Friday, 10 August 2012

Stop #*@^$&@ "innovating"!

So in my morning 'paper read' of BN I came across this opinion piece about desktop 'domination'.

What I don't get is, why is it so important to "innovate" in such a basic and to be honest - downright fucking boring - area of a `computer desktop'?

Last I looked, my computer workbench is pretty much the same it was on AmigaDOS 1.2 (apart from a proper top-menu, but it's half there) ... I have a first-class CLI, overlapping graphical application windows, removable media is mounted automatically, and a file browser from which I can launch applications or delete files. The big things are the same, only the details have changed. Even Apple's Macintosh (apparently 'the' example of innovation) is basically the same design as it's first iteration; top-menu, full-screen "windowed" applications, and so on.

Some things just don't need innovating after the basic functionality is in place.

Take doors for instance. I'm no door expert but the last innovation in doors I see was the sliding glass door from the 80s or so and even then they only work in very limited situations (but there they do work well). Other than that, the basic design of a large flat rectilinear with a turning latch on one side hasn't changed - in hundreds of years. I really don't want anyone to 'innovate' in such a basic user interface since it simply works.

One can take any number of other household or day-to-day items, from car steering wheels to cups and saucers, frying pans to mirrors. One can innovate in the details as much as one likes - using new materials, finishes, colours, or designs - but a frying pan is most definitely identifiable as a frying pan whether it's made of steel, aluminium, glass, ceramic, coloured red, black, or blue.

And like doors, in some cases there is scope for radical differences in very different situations. An appliance (like a tv, phone, etc) is a very different computer from one used as a general re-usable `workbench', trying to make a universal GUI solution here is about as stupid (and it is mind-numbingly stupid) as making a universal door.

All a computer desktop has to do is get out of the fucking way whilst I get real work done - and that problem was long solved ago. Once it becomes the end in itself we end up with disasters like GNOME 3 or "Metro", and really they deserve all they get. I'm sure wood-workers and other craftsmen are very proud of their workbench (especially if they made it themselves), but I doubt they consider the workbench itself the pinnacle of their craft or anything other than a dependable rock-solid tool that shouldn't be trying to get in their way at every opportunity.

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