Why I Hate Computers
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I hate computers. There, I've said it, the cat is out of the bag and I feel
better for publicly admitting it. I've quietly shared this sentiment with many
people over the years who look at me puzzled as they know I have been in the
computer industry for over 30 years now. Some have even suggested I'm a bit of a
masochist staying in a field I do not respect. It's not that I am not proficient
in the use of computers, I am actually better than most. As an aside, you'll
notice I didn't say "computer literate" which is an expression I detest as it
typifies the sloppy thinking permeating this business.
Nine times out of ten my frustration is not with the physical hardware but with
the software instead. Maybe it's because I know how computers are programmed
which can hardly be called an exact science. In fact, it is downright scary how
programs are slapped together and superficially tested before being released to
the public. Considerable time is wasted determining what a program is intended
to do and how to best design it. There is also a lot of redundancy in work
effort whereby the same code is rewritten over and over again. Rarely is there
concern for producing programs that will be compatible with others, and
standards are avoided at all cost. If the average person truly understood the
organization and mechanics by which programmers practice their trade, they would
be astonished as to how anything is accomplished and would probably never trust
a computer again.
In their defense, programmers live in a world of complexity where they must
juggle many variables even in a simple program. However, I am highly critical of
how they manage complexity which is typically inscribed in the programmer's head
and not on paper. The average programmer loathes documentation of any kind.
Without proper documentation programs are difficult if not impossible to
maintain or modify by others. But I digress.
Because the programmer lives in a world of complexity, they insist on sharing it
with the rest of us, a kind of "misery loves company" phenomenon. Instead of
simplicity, they tend to force us to learn their convoluted approaches to life.
To illustrate, remote controls for televisions used to have buttons for power,
volume, and station selection. Today, it is not uncommon to have upwards of
fifty buttons on remote controls, most of which are not used by the consumer. It
should be no small wonder that most devices today are under utilized, including
cell phones, computers, and the electronic trinket du jour. Simplicity has been
superseded by complexity, not because it has to be that way, but because
programmers make it that way.
As consumers we patiently try to adapt to our computer, but we grow frustrated
with such things as computer freezes (an endless hour glass), software downloads
requiring the computer to be rebooted at the most inconvenient time to do so,
and the legendary "blue screen of death" (a complete computer lockup). Nobody
likes to execute the same task twice on the computer, yet due to programming
snafus, such activity is commonplace. I don't have an exact figure, but a
substantial amount of time during the business day is lost simply due to the
peculiarities of the computer. Programmers make computers functional; they do
not make them idiot-proof.
Recently I was involved in a writer's discussion group on the Internet whereby
the question was asked, "Do computers now make better decisions than humans?"
Actually, this is an old question and goes back to the 1950's when computers
were first being introduced. Since the computer only executes the instructions
as programmed by the human being, it will only be as smart as the person
programming it. It's not so much a question of making "better" decisions, it's a
matter of being able to execute instructions faster (processing speed). A
computer offers invaluable assistance in terms of executing complicated
calculations, then again, the answer would not be any different than that
arrived at by the human-being. It's a matter of speed. Let us also not forget
that if the formulas or algorithms are programmed incorrectly, the computer will
produce an incorrect answer at an incredibly fast speed. As an example, there
have been various calculation errors reported over the years in various software
products, such as calculators, financial software, spreadsheets, etc. Here is
one applicable to the MS Calculator:
3,600,523 divided by 6,000,000,000
Returns with: 6.0008716666666666666666666666667e-4
In other words, there is a problem expressing decimal fractions (the answer
should be .000600087).
This number may seem innocuous on the surface but suppose it served a mission
critical purpose, such as directing military operations, space trajectory, or
patient health care? The number becomes very important in such situations where
it leads to erroneous decisions or actions. The next question becomes: who is
liable for the miscalculation, the computer hardware manufacturer or the person
who programmed it incorrectly? Ultimately, it is a PEOPLE problem.
"If the mind really is the finest computer, then there are a lot of people out
there who need to be rebooted" - Bryce's Law
Keep the Faith!
Copyright © 2010 Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of
M. Bryce & Associates
(MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the
management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2010-08-24 11:09:27 in Computer Articles