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Scourge of the Computing Industry

Microsoft. We all know them. A lot of us hate them. We can all give reasons, of course; some technical, some philosophical, some economic, some moral, some just plain emotional.

Of course, it's a difficult case. Too many people just get stuck on "Yes, but they're making money", and stop listening at that point. Other people don't even get that far, and stay with "They're popular", or even the dreaded "They made it possible for anybody to use a computer", or other catchphrases which tend to just derail real arguments. And it's not because they're valid points, it's because they're practically impossible to address; they're perfectly valid points, but in a totally different context than the one the arguments are in.

Where to start?

So, I'm starting fresh. I'm delivering the following assertion:

Windows has significantly set back and held back the IT industry, and continues to do so. Windows encourages, rewards, and practically demands stupidity on the part of its users, and further attempts to force such on anybody who has to deal with the users.

I don't care what you think of them as a business; everybody and their mother, including me, will agree that they're doing a great job of running a business. If you feel it necessary to take the stated stupidity as an insult, you might as well just stop here. It's not an insult. It's a statement.

Stupidity is not an insult.

If you don't know something, you're stupid about that something. I'm pretty stupid about automotive engineering. I'm pretty stupid about plexiglass manufacturing, animal husbandry, agriculture, and biochemistry. If you don't understand computers, you're stupid about computers. You're not bloody well "computer illiterate". It's a copout phrase, and the only reason to use a copout phrase is to attempt to delude other people and/or yourself. Admit it; you're stupid about computers. It's not a stigma, it's an admission, and it's a positive thing. It means "I don't know this", which shouldn't be seen as a negative, but as a positive. It's not a void, it's a void ready to be filled with knowledge.

OK, I'm stupid. Now what?

Well, that's what this rant is about. This is not "How to use computers". This is not an instruction in the curing of that stupidity. What I'm going to do is explain how Microsoft in general and Windows in particular are encouraging and spreading the stupidity which has infested this industry.

I'm also going to generalize a bit, and talk about some general concepts such as "user-friendliness", and try to explain the ways in which they can be expanded to really serve us the people, rather than vice versa. For a more in-depth treatment of user-friendliness, see my What User Friendly Means rant.

Onward and Upward

So, where to start? There's actually a broad range of general topics at issue here. There's a lot of learning theory and behavioral psychology. I'm not a behavioral psychologist; I'm just watching what's happening in the IT industry with constant alarm.

The first thing, is the concept of learning curves, and their effect on long-term usage.

  1. Windows Causes Stupidity?
  2. Learning Curves
  3. Learning Curves :: User Effects
  4. Learning Curves :: System Effects
  5. Why It Matters