“Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn’t your fault.”
That was the first line in the first column that influential tech journalist Walt Mossberg wrote on October 17, 1991 for the Wall Street Journal.
It’s still true. It’s twenty-five years later and it’s still true. That’s profoundly disappointing, and it has big consequences for our world.
PC sales are in free fall. Sales in the first quarter of 2016 were even lower than the most pessimistic projections. Apple’s laptop shipments fell 40% from the last quarter of 2015. Taken together, the top eight vendors (Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, etc.) saw a 20% decline in laptop sales compared to the holiday season. Sure, there’s always a drop after the 4th quarter but sales are down in any way you care to measure. Year over year? Sales of desktops and laptops were down 11.5% compared to the 1st quarter in 2015. Sales in the 1st quarter of 2016 were at the lowest point in a decade. You get the idea.
I’ve recently talked about some of the reasons for the drop in computer sales. We are engaged in a transition away from computers to phones and tablets. We’re keeping our computers longer. A generation of schoolkids is growing up with Chromebooks.
But I haven’t talked about another reason, something that everyone knows in their bones and that shapes our decisions even if we don’t think about it consciously: personal computers are just too hard to use.
Twenty years ago it was perhaps acceptable for computers to work best for people willing to learn about their fiddly bits. The hardware was changing in fundamental ways at a fast pace, from brand new processor architecture to constant changes in audio, video and networking components. Windows and Apple’s OS had to undergo wrenching changes to incorporate the security required by a persistent connection to the internet.
We’re past that. Hardware, software, networking and security are not undergoing those profound shifts. They’re being tweaked in mildly interesting ways. Oh, it’s not like development has stopped – we’ve gotten touch screens and digital pens, whee. Advances now, though, are incremental, and they have been for a long time.
We bought into the promise and we have incorporated these machines into our work and personal lives at a deep level. Computers should be getting easier to use, because that’s our fundamental need. We don’t need a digital pen. We need to be able to sit at our desks and get work done without a constant stream of frustrating and irritating encounters that draw attention to just how fragile our computers are.
I began my IT career as the guy down the hall. Everybody needed a guy down the hall. I was the person you went to when your printer wouldn’t work or your modem wouldn’t connect.
For ten years I’ve been expecting that part of my work to die down. Surely, day to day computing would become easier and I’d get fewer calls to install printer drivers and troubleshoot crashes, right?
If anything, it’s getting worse.
The ball has been dropped by everybody that has any connection to technology. You can think of your own stories. Everyone can. I don’t think there’s anyone who’s having such a troublefree experience with their computers that they can’t relate to this. All I can do is tell a few anecdotes to try to give you a flavor of what my days are like. Each one has these things in common:
• something doesn’t work that should work
• it worked yesterday
• nothing has changed
• frequently another seemingly identical piece of equipment behaves differently
• the solution is not something that normal non-technical people should have to figure out
Hardware makers are constantly trying to outdo each other for flashy new features when the fundamentals just don’t work. A few months ago my Surface Pro 3 stopped holding a charge while it was asleep – no reason, no idea what changed, but if I leave it disconnected from its power cord for more than a day, the battery is discharged. Microsoft introduced a new laptop, the Surface Book, which typically costs over two thousand dollars and can scale up to almost three thousand dollars. It was deeply flawed in many ways – removing the screen (its signature feature) would routinely cause the Surface Book to crash, and it had its own power and sleep issues. It’s taken Microsoft six long months to get them even close to being usable. I’ve had too many calls from people with monitors that don’t turn on from their docking stations, or computers that can’t be booted until every USB device is disconnected, or printers that drop out of sight when IP addresses change, or, or, or – I can only list a few examples or we’ll be here all day.
Microsoft has dropped the ball in Windows in oh so many ways. Microsoft deserves all the ill will it has earned with its incessant Windows 10 upgrade notices. Recently I’ve been trying to install the Windows 10 upgrade that Microsoft has pushed so hard and discovered that clicking on “Upgrade now” sometimes causes all the upgrade windows to disappear instead of actually, say, starting the upgrade. I’ve tried to figure out why some upgrades on computers running Windows 8.1 with Media Center fail with an unhelpful error message. I still run into the occasional Windows 10 upgrade that takes 10-12 hours for no particular reason. Windows 10 has many things that move Windows in the right direction – lighter system requirements, some simplified controls, a decent respect for continuity. And then Microsoft mucked it up with a half-finished Edge browser, with changed defaults so programs don’t work as expected, and quite a list of other annoying things. New features are introduced that are in your face with incomprehensible messages, serve no purpose, and are dropped a year later.
The update system is a mess. Microsoft has abandoned its Patch Tuesday schedule for updates to Windows 10 and Office, and restarts happen at apparently random times. Today I tried to decide what to tell a client whose computer had displayed a message for half an hour that it was installing one (1) update and shouldn’t be touched. It finished half an hour later. It was just an update. No idea why it took an hour. But there’s the client with no way to know if it’s frozen, if she’ll be able to do work in five minutes or half an hour or the next day, or if the update will kill the computer. Office 365 subscribers are seeing a banner across the top of the Office programs inviting them to upgrade to the latest version, Office 2016. The upgrade sometimes takes 10 minutes, sometimes takes an hour, and is absolutely the least interesting upgrade you’ve ever seen – except for the times that it destroys something about Outlook and requires me to set up a new mail profile and re-download the entire contents of the mailbox. Despite my best efforts to install updates to third party programs automatically with Bruceb Remote Management, clients still have to wrestle with updates and all too often wind up with programs that stop working or with adware and toolbars cluttering their computers.
It’s not just Microsoft. My experiment with Quickbooks Online ended after an email arrived a week after I started advising me that they’d had some difficulty and really, it would be better if I just started over. Adobe has an unbearably complex system for licensing and installing Acrobat – I cringe every time I have to explain why a small business has to keep track of multiple Adobe IDs and deal with “Adobe Creative Cloud” just to work on PDFs. I spent hours today trying to make a random third party program work. I spent hours yesterday on a different one. I’ll probably spend hours more tomorrow on another one.
Microsoft, though, gets extra demerits for the daily frustration it has caused with its disastrous confusion between two different sets of credentials (“personal,” occasionally called a “Microsoft account,” and “business or school,” occasionally not called anything else because Microsoft lost control over the name “Office 365”); two different file syncing services with the same name (“OneDrive” and “OneDrive,” occasionally called “OneDrive for Business”); a horribly complex business system for obtaining licenses for mailboxes, Office programs, and enterprise services (“Office 365”) and a horribly complex and completely different system for obtaining Office programs (“Office 365”). Not to mention the poor, overused name “Outlook” which appears on so many different programs, apps, and online services that it has become completely useless to describe anything.
And on and on. Does it tell you anything that the article I’ve written that has gotten the most feedback by far is titled, How To Delete PDFs Without Throwing Your Computer Out The Window? Seriously, all over the world, ever since Windows 8, people have to Google how to delete a file!
Okay, I’ve had a bad week. But I think the overall point is true: the manufacturers and vendors and developers have let us down. We don’t have the tools we should have to get our work done. I don’t see anything changing. Or rather, I see things changing all the time, for better, for worse, for no reason, for good reasons. The line on the graph for our overall satisfaction is not going up. If anything, it’s going down. That’s a shame. It’s also a powerful reason that computer sales are going to continue to decline as we seek out tools that are easier to use.
OMG thank you for this article! I am ahighly educated intelligent person and I am sick and tired of tche peopl dismissing concerns as “oh, it’s just you;” “you just don’t like technology; “you’re afraid of new things.”
I really resent having to learn the intricate details of how all this works JUST to print something, listening to music through a speaker, fix formatting a doc.
I think the REAL and BIGGEST issue are the “designers” just re-design for the sake of it. There is never a reason to change a tab from being on the left, then move to the right. If a simple fucntion of a computer relies on the user searching the internet to find a solution–then there is something SERIOUS wrong with the design o fthe thing and with the mindset of the designers.
I am spending more and more andmore time online to figure out more and more and ever more basic tasks that SHOULD be COMPLETELY obvious.
To make matters worse, it’s getting harder and harder to phrase the issues or questions to even do a search online because I am running into things now that I can’t even conceptualise or figure out what the issue is related to.
I’m not a Luddite but I have to admit in the last 6 years or so, techinlogy makes me absolutely miserable.
Don’t overlook the followup, which I wrote when I realized phones were becoming just as difficult to manage as computers for many people. It’s Not Just Your Computer – Everything Is Too Hard To Use (And It’s Not Your Fault)
wow thank you ,,this makes my day..i have so many mindless problems that should be so obvious to figure out,,like moving pictures from the downloads to pictures,,simple enough you would think,,ohh noooo the way the files work,,”not destination file” or some other horse shit,,if i was in a real file cabinet i would pick up the folders and stick them in the file,,easy enough,but not windows,im supposed to do it their way ,with their bullshit protocal,,why???this stuff should be easy pee sey,,but it aint,,,i think the engineers are geek mother fuckers who aint had pussy since pussy had them,,really why all the steps to do stupid bullshit??? come on,,,these people have no common sence,or can not relate to average people,,but unknown to them that who buys the product,,not geek-tweeked pussy starved assholes,,its your turn
reading all these peoples ”bitches” may have saved my life,,im tired of every computer x-pert that says im crazy,,or im not there,,how bout this one ”that module was designed before i was born,,are you kidding me ,i wonder if bolian algebra was before he was born,, bruce glad i lucked into finding your page,,god,,,others that think like me,,,thank you again
It Friday evening and once again I am frustrated with a week of IT stuff that just doesn’t work as it should. Your complaint about Adobe PDF is just spot on and makes a this grown Man cry. What is Outlook now? Productivity must be going backwards. My experience of technology hasn’t moved on since the late 1990s
Got me to sub lol after 3 days on a windows 7 reinstall finding no hope of a legal iso backup online that’s current my desktop won’t run 10 what now! I’m hardly a beginner can probably run another Os but really what’s the trade off from one to a bootleg copy of the one I really need? Guess it’s time to finally suck it up an learn lenox at least the constant frustration will get better I’m sure. If I can just find one that runs all my software I think I’m finally fed up enough to do it
I bought my first laptop a few months ago. I’ve yet to find any good use for it as everything is exponentially more difficult than just doing it on my phone. I’m going to solve this problem by buying a phone with more memory space as that’s the only problem I have with operating smart phones
There is something about the computerization of the world that makes everything more complicated in imitation of the hyper-complex style of computer design, so that now my dishwasher requires two buttons to be turned on before it will start, and if you press them in the wrong order, you are in for trouble. The tv now also needs two monitors to turn on. What happened to the rigorously streamlined and user-friendly devices of the pre-computer era, when no one needed to call a helpline to operate their radio, television, blender, dishwasher, fan, or washing machine? I find that forms I had to fill out on paper in the pre-computer era now take twice as long to fill out by computer, since the computer will only accept inputs it is expecting, while a form has to take whatever you write in the blanks. For letters of reference I have written for students applying to one university, the required computer rituals are so baroque that they have to provide a 24/7 helpline to talk people through the forms? Just because computers make hideously complicated processes possible should not be take as an invitation always to require them.
Now photo apps on phones can’t get their basic functionality right, even without dealing with the nightmare called cloud storage. On my Xiaomi phone, a locally stored folder with images was permanently deleted through the file manager, so why is the gallery app still showing they exist? It makes no sense.
What used to be simple for someone with no real interest in computers has become tedious and unintuitive.
I haven’t had a pc since the xp days and the jump from logical to the baffling Windows 10 has been too much for me to waste my time on.
The bloke who posted that we are all stupid is a pure dimwit. It’s like a mechanic sneering at anyone who has other things to do than learn how to diagnose issues with a combustion engine.
Everyone ignore RX9, the inferiority complex in him seems to be screaming out to the world. I’m amazing at biology, I was a wunderkind, but because many people don’t understand complicated biological or zoological things, I don’t ever (1) Insult them. Why insult people for not knowing a SPECIALITY that a minority know? That sounds like a baby throwing a tantrum. (2) Just because something is easy for you, does not mean it is easy for everyone. Benchpressing 350 pounds is easy for me, how many of you guys is it easy for? Because if you can’t lift it, then you’re a wimp who cant get a girlfriend and a b***h.” THAT sounds stupid. (3) What you love is not what everyone loves, and you should not harass, insult, bully or dog out people who do not love what you love in equality. That is the mindset of a 2 or 3 year old who wants to punch the kids that don’t like the same muppet that they themselves like.
This behavior I’ve seen alot of in tech savvy types online, who love to dive into forums regarding how hard and difficulty filled computers are for the average human being in the entire world. Big surprise, not everyone can widdle. Not everyone can sculpt. Not everyone can throw a javelin or fish. There are people who can, and then there are people who are the best at it. Now, if youre so great at computers and its so easy, how come you can’t take that knowledge and communicate it easily, efficiently, and accessible to people who know nothing to do with computers? Because if you can not communicate a idea, that shows stupidity.
Hell, he’s probably 5 years old. Literally. They do that kind of stuff.
Computers are meant to be easy, easy for anyone to use, a tool that makes other tools obsolete. When it is not as efficient as the stuff it is supposed to make obsolete, then it fails at what it’s supposed to do. Most computers are failing at being usable tools for everyone. Everyone shouldnt be a mechanic to be able to use a car, everyone who has a pet shouldnt be a veterinarian, everyone who has a child shouldnt be a pediatrician. THAT is the logic many of those guys use, that is…very very stupid.
So I’m trying to do something in a game on PlayStation 4. I keep getting some error message that the service is unavailable please try again later. This happens all the time. So I went to my settings and it says NAT type failed.
I still don’t know what NAT type is.
So I use Google and look up what this is, and some were saying the PS4 is incompatible with IPv6 Network. WTF is IPv6?!
The modem updates itself. The PlayStation Network updates itself. I haven’t changed anything since I got the modem over a decade ago. It used to work, and now it doesn’t.
Although the PlayStation Network always tells me that it times out when I try to do anything online other than a multiplayer game. I have to use apps on my phone if I want to access the network or my messages.
I thought consoles were supposed to be easier to use. I thought consoles were better than computers because you don’t have to fiddle with everything and whatever game you put in is just going to work. I’m not supposed to be technologically savvy to run a video game. I’m not supposed to be a network administrator to play online.
But here I am, connecting to my modem through the computer so I can unlock an outfit using in-game credits in a PS4 game. Why is it so goddamn difficult for someone to make a complete Network for dummies instruction manual that works for every Network? Why do all these networks and systems have to be just different enough that you’re screwed unless you can contact the original developer of that system?
And of course good luck with that; it’s far cheaper to just hire a bunch of know-nothings to work your call centre and give you “did you unplug it and plug it back in again?” Responses
Slowly but surely (mostly slowly) IPv6 is creeping out into the world. That doesn’t explain why you’re having a problem on a network that shouldn’t have changed – same equipment, same network protocols, even if your modem started handling IPv6, it shouldn’t change or interfere with anything using IPv4, which is currently everything. So I don’t know what problem you’re having.
If you’re curious, I wrote two articles about IPv6 a long, long time ago, when it appeared that it would be intruding into our lives soon. That was in 2010, and the world is still procrastinating about the changeover today. Maybe you’re feeling an effect of that. Here’s some reading for when you’re trying to fall asleep: https://www.brucebnews.com/2010/10/first-rumbling-of-the-coming-ipv6-transition/ and https://www.brucebnews.com/2010/10/ipv6-and-really-large-numbers/. Good luck!
Computers and so called smart phones operate on the basis of operation bumble – meaning there is no set way of doing annything, jusy have a play and mhope for the best. What ever you re trying to do could take 2 secs or 4 hrs its all chance really. I think bumbling was a deliberate strategy as its no longer possible for anyone to teach hopw to use them – as everyone incl teachers do it differently and have to adapt to daily or weekly changes.
The whole idea of using technology productively is pie in the sky – it simply cannot be used easily.
My employer removed all back office clerical support from its services , forcing us to do our own. In less than a week mhy productivity went down from 6 hrs a day to less than 6 hrs a week and its not really recovered higher than 15 hrs per week now.
I ve literally just spent 18 mins trying to enter and edit a date into my phone’s g mail diary…. need i say more. Roll on operation bumble.
Yes, and yes and more to complain about is that my age (78) I need to spend about an hour a day exercising as well as researching on the stock market. (have fiduciary responsibilities there) and after a morning battling with my laptop, e-mails and research I am physically as well as mentally exhausted. THIS TECH WORLD IS NOT GOOD FOR MY HEALTH!
Exactly! And I’m 72. Hahaha.
It is so great to read this article. This has frustrated me for years. Every version of a program seems to get harder to use. There are five ways to do something, but it probably takes an experienced programmer to find 4 of the 5, and none of them are indexed in the help menu. I used to be able to create forms, report, etc. with Access. Now, it probably has many great features, but I can’t be bothered taking the time to figure it out. Quickbooks has been out forever, and it is very difficult to use. I thought this program was designed for small businesses who don’t have an accounting department? Sorry for the random venting.
By coincidence, “Random Venting” was going to be the name I used for my articles. Well, not really, but it feels like it some days. I sympathize a bit with the Quickbooks folks because accounting is just plain hard. But your general point is still relevant today. FWIW, I wrote a followup about the way this is spreading to our mobile devices and the rest of our world: It’s Not Just Your Computer – Everything Is Too Hard To Use (And It’s Not Your Fault)
Computers are interfaces for manipulating information. They are supposed to translate all of the boring details of daily ledgers and the monotonous indexing of information. I studied computers in college, and have been at the helm of my own computers for years. I am considered by my progeny, to be a “Luddite”. I (not them) learned Fortran, used manually loaded operating systems, Lotus 1,2,3 and floppy disks, so I’m not a complete idiot.
The problem is in the language. Once a phrase or word is combined with the operation or execution of a newer application or the use of some new accessory, it becomes the coin of the realm! Meanwhile, folks like me may have missed the latest additions to the vernacular, so during downloads or any kind of operational changes, we suffer at the hands of the latest soft-head vocabulary. The vague usages and plenary ignorance of common human accommodation are such that I struggle with the language more than the execution. I learned from teaching Special Education that computer engineers are simply preaching and teaching to the small percentage of people who are tech-savvy, and not to the folks who buy the computers and software. So, in my business, I have to make sure there is translator-person (an interface between me and my computer) on tap at all times…like Bruce, to help me and many others set-up, reconfigure, download and install basic computer system changes without destroying our network. As computers become more common and affordable, it is important to remember, that the worth of any computer is in the ability of the end-user to understand how to use it. If a zookeeper can teach a gorilla to speak and understand 360 English words, why can’t I be taught to understand how to configure Remote PC or AirDrop without calling on a person who has 10 calls on hold ahead of me?
Good points! By coincidence, I posted a sequel to this article about ten minutes ago that picks up on a lot of what you’re saying: It’s Not Just Your Computer – Everything Is Too Hard To Use (And It’s Not Your Fault)
Its the Redmond distortion field. After Ballmer shut down the usability labs, they had no more input from average users. The devs live on campus and are barely aware that we are out there. They thing they are the average user now.
If you’re bored: How Microsoft Became Uncool And Lost Touch With Consumers
It’s 2018 and I’ve just found this article, but bloody hell, this article just sounds like a moron that has no idea of how life in general works. Like my colleague put it, if you rag your car and expect it to work fine forever then you’re blind. There’s literally no other way to put it. This articles been written as if the machines going to do EVERYTHING for you. If you honestly expect calls for driver installs and crash troubleshooting to die down then you need to wake up. Bugs exist, and alongside, so does human stupidity.
The comments are just as flipping bad. People don’t even know what the hell PC actually stands for. Macs ARE PCs. Goddamn, how do you cross the road and not get run over 5 times?
Chromebooks will only ever “take off” in a niche are. They may be cheap, but you know what else comes with their low price? LOW BLOODY CAPACITY. My mobile phone is pretty much more capable than a chromebook of equal price.
These points by the way?
• something doesn’t work that should work
• it worked yesterday
• nothing has changed
• frequently another seemingly identical piece of equipment behaves differently
• the solution is not something that normal non-technical people should have to figure out
You sound like a lazy-ass customer that I’ve spoken to oh-so-many-times. Ignorant to everything around you and expecting it all to be served on a silver platter, and on top of that, expect to be spoonfed EVERY. BIT. OF. IT.
Computers being “easier to use” is -not- our fundamental need. Where you pulled this idea from, I have no clue of. My parents are perfectly capable of using the system you lot all claim is “too difficult” to use and do so every day, so A) Shame on you and B) The system is clearly NOT difficult, because they’re not the most tech savvy.
Jesus christ people, what do you lot actually do that makes you feel so entitled that you feel the need to spew the shit you have?
What a pleasure to hear from you! If you didn’t like this article, you definitely won’t like this one: How Microsoft Became Uncool And Lost Touch With Consumers
Best wishes. Oh, and good luck with the whole “customers” thing. Personally, I wouldn’t have thought open contempt was a good way to build sales. Interesting approach.
It would appear English is not your first language.
And if you work in Customer Service consider yourself sacked.
RX9, your brain is too closed to understand the points of Bruce’s article.
Also, your need to elevate yourself by demeaning others is blatant.
Good luck out there.
I am selling my computer it has become so boring and the changes have made it time consuming. I have had a computer from the very early days of it’s introduction.
i smashed the first windows laptop i ever had pc stands for piece of crap or windows should be broken windows! got a mac never looked back even android puts windows to shame.
As someone that winds up providing free technical support for a bunch of folks to overcome the simplest of problems, I have to agree totally with the author’s comments. The endless problems with networking as Microsoft decides, “Hey, you should set up a Homegroup” followed by a few years later saying “We are phasing those out” only adds to the problems. Most of my problems are getting the computers to see each other on the simplest of in home networks and it appears the endless number of arcane settings that have to be just right for everything to communicate approximates infinity in the ability to achieve once you have incorrectly set something and try to fix it.
My suspicion is something gets set in the registry that Windows forgets about, but forever affects future ability to connect if you try to change things. If you follow the instructions and countless videos on the subject, it just does not work by any means short of a reinstall of Windows. And that is usually a buzz-killer when it comes to getting work done.
The comment regarding killing of creativity is spot-on. I suspect we may have passed the point of diminishing returns and the huge boosts gained in productivity per individual during the late 80’s and early 90’s may be seeing a minor decline simply due to the increased complexity of implementation of not quite ready for prime time user interface experiments.
I honestly think I sometimes got more done creatively in the old days of good single application at a time running on the computer in a DOS based environment. You focused on what you were doing, got it done, closed the program and went on to the next thing. Some things were more complicated, but I could at least see if I had made some screw up in setting things up rather than have the black box that is Windows doing it for me and incompletely fixing or resetting the problem.
I do this stuff a lot because I like to and generally know my way around the machines and how to fix the problems, but the pain I feel from the folks and coworkers around me when things do not quite work right is real.
I agree totally with the article!
Stop by next week. I’m getting my thoughts in order about the decline of Windows in a post-computer world for an upcoming article or two. It makes me sad that Windows went down this path instead of evolving into a modern, secure, streamlined operating system that just works.
Yes, yes, yes. I feel so relieved to see this article and the comments, because I was starting to worry that I was just too dumb. Errors, bsod, googling event id after event id, Microsoft recommending another factory reset… it’s way too complicated. I just want to browse, shop and watch videos… is that too much to ask?
I was looking into getting a Chromebook and will read your series on them. Thanks, I needed this article.
Agree to all of the above. I only need a PC for browsing, online shopping etc. and now everytime I use my PC something complex needs seeing to? WHY? Whose brainchild was it to mess with something which worked perfectly well for years before some geek decides s/he is a wunderkind and has the best idea since the bread slicer was invented.
I got a suggestion for you geeks, STOP IT ALREADY! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, leave well enough alone beep beep!
Boy how I miss my old PC system which may be regarded as clunky by some but it didn’t make me want to slit my wrists on a daily basis!
Make sure you read my series about Chromebooks. They involve some interesting choices but many people are finding that Chromebooks have the right combination of functions and speed and price. http://www.brucebnews.com/2017/10/why-your-next-laptop-might-be-a-chromebook/
Sad But oh so true. I have been a faithful user of Microsoft windows since it’s inception I grew with it without much difficulty right up to windows 2007 ( Primarily extensive use of their office programs ) Office 2007 pro being their best. then I made the mistake of purchasing several PCs and Lap Tops which had Win. 8 OS which was a disaster I brought them back to the vender and had them up graded to Win 8.1 some improvement but not without many problems. the final and regrettable decision was installing Win 10 with Office 2016 which after installation all of my excel & word files disappeared. MY staff; some of whom have been working wit me for 15 years are having to spend 1/3 of their day looking up on Google & YouTube just to find out how to navigate through their excel spreadsheet. This has caused me loss of employees due to the frustration & stress it has caused them, not to mention the financial burden I had to bare. I guess if we have to learn a new system we best revert to Mac or Linux. Shame on Microsoft we the senior aged population stuck with you all these years. We account for 54% of the population. At least you could have allowed us to die off without having to be subjected to your newly complicated system. I understand that the system is supposed to be better with many new features however it’s just too complicated for old dogs who have been using the older reliable simple MS systems.
Boy are this article and the accompanying comments appreciated! What is frustrating is that Microsoft HAD a relatively simple to use/understand OS and they decided to ditch it in favor of making more money. A LOT MORE MONEY! I am referring to Windows XP.
We dedicated Win XP users are fighting the tide on this issue and we know it. Despite the crap we get, we hang on because Windows XP is stable. It does what it was designed to do. It rarely crashes and then usually because of excessive demands on the HARDWARE, not the OS. “Back in the Day”, when you wanted to do something new, you got a new program. You didn’t jack your OS all over the lot. One commenter, pj, wrote, “I dream (sad but true) of a new computer called SIMPLE. It goes on the internet; it handles email; it uses Word, Excel and Powerpoint; it can view and store my photos. That is it. That is all I want it to do.”
Well, “SIMPLE” is embodied in any computer with 2k MB of Physical Memory running Win XP SP3. Actually, I can’t speak to Powerpoint BUT, I have only 1,024 MB and can run everything on my computer that I want, just not necessarily 3 or more major apps at once (Adobe Acrobat, Quickbooks Pro, Quicken, Firefox, Thunderbird, Comodo Firewall, a Logitech wireless mouse, Word 2000, Excel 2000, Picassa 3, RealPlayer).
Every time I read an article bashing us XP users, the ONLY valid criticism I see is that XP is not as secure as the newer OS systems. So here is a radical idea. Since XP is stable and will run pretty much any 32bit version of anything (64bit if you have XP Pro), how’s about Microsoft start issuing JUST SECURITY UPDATES. We XP users DO NOT WANT ANY OTHER PART OF XP TO BE UPDATED! Would that really be too difficult for a mega billion $ enterprise like Microsoft? Or hey – how about Microsoft selling Windows XP to another company which could make money selling security updates? After all, Microsoft has declared XP dead so why do they want to hang on to it?
PC technology seems to go round in ever-expanding ellipses: at one point, it’s all quite straight-forward and relatively easy to use and understand, then 180 degrees later, you find yourself being a totally confused novice again. And so it goes on, with that ellipse getting larger and larger. I’d like to tell you a summary of My Life with PCs to illustrate all that . . . .
Started with MS-DOS on a PC/XT (Remember those? If not, you’re younger than 50 years of age: lucky you!) MS-DOS took some learning, yes, but it wasn’t that difficult. At that point, PCs were not ‘aimed’ at the ‘home user’. But Microsoft saw a ready market and introduced Windows – which for the professional and the home user was a boon. And so on, up to Windows 2000 Professional, which, in my opinion, was when ‘Windows’ was at its best – for everyone. Then things stated go get silly (think of Vista: yuk!) and onwards to XP (a tweak of Win_2K): O.K., so far, so good. Then things just got plain ridiculous. Just when you were happy with Windows Explorer and the Desktop, Windows 7 came along – and you were back to square one! And Windows has become more & more confusing and difficult to use ever since.
Then there is hardware. Once upon a time, a CD was a . . . . CD. You wanted a program, a utility or a piece of music – so you bought a CD. Put it into your PC – and go. Nice ‘n’ easy. But then things started to get silly again: R/W, R/W + R, R/W – R and all that DVD nonsense. And now we have something called an ‘ISO image’ – dealing with that requires you to be a PC whizz-kid – not the average home user.
I could write a book of rants on this theme – as you’ve probably guessed by now. But I won’t. Just take comfort that you are not alone. Eventually, PCs will be an item of history – like water-wheels for turning flagstones to grind corn to flour. Unfortunately, that won’t happen in my lifetime.
Happy New Year (2018) to you all!
It’s certainly an interesting journey! My first computer was a Kaypro running CP/M, the most popular OS before IBM and Microsoft introduced DOS. Now we’re well into the shift to mobile devices, and just a technical breakthrough away from whatever comes next. Buckle up your seatbelt, the fun is not over yet . . .
I love this article. Some of that naming nonsense made me think I had missed something.
I pine for the missed opportunity to break Microsoft up into Baby Bills. Yes we would have a more complicated world of multiple OS vendors. But this update nonsense would be quickly punished by churning your users to the other choices.
It’s frustrating that the situation almost seems worse now, a year and a half after I wrote this article. The latest update to Windows 10 is interrupting people’s work with a lengthy delay (and occasionally not going well). The Office programs have enough glitches to seem fragile. Chromebooks have been slow to take off but I still think they’ll have a big impact in the consumer market because they’re cheap and more important, they’re simple.
As someone who does research and art as well, I’ve made friends with artist who kick computers to opt for the ancient ways of doing things, and they end up doing a lot more, faster. One of them draws with pen and paper, and uses a simple chopping block for steaks and all kinds of pens to do her thing. Once done, she scans it, sends it to Adobe and either struggles through coloring, or gets someone else to do that for her because it’s just too much.
As for writing, the only thing I can think that works well is LibreOffice. It just works. Its free. Its easy. It does what you tell it to. And if your pc shuts off or something, it will let you recover what you wrote if you lose it. You don’t have to be online either. And as someone who’s researched online vs books, for some reason, the book or a documentary will almost always kick you into creative overdrive. Big writers today still use old outdated stuff, because it helps them flow. It takes maybe a day to get a hang of it, and you’re good. I wanted a black screen, and getting that took about an hour, which considering its me, is pretty damn fast. And if people want me to do something complicated for them, then I find a friend who is willing to do this for me, or I just say: look, download this or your SOL because I just can’t. I just can’t. Also, don’t laugh at me, but I’m not opposed to a typewriter or emailing myself from a video game console. If it’s flowing, and you’re in the groove, then go. Just flow and go. Don’t waste your time with that. Or a typewriter. Or one of these new tablets that just does work and thats it. I may have to get one with a stylus, just to upgrade my art. Because a mouse+”art program”? No. I can’t.
There is no such thing as “you can do anything.” You can’t. And that’s okay. You’re not supposed to. That’s what makes us human, we CAN’T do things, so we use ingenuity or social to overcome it.
As for your research, try a library. You’ll end up getting more ideas and feeling more creatively turned on than fiddling online. Trust me, I know. The internet is full of garbage, lies, fascists, racists, wackos, and BS that it’s just….ugh. Sometimes just accidentally coming across some basement nazi’s racist rant leaves you feeling too tired and disgusted to write. Funny thing is, when research is involved, people will give you less problems about library-sought stuff than what you found online.
Also, try downloading a program called CrapCleaner and another called Adblock Plus. They both install easy. Turn your internet off and turn on CC, let it clean your pc out whihc takes maybe 5 minutes. Then, go back online and get Adblock Plus. It stops the popups and problems. Also, Comodo Icedragon is the best thing to use when getting online.
It appears the Windows ME team has been promoted to executives.
Hallelujuah! Boy am I glad someone voiced what I’ve come to feel more and more on an everyday basis. I’m a creative writer and I need to do research on the internet, but as of the last few weeks my computer’s been buffering endlessly and the webpages have been skipping around so much so that I can’t even read them! The page jumps up and down and I have to keep scrolling which doesn’t even help. I’ve read dozens of articles and watched a ton of Youtube videos on how to “fix” the buffering problem and nothing has worked…I’ve been running around in circles trying to fix this problem…especially when it came to downloading Adobe Flashdrive which should have been really easy. I need the internet to do my research, but it’s going to be impossible if I can’t stop the buffering.
Yes, they kill the creativity! I agree! Most people just want to simply press a button, go to a menu to choose whatever they are trying to work on, and get to work.
By the time I get a screen to stay open & close six pop ups I’m exhausted and don’t even want to use the computer. I have a Dell laptop I don’t use BC it was so hard to figure out and had no clue what I needed to install for this and that.. I want to get a desktop so I can sit at it, instead of a small phone. .but I don’t even know where to begin if I can’t even use a laptop anymore 🙁 uncomplicate the systems lol
They kill energy and creativity too. You just want to do something simple and get the program to do it. After 6+ hours of hoop jumping, sitting through 20 minute manuals on how to fix something the fool could’ve just said “press this button and go here, done”, and more, you just either end up dumping the thing or paying someone to do something that takes 15 minutes or less. Your energy is gone, your creativity is dead, you wont want to finish work. You go home and turn on the easy-to-use TV, or refer back to the simple pen-and-paper which has worked since 300,000 BC and will continue to work.
This is the best article on Windows 10 problems I have read. It encapsulates so much of what is wrong with Windows 10. Windows 10 upgrades are ruining computing for my generation (40+).
Me included. I am now hating my computer. I am hating trying to do my work (even though I love my job).
My frustration levels are at the point where I feel like throttling Microsoft executives on most days of the week.
There are so many ongoing issues with Windows 10 and Microsoft. At times I cannot even access my own computer – it is not unusual to turn it on and not even be able to log in because some update or other has changed the settings, or because an update is underway and everything else has stopped dead in its tracks until it is done. It can take many hours before I can even use it again.
At times I have even not been able to open Word docs – i.e. I am not even connected to the internet and I still can’t access my files. This is both terrifying (i.e. fear that I have lost access to ALL my documents) and also damaging to my business and reputation (because I cannot do my work until Microsoft is finished doing whatever it is doing to my computer). This can take hours.
I keep hoping that these Windows 10 teething problems will be fixed, but I am really over it.
At least two or three times a week I am on the internet, searching forums like this one, trying to find a “fix” for the latest problem caused by a Windows 10 update. It always surprises me how many hundreds of others have experienced the same issue.
I have had to learn to be far more technically savvy than I ever was (or ever wanted to be) in trying to “fix” errors deep in the operating system. People will write “try this” or “try that” and I try them all and usually one will work. Yaay! another Microsoft performance issue solved ….until a few days or weeks later when there is another one. It is a relentless downward spiral in my confidence in Microsoft, its systems, its management, its computers.
I was thinking of buying a MAC but have no idea if they are any better. Or maybe a Chromebook (love your article about new changes to Chromebook coming soon).
My problem, like that of a lot of business people, is that I need functionality in Word, Excel and Powerpoint and I have not read anything about whether Chromebook computers can provide that.
I dream (sad but true) of a new computer called SIMPLE. It goes on the internet; it handles email; it uses Word, Excel and Powerpoint; it can view and store my photos. That is it. That is all I want it to do. All the other bells and whistles are superfluous and can be add-ons for those computer users who need power-computing capabilities. Most of us don’t.
I agree – computers have become too hard to use. Therefore, people are dropping them in droves. Like my kids. They watch my agony and laugh. They are impervious. They have a smartphone. It works.
Amen to this. Whilst I am technical enough to deal with the myriad of random issues that Windows will often throw up at you, I know many non-technical people who will just effectively abandon a program or peripheral when it stops working, because it’s too hard to fix. Constant updates to application, often adding no real value, are another major confusion for users, who live in perpetual fear they may be installing viruses or worse. It’s no wonder people are dumping PC’s and turning to phones/tablets instead.
You are spot on, mate! I couldn’t have said it any better. You have encapsulated the five points above brilliantly – its what I have been thinking for ages – but I cannot escape the computer/digital world!!
This is so true.
@Bruce Wanted to share this article and it does not have a share button, this is how Tech has been missing the pieces, instead of making life easy I think it is complicated now 🙁
This is so ridiculously true.
Except I feel like it started with Windows Vista, not Windows 8.
They keep trying to make things sleeker and cooler, and more user-personalized, but they can’t even get a simple command to work. It’s sad.