IT Doctor: Why is the Computer So Hard to Use?

October 27, 2011, By George Lang

I once had a professor in an undergraduate course who hated Bill Gates; she said, “If you are going to make a profit off something you build and sell, that something ought to work!” She was, of course, referring to the Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of applications.

Too many of us (even college professors at times) are intimidated by computer technology; so much so, that we choose to avoid it at every turn. Such frustration, fear, and animosity beg the critical question, “Why can’t they build a computer that is easy to use?” The secret solution is educating oneself in its use.

Unfortunately, user-friendliness does not come naturally to computer hardware and software manufacturers. There are some exceptions: special folks, like Steve Jobs, who have made a healthy living out of providing it. Jobs is a prime example of the importance of answering the critical question, because it is overwhelmingly evident that consumers flock to the products that do so, and avoid the ones that do not; i.e., manufacturer profitability is directly proportional to the degree of inherent user-friendliness it possesses.

Computers automatically perform an incalculable number of very complex tasks over extremely short time periods. Occasionally, something goes wrong and most folks don’t have a clue what to do next. In many cases, a simple reboot of the system will solve the problem; but data loss is always a possibility. Avoiding such circumstances requires users to educate themselves a little deeper into the technologies they use.

Staying in shape is an excellent analogy; a little hard work goes a long way toward solving the problem. But do we blame Nabisco and Hershey for creating the cookies and candy that put us in the mess in the first place? Similarly, many of us would rather sit back and bad-mouth the creative computer geniuses that seem to be the root cause of our misery.

Doctor’s prescription: In a complex society, if you want to get the most out of them, you need to spend a little extra time educating yourself about the technologies you use.

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