Linked by Scott Cabana on Thu 2nd Dec 2004 20:18 UTC
Editorial A couple of days ago, I read an interesting article by Kevin Kostis about how complex computer systems are and how they have a long way to go. I have to partly agree with his assessment, however a lot of folks don't take the time to learn about there own investment.
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all talk no solution
by Kevin A Kunreuther on Sat 4th Dec 2004 15:58 UTC

This opinion of Mr Cabana's is nothing more than blowing off steam and exasperation with bad metaphors and it makes terribly bad assumptions and generalisations. You offer no useful solution or easy multi-point plan for those to follow to correct the situation that is annoying you. It's wonderful that your dad was capable of many things and that is very commendable but even back in his day, he WAS the exception, not the rule.
Personal computers ARE very geeky things. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak envisioned that microprocessor PCs shouldn't be hard to use alien objects confined to use by hobbyists, enthusiasts, et alia, but should be easy to use appliances central to every family's lives. This idea has proved to be abhorrent to some geeks in the community, i.e. about PCs as easy to use consumer products. Ease of use led to the popularity and ubiquitnous of the GUI. Steve Jobs ultimate plan for the PC was to be an easy to use media center for the home(witness iPhoto, iTunes, iPod); Joe Consumer should not have to worry about opening up the guts of the hardware and tinker with the machine nor learn arcane command line operations. Just push a button or two, read a menu, choose some options and get on with your life.
The people Mr Cabana seems to have trouble used to be referred to as people who have no business going near a computer or any appliance. Their problem is not laziness but fear. The culture bullied them into thinking they needed a computer, so they get one, and it's as mysterious to operate as that VCR was twenty five years ago. If they have to call a geek line to tell them how to plug in a kettle, sobeit, it's a nice contribution to the economy, hooray.
I think you went the wrong way with the car analogy, so let me offer a partial or first step solution, using the auto analogy once again. Before one purchases or uses a car, you have to have some knowledge how to operate the vehicle. You take classes, you learn from a family member or friend, etcetera. After learning the rules of the road and howto simple maintenance, you eventually opt to purchase a vehicle, hopefully read the manual in the glove compartment and you're on your way.
SO it should be instilled in our culture with computers, though it looks like it has already been going on for quite some time in our schools with young people. In fact I'm willing to bet that in fifteen years time, operating a computer will be as natural and unthinking for the majority of people in the world as operating a car or portable music device. Actually it will probably be a heckuva lot easier to use and maintain. By that time people will not have to "go under the hood" of computers and related devices because they will be self maintaining or something close to self maintenance. Operation commands will be simple input or verbal. The whole process will be invisible to the consumer.
For the here and now, there should be an add on that salepeople should gently sugggest, a short course in operating a PC and its attending OS and other software to prospects who have little or no experience with these machines. Microcenter stores are well known for this service.
Hobbyists, techies, hackers, et alia, will always be opening up the hood, figuring out how things work and tinkering with things for the sheer love. For the rest of the population, it will always be about ease of use and not thinking about mainteneance. Abhorrent? The idea has been slowly assimulated into our culture. People are already being trained to think (or not think?)about the day you won't have to replace batteries (don't worry about Radio Shack losing it's main add on business, they will concentrate on selling services like Big Blue, just on a ground hugging consumer level).