When the first personal computer (PC) hit the market in the early 1980s, the data processing nerds (s’cuse me – IT professionals) were squirming. Users were threatening to become independent of the glasshouse boys and get reports, run programs and other techie stuff – all by themselves. Yikes!
What a laugh. The PC is the greatest job-creation invention of the Information Age. Boy, were the DP guys ever wrong to fear extinction. Not only did they NOT get cut out of the equation, they were embraced by this new technology that made them even more indispensable.
Bill Gates and the Microsoft crew deserve a large bronze statue in Washington for creating all these IT jobs. Without a doubt, Windows in its many flavors – 95, 98, XP, 2000, etc. – is the most complex, mind-numbing, unstable and unusable piece of software ever created. I defy you to find one reasonably competent user who can reliably operate a Windows-based computer on a network. Just one!
Dependable research has shown the cost of supporting a single Windows client in a corporate setting to be $2,000 per year. Remember dumb terminals? In those days I don’t think anyone cared about the TCO because it was only a few bucks. Geeze, what progress!
You just might be thinking that hey, complex technology as a rule begats complexity. Wrong. Each of us has a dozen or more computers in our homes and cars. Your microwave oven is controlled by a computer. Does it ever break down and display a message you need a secret decoder ring to decipher, like “A protection exception has occurred, error code 0X00134879E”? I bet not. You push a few simple buttons, then you push “start,” and it works – every time, every day. I also bet you didn’t have to read the manual to find out how to use it. Microwaves have been made very intuitive and easy to use.
Conversely, it was clearly the techies who designed the VCR. I’ve discovered that most of my friends’ VCRs still flash 12:00 on the display – years after being taken out of the box and plugged in. Either these folks have never figured out how to set the time, or there’s no one under the age of 10 in the house. Most of them only use their VCRs to play rental movies anyway, because they can’t figure out how to program the device to record a TV program.
The problem here is not the user. The problem is the technology. If I hire a new teller, I expect to train him or her to accept deposits, dispense cash, etc. But I don’t expect to have to spend so much time and money teaching new employees to use complicated technology!
In my opinion, the technology winner will be the company that decides it is time to make a user device that is as inexpensive and as easy to use as the old dumb terminal (or the microwave oven, for that matter). Let me offer up a few ideas about what to incorporate into this unit:
Oops, someone just woke me. It seems I was dreaming again. -cf