Computers and the Model T.

Computers and the Model T. Tim Bray writes on whether publishing tools are too hard to use. You should read the posting. A comment on the question he poses near the end, which is, should an expert user of a tool (e.g. an airline pilot or a professional baseball player) be an expert at building the tool?

Tim's conclusion is, I think, in general, No. But then he makes an exception for computers because they are 'general purpose tools.' I basically agree but there's something else going on.

My analogy: when cars were first becoming popular, you had to be a mechanic to use a car. If it didn't start you'd open the hood (was there a hood?) and diagnose the problem and probably have to fix it. Heck it wasn't that long ago that we had to know about using a choke and how to avoid flooding the engine. And even today, you probably need to know how to change a tire and jump start a dead battery.

I argue that computers and software in 2003 is like cars were in 1953. They are just still really primitve and demand from any users a level of expertise that is beyond ridiculous. I am not talking programming here folks, I am talking installing software, hooking up a printer, and the worst one: figuring out why it keeps crashing.

We still have a long way to go before computers are ready for the non-mechanics amongst us to rely on them. I think that is the essential difference.

Posted on November 8, 2003 and filed under Uncategorized.