Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Inconsistency of Technology

We keep having troubles pop up with computers around the library. This is to be expected, but it still is a massive pain to have to constantly be dealing with things that no longer work, or at least don't work as they used to. This is a problem I sometimes have with innovation. You can innovate so quickly and so drastically that--even though the final product you end up with is great--it's a pain to users to actually use.

These days, updates to programs are coming faster and faster. For years, Windows XP was the standard operating system for PCs. Now Windows 7 is taking over, and from a tech support perspective, that can be a real pain. Not only do you have to learn the new ins and outs of the operating system (while not forgetting how to support the now dated one), but you've got to find software solutions to problems you never had before. You'd been using XP for so long, it was like a nice comfy pair of shoes. You knew what to do, how to do it, and when. With the new OS, you've got to find new approaches to a lot of tasks that hadn't troubled you for years.

As I think on this, I believe some of the problem might have to do with the fact that the software is all virtual. You can change the control scheme without changing anything. I'm reminded of the switch from Office 2003 to Office 2007, when the Ribbon was introduced. Imagine the same sort of thing happening to cars. The gas pedal and the brake are suddenly in different places. The steering wheel is operated by your knees, and the radio has been replaced by a television. (Taking some ideas at random.)

The designers might have done a ton of research. They might have designed an even more efficient way to drive. but at the same time they've alienated all the current drivers out there. Everyone has to relearn how to drive. It really can feel that disorienting (at least to me--maybe I'm alone?)

Or what if the update made it so that cars don't work at all anymore, and now you're forced to choose between a bike and a Segway?

I don't know. What I do know is that technology makes a lot of things much simpler, but it can also make many things more complicated, even if it doesn't seem like they should be any more complex.

I just hope the end result is a net gain in time for us, right?

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