Aaaaaaaaallllll you ever hear about computers from absolutely everybody any more is "I can't do it! It's too hard! We have to dumb down the interface!" But only on computers. The griping about computer user interfaces never ceases to gripe. And we're finally seeing somebody besides me fight back against the griping. This recent blog post over at LinuxTweaking bemoaning the further dumbing-down of Gnome is a good example. Here's a quote after my own heart:
"If anyone can't focus on getting their work done due to the presence of the window list showing what applications are minimized or are distracted by docks and applets, please do not operate any machinery.
A beeping noise or flashing light may break your focus or distract your attention. You know what, I am no longer going to drive with my SatNav."
And right there, a lightbulb went off and now I have yet another way to hate and despise the tech blogosphere: He's right, desktops really are held to impossible standards of "user-friendly" that that SatNav system is allowed to flaunt! And while we're at it...
Why is a "command line" on a microwave OK, but not on a computer?
Why are dashboard indicators OK on a car, but not on a computer?
Why is it OK to have three remotes with a total of 200 buttons just to watch TV, but if a computer interface has more than two steps to do anything, that's unacceptable?
Why is it OK to have stacks of cookbooks you have to read to learn to cook food, but if you tell somebody to read a computing manual, you have just declared World War 3?
And then the part that made the light bulb go off: I wondered how many people have that much of a problem using their phone.
You know, since I've adopted computers, I've seen phones come up in my time from a rotary dial with the spirally cord all the way to these sophisticated smartphones that do almost everything a standard computer does, plus it can make phone calls and take photos and offer GPS services and even use motion sensors to tell which way it's being held, and a bunch of other things the standard computer doesn't do. Think of all the added complexity, menus, icons, learning curve. Surely, the phones would have lost one or two users along the way by now, no?
And yet I never see somebody standing on a street corner with their smartphone screaming "CAN ANYBODY HELP ME I CANT IMPORT MY ADDRESS BOOK!" I don't see people accidentally forwarding messages to everybody on their contact list and then excusing themselves with "Oops LOL I don't know phones I can't phone LOL!" I never see anybody angrily banging on the tech support desk that their phone doesn't work because they forgot to turn it on. There's no IRC chats filled with newbs screaming "Can somebody show me how to change the calendar?!?!?!?" I never see people try to cram a POTS phone wire into a USB socket on their smartphone base and then act thunderstruck when it doesn't work.
When it comes to computers, I can show somebody for the hundredth time "It's an address bar, you just type h-t-t-p-colon-slash-slash... you don't have to google it every time." and they'll still wave their flippers like helpless Thalidomide babies going "Computers are soooooo haaaaaard!" and then a call comes in on their phone and
*- ZIP! -*
- they're thumbing all over the phone, their thumbs are blurring at the speed of light, icons, menus, download, upload, typing text with that hideous little onscreen keyboard. Every incompetent, computer-illiterate luser become Jason Bourne when they get on the phone, able to change their ringtone one-handed with the phone behind their head, able to record a video and upload it to YouTube with the phone under one leg and standing on tiptoe, able to dial home using only their nose while blindfolded, and hacking into Lockheed Martin typing with only their toes while balancing a chair on their chin and reciting Voltaire passages in French, and then they turn back to the computer and -
*- POOF! -*
Forest Gump - pointing and drolling "Now whut's this big square lit-up thang called ugain?"
You know why it is?
It's because they're called "phones".
Everybody's too embarrassed to admit that they don't know how to use a phone, so they MAKE SURE THEY KNOW HOW TO USE A PHONE. Being computer illiterate, however, is trendy and fashionable. It's considered cute in our society to giggle tee-hee-hee, "I'm a computer-dummy!" But to be a phone dummy? Now you're ostracized from society, handicapped, crippled, can't even get a job or a date!
It doesn't matter how complicated the interface on the phone is.
It doesn't matter how simple the interface on the computer is.
If we'd thought to name desktop computers something ending in "phone", they'd be teaching Assembly language in kindergarten by now. They'd make up a song to learn the logic gates right along with the alphabet.
I swear, that's all it is. That's all there has been to all of this flaming about interfaces since day one.
Which, really, I don't have a problem with the users. I have a problem with the developers who listen to the idiots and then change the computers so that they end up forcing the idiocy onto me, when I was perfectly happy to let a computer be a computer.
Let them go, developers! Let Joe Sixpack go! He's going away to the smartphone, and gooooooood riddance! Stop destroying our computers - we're the geeks, we're just like you, we're the real computer users, and you had us at hexadecimal.
The time of trying to make computers be toys is gone. Let computers compute once again.
UPDATE Same day, here's one more example of what I'm talking about with the latest flame-fest about how hard Linux is on the desktop. Do we see these complaints about Google Android (Linux) on the phone? Well, then...