Real World Computing Experience

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Nov 292008

The Triumph of Wishful Thinking over Common Sense

The recent previews of the Microsoft Vista replacement with it’s unreliable “hands on” dragging experience ( are another reminder that desires aren’t always satisfied and that designers don’t always design what people actually want for their daily work.

PCPro Magazine have duplicated the recently banned Apple iPhone advert to show the machine working in the real world – not some advertising paradise.  See here:

The real world video shows the “amazing” window dragging and resizing to be crap. (the slow download speed is another issue for which they’ve rightly been slammed ). In a real office, be it graphics, CAD, code or clerical, no-one will ever get anything done on a system like that.  Apart from the obvious “un-stickiness”, there is no fine control over graphical elements.  To replicate what’s possible using a mouse or pen-tablet we’ll need fingers like a butterfly’s proboscis, not the current appendages we have!

So recent remarks about the imminent death of the mouse I see as very wide of the mark..  Fortunately, I’m not in a club of one; say here and here for instance!

Truly, it’s style and marketing before substance, a solution looking for a problem.

Oct 072008

Many moons ago, I read a short Sci-Fi story in a paperback book I’d bought called

Business as Usual, During Alterations by Ralph Williams

The book is a 1972 Pan edition of an earlier compilation by Damon Knight called “100 Years of Science Fiction” and is well worth a read if you can get a copy.  I’ve just re-read it.

Vintage Pye Turntable

Vintage Pye Turntable

Briefly, the story was written in the late fifties when the height of electronics sophistication was an auto-changing record player.  Ralph Williams sets the time slightly earlier and has aliens dropping a replication machine on Earth as a means to destabilise the economy of the world and thus make it easier to conquer.

Richard S Fuld - alien?

Richard S Fuld - alien?

(As an aside, maybe Richard S Fuld is an alien as he’s certainly made a good job of destabilising economies.  There’s far too much testosterone in his face for anyone’s good )

So far so good.  What happens next is an analysis of events where the machine can copy anything, even itself.  Cash is copyable and thus becomes valueless as do washing machines and ALL consumer goods.  Even art.

Visa Credit CardThe only thing of value is the original (copied) article.   Credit cards become the currency of commerce as the bank account can’t be copied as it’s a virtual mathematical entity  (so even if the credit card is copied, it’s still attached to the same account).  Society is assumed not to break down in the story, after the initial hiatus generated.

Here are a few links that mention the story that I’ve found:

The story has interesting parallels with our modern world where all creative works can now be easily copied by any skill-less person.  In that respect, it is a true future story as when it was written, there was no internet or anything remotely like it! Continue reading »

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