Complexity V Simplicity (Stasis or Change)


Posted by in August's Magazine

There’s a purring cat on my lap and for the first time in a decade I’ve regressed to writing prose using a Bic pen and pad. This back-to-basics think isn’t by choice – I’m set adrift from my usual tools pet sitting for friends who are on a foreign Beano.

In the office is a Mac, best suited to idiots and kids, but hopeless for specialist use. I need to control not be controlled. Further nannying includes a locked browser, (“No you can’t install Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox – why would you want to?” and “Hey cool people use nice, not the keyboard! What’s a home key?”); it’s awash with inexplicable icons, as is an equally unfamiliar boiler and cooker. “Hey, only losers need a two-button mouse, let’s get creative.”

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Beneath mounds of kiddie crap, relief, a Windows PC, but it’s password-protected by me ages ago: the owners can’t reply to texts or ring out from abroad, because they can’t turn on roaming due to their status as idiots. Finally I get an email from them, with a password that doesn’t work. Is that an O or a zero? I set the damn thing up and even I don’t know! Meanwhile the cats sit stony faced, and then appear to be laughing.

Plan B: I realise the library is nearby. Amongst ten machines four aren’t web enabled, one homeless guy watching what appears to be porn (and there’s an hour time limit, thirty minutes of which are spent fighting the Council’s IT lockdown policy). Plan C finds me in the garden among wild strawberries, poppies, and tomatoes, the cats feel the need to spread love and insist on lap sitting, making writing impossible. There’s a tablet in the bedroom, obviously locked and waking me at five every morning with a Looney Tunes alarm I can’t switch off. A smart phone is available, but writing on that is equivalent to licking a thousand stamps with a dry mouth, or drinking two percent proof lager – time consuming with a profound sense of wasted effort. I’m beginning to need hard liquor, but settle for shots.

In our relationship with digital personal hardware we’re at the stage of an early morning gambler, all in with too little cash to back out. Surely we could return to pen & paper, a pre-Internet inconvenience of analogue information…with the fun of mounds of paperwork, and dusting off the book, vinyl, cassette, CD, DVD, Blu-Ray mountain… but do we really want to? It’s not the book that counts, it’s the writing surely?

There’s an old school kettle in the kitchen. Rustic. The sort you need to remove from the gas when it whistles. None of the convenience of switching itself off. I hate it and the stand out analogue attitude it symbolises alongside Aga ranges, real fires and parents who take their kids to Sainsbury’s to spell Pomegranate loudly, and “Look darling, there’s a radicchio – help me load it into the CO2 friendly Toyota Prius and we’ll get off to the farmers’ market for some organic sushi and Green tea.” Why not help your local environment and consider an assisted suicide from your real wooden beams.

The digital corollary of this analogue appetite is to foster a wilful appetite for a printed messy desktop filled with clutter or a refusal to use a password manager, instead of 316 random scraps of paper, for your login sites all of which share the password Catweasal. You are using a password manager aren’t you Grandma?

I have a client who prints all her emails, not the odd one, all of them. When I asked her why, she replied “So I can file them away.” Perhaps the E stands not after all for Electronic but Energysapping.

In our world of Web 2.0, we saw second gen companies, like Facebook and Google help transition the arcane Internet to the accessible Web, something people not wearing white coats can use. Short of running a server farm or building weaponised drones, there’s little under thirties can’t profess to handle when it comes to their personal data use.

However, an appetite for simplicity persists amongst those who don’t sport dark eye rings due to protracted computer use, and so it is serviced by engineers hiding complexity to make software as smooth as a modern TV. Like an iceberg 90% of functions are hidden beneath the advanced ‘hamburger’ icon.

So named for its two baps and meat appearance (I prefer Victoria sponge) this is a tool 70% of my client base will never use, but it’s my first call when making software functional, especially web browsers, due to the tyranny of the default (the tendency for how-it-came-out-of-the-box to win out over customisation). I’ve encountered an enormous lack of curiosity amongst computer users, who five years after dropping the plastic at PC World, are still fighting an auto-loading payload of pre-installed crapware and storing bookmarks on the desktop, because “it’s easier to see innit?” and “that’s where I keep all my stuff.”
So you can revel in novelty and enjoy change or you can keep asking, “Why can’t the future be more like the past?” What’s it to be?

2 responses to “Complexity V Simplicity (Stasis or Change)”

  1. Nikky says:

    In our world of Web 2.0, we saw second gen companies, like Facebook and Google help transition the arcane Internet to the accessible Web, something people not wearing white coats can use. Short of running a server farm or building weaponised drones, there’s little under thirties can’t profess to handle when it comes to their personal data use.

  2. RoyPerlman says:

    Thanks for sharing this post. I am very interested in simplicity. I would like to share my opinion on simplicity.kitchen designers in miamiMake a listing of what you need accomplished. Put a very powerful gadgets on the high of the record. Get an estimate out of your contractor. Be sure you signal an settlement on how a lot she or he will full with a set value.

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