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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Computers versus microwaves
by pixelmonkey on Tue 30th Nov 2004 02:09 UTC

Computers are different than microwaves in that a microwave does one thing, and only one thing, so manufacturers can make it do that thing well. Cars are more complex than microwaves, but they still are only meant to allow the user to drive between points.

Computers are meant to provide one thing to the user: computation. Chips are meant to execute instructions, and execute them well (indeed, with advances in pipelining, caches, etc. this has been the case). In this respect, computer hardware manufacturers follow the same principles as microwave/car manufacturers, except that computer manufacturers have seen a shitload more innovation in the last 2 or 3 decades than any other industry has in history.

Operating Systems designed for PC/Desktop use are supposed to abstract away the hardware and give the users some metaphors to work with (files, processes, etc.). More than that, OSes are supposed to make it easy for developers to work with the hardware at a high level, through device drivers, and to do privileged tasks through system calls. It's true that a lot of users would prefer a higher level of abstraction, but consider how high the abstractions have gotten! The raw hardware of a computer only needs to execute instructions, so the original computer users were programmers (punchcards and all)! Nowadays computer systems are used by artists, architects, newspaper editors, you name it. And they aren't just making popcorn or driving around town--they are making their livings in the world of computers! As Steve Jobs once said, computers are meant to be the bicycle of the _mind_, and indeed they have been in many respects. OSes do suck, you're right, but not because they don't provide enough abstraction. That's not the OS's job (see exokernels, etc. for what OSes should really be doing). It's the job of software developers in userspace to abstract away the computer, and indeed the trend has been in that direction. So don't worry, author, your day will come. It's a top priority for many developers to make computers "just work."