The problem with the IT industry is that we're drug-testing all the wrong people.

Isn't It Time We Forked the Concept of a Computer?

Date/Time Permalink: 09/02/07 04:10:29 am
Category: General

You know what we have here, with all the fighting we see over what Linux should be and how it should work? We have two completely different kinds of user - yet we insist on sticking both of them on the same device and expecting both of them to be happy.

The first kind is the "basic" user. They don't know anything about computers and are against the idea of learning. They want a computer that's more like a TV set. They can sum the total number of tasks they want their computer to do on one hand:

  • Surf the web.
  • Send/receive email.
  • Play games.
  • Play multimedia video and audio
  • Maybe write a simple office memo.

For the sake of egotistically referring to a previously failed post of mine, titled "Stealth Bombers are more difficult to operate than Tricycles BECAUSE THEY CAN FLY!", let us call them "tricycle users".

Then there are the people who want to use a computer for... well... computing. These are the "advanced" users. They like the geekier aspects of the machine. Rather than passively surf, they'd sooner build web pages. Or it might be their job to administer an email server. They're definitely the ones writing the games and only sometimes playing them. Office memos are probably the only things they haven't written. They are the creators, the tinkers, the thinkers, the builders. These, to complete my clumsy analogy, would be the "stealth bomber users".

Each kind deserves to have what they want to be happy. Although I'm a stealth bomber, I can see it from the tricycles' point of view. In fact, that's my starry-eyed dream: combine the old WebTV with a gaming console (Wii, PS3, XBox, etc.) and hand it to Joe Sixpack. Here, Joe. You will never have to talk to a geek again as long as you live. Let it be proprietary, closed-up, impossible to get any work done on, because Joe doesn't want to do any work, dammit. Joe wants an interactive TV set. We don't insist TV sets and game consoles be open source, do we?

I had high hopes for cell phones, but they aren't filling the need.

Ditto gaming consoles. My heart leaped when I heard last year's generation game systems would have web browsers built in, but then I heard it would only be connecting to the game platform's website/marketplace. Bah! Give it full Internet capability and a 39-key keyboard (26 letters, 10 digits, 1 space, 1 shift, and 1 line break).

Well, O Almighty Entrepreneurs of Capitalism, what's the hold-up? The tricycles and bombers are getting sick and tired of each other! The bombers hate the tricycles for wanting to turn their tool into a toy, and the tricycles hate the bombers for trying to turn their toy into a tool. Our world needs both toys and tools.

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Update: Just now a question posted on Slashdot, asking what the best browsing option is for residents of a retirement home - focused on being easier for the sysadmin and having less for the users to mess up. Sure enough, somebody recommended the Nintendo Wii. I'll have to take a closer look at it. I didn't know you could just go on the general Internet with it.

Please, God, yes! We need something of that sort - games and web surfing, no fuss. Here's your web-entertainment center; go have fun and let the rest of us hack in peace.

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