn because they want to do things on their own. Yes, many things are more difficult than they could be, and many things are just too difficult. But nothing is impossible.

If we had a dedicated computer for every task we would want a computer to perform, yes each computer would probably be a lot simpler to use. But then we'd have to learn how to use many different computers, each one requiring different input from us. So I don't think that is the way to go. As I said, I think computer-user interface is moving towards much better interaction. It's not easy enough yet, but it will get easier over time. I don't think it will ever be totally trivial, however, Star Trek fantasies notwithstanding.