user's manifesto--a contrarian view

Subject: user's manifesto--a contrarian view
From: John Renish <John_F_Renish -at- NOTES -dot- SEAGATE -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 09:54:42 -0700

The reaction to the computer user's bill of rights on TECHWR-L has been
about what one would expect from the perpetrators of tyranny, rather than
the lovers of freedom. George III took much the same attitude toward the
American colonists' grievances, although he probably didn't call them
"lame". Remember, ladies and gentlemen, that the manifesto was written by a
_business user_, our _primary customer_, and that the list of rights was
penned by "Clare-Marie Karat . . . a PhD psychologist who evaluates the way
people interact with their computers and designs what the industry calls
human interfaces at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Hawthorne,
N.Y." Dr. Karat is _one of our own_.

Years ago, you were expected to know a good deal about applied mechanics to
drive an automobile. Crash-box transmissions, direct-lever steering, and
the like were usual, but they were unnecessary. One of the reasons Ford's
Model T was so successful is that it had a mechanically-complex but
easy-to-use planetary transmission operated by pedals. The self-starter,
synchronized gearbox, automatic transmission, and power steering greatly
simplified the act of driving, making it available to many millions who
would not otherwise have bothered to learn. Modern cars have extended
service intervals; you can now drive 50 times as far as a Model T would go
before you need to service the car. All these evolutionary changes brought
the automobile to the world, and not incidentally forced the entire
industry to keep pace or fall by the wayside. That's why there are now
three big automobile manufacturers in the U.S. instead of the 5,000 there
were in 1910.

The computer industry is still in a kind of infancy that requires the user
to know and do too much with badly-engineered products. We should be
working to resolve that problem, rather than claiming it's a virtue.

John_F_Renish -at- notes -dot- seagate -dot- com, San Jose, California, USA
My comments represent my personal views and not those of my employer.
"A gentleman never unintentionally gives offense."
--John Paul Jones

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