Computers are slower than in the 80s


He said that “almost everything on computers is perceptually slower than it was in 1983”. I agree.

Computers are slower than in the 80s /img/curses-computer-interface.jpg

This post is a small excerpt of a really interesting Twitter rant by @gravislizard(*) on how broken computer interfaces are today.

In the 90s…

Amber-screen library computer in 1998: type in two words and hit F3. search results appear instantly.

Now: type in two words, wait for an AJAX popup. get a throbber for five seconds. oops you pressed a key, your results are erased

The entire field of web apps ignores 100% of learned lessons from desktop apps. [For example], once the data’s up on the screen, you can’t add to it. which is one of the core functions of computers, generally. One of the primary reasons computers were created was to cross reference data. that is nearly impossible in most software now.

Data in webpages in 2017 is distressingly fragile. go to Google Maps and try and find an action that doesn’t erase what you’re doing. You are, literally, better off taking a screenshot of the map, dropping it in ms paint and manually plotting there.

In 1998 if you were planning a trip you might have gotten out a paper road map and put marks on it for interesting locations along the way: with online maps you CAN do that, but the entire process is built assuming you already know everywhere you’re going.

And everything on computers is like this. It’s just How It Is now. You can’t fail quickly and iterate.

The mouse? A crime

[The mouse is] stifling humanitys progress, a gimmick we can’t get over. The mouse is inappropriate for almost everything we do.

Mouses are for rapidly navigating through a complex and unstructured set of objects, like an app with dozens of options and input types

Computers are slower than in the 80s /img/curses-computer-interface.jpg

When computers used interfaces like these they were lightning fast, universally.

Many cashiers still use such interfaces. Look at them, next time you go shopping: Blinding speed… even the new people, [exactly because] the mouse is not being used.

Why mouses are terrible for many basic computer tasks

Keyboards present fewer possible discrete options. Mice present a continuum. One can be operated blind; the other requires feedback. You cannot use a mouse without using your eyes to confirm everything.

[On a text-based interface, instead, everything] is incredibly fast. Once they have made a minimum of practice with it, the users of such interfaces don’t have to stop for every action and figure out what they’re doing time and time again. It’s all muscle memory.

Part of the reason for this is that the entire keyboard gets used, [instead of just one mouse pointer plus 23 buttons].

What a waste of resources

The author of that thread is “upset by the way that computers disenfranchise non-nerds” and (like me, for the record) dose not believe in “intuitive”. Here is what he said about this, and I agree:

  • The belief that GUIs are more intuitive is marketing for GUIs.
  • GUIs are in no way more intuitive than keyboard interfaces using function keys… Nor do they need to be.
  • Well designed keyboard interfaces and well designed GUI interfaces have exactly the same learning curve

I agree!

I agree with @gravislizard, and just like him I do not think that “we should do without mouses and graphical interfaces”. But we should, for each class of computer tasks, have the interface that makes it easier and quicker. Not the ones pushed by marketing and inertia. Of course, all this also applies to tablets, smartphones and touch screens in general. In this period, I have to teach how to use wikis to students that must use iPads, and I am appalled by how painful it is to type more than a password on those gadgets. It really is no better than 1983.

(*) the thread is also (so far…) available on ThreaderApp

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