Yesterday I said, “Jon Swanson hates computers.”
I need to explain.
I spend time helping people understand why their computers don’t work the way they want them to work or the way they think they should work or the way they have been told they will work. I spend time with people who still like the version of the Bible software they started using 10 years ago. I talk with people who started using their computers when their kids said, “It’s simple. You just do this.” I spend time with people who watch their computers get slower and hear a commercial for backup software or speed-fixing software from someone who they trust on social or political subjects and they try it.
I spend time with people who just want to send emails to their grandchildren or look at pictures on their digital cameras.
And these people are frustrated by changes and improvements and upgrades. And they ask me for help.
I don’t know how to help them.
I know a lot, I suppose, about computing, having been in the business since 1974. However, I don’t understand all the strategies that engineers and marketers and coders use to improve the experience and get people to buy more. I don’t know how to make that feature work, or, perhaps, I just would never add that feature or that application or that protection.
Or maybe I do understand those strategies. I know that they happen because software engineers and software companies want to stay in business and that means creating versions x.xx. And I know that they are often designed to improve featurality, without enhancing functionality for people who need something as simple as writing a postcard and putting it in a mailbox or taking a roll of film out and handing it to the processor.
Over and over I run into sales-based upgrades, written in the language of people who want cool.
Enough fussing. If you are writing for the new, more power to you. But please help me with my friends.
I want to hand my friends a computer
- that runs quickly the software that worked great with Windows 3.1 (or maybe XP).
- that emails simply and spam-free.
- that explains who really needs Carbonite and who doesn’t (even though 43% of computer users lose everything every year), that says that most people don’t need to shove a terabyte of information through a USB 1.0 in a local backup situation
- that explains that putting your name on all those really interesting email lists means that you will get a lot of email.
- that writes back to friends who repeatedly hit <reply all> when sending out cute stories.
- that slaps any peer, child, grandchild or me anytime that person says, “It’s simple, you just do these three things which I will now adopt from nuclear physics and pronounce in mandarin, which I don’t understand either but I’m sure worked on my computer which is completely different from yours.”
- that actually does allow the person to plug any digital camera into the computer and look at the pictures. Or that shows how to take the card out of the camera and put it in a slot for viewing.
- that refuses to pretend to work with dialup, or automatically downshifts for dialup.
- that works.
I want simple equipment, like the computer for every child.
I want simple software, like nothing I know.
I want simple explanations, written by people who understand metaphors.
I want simple incentives. “You can talk with your grandchildren”
Here’s what I know. I’m calling for people to commit themselves to helping not technical people. Not to help them become technical, to help them communicate.
Please tell me that there is an old-person’s computer. I have homes for several of them. One of those homes could be your grandmother’s. The one you keep having to do tech support for.