long way round

Computers in Disguise

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At the dawn of the Windows era, 3.1 to be exact, my mom told me Bill Gates predicted that in the near future, using computers will be as easy as using a telephone. This was at a time when using a telephone simply meant picking up the receiver, dialing the person's number, and waiting for that person to respond. Easy. It was also a time when using a computer was akin to rocket science, where one had to know DOS commands and recall them from memory to get the computer to do anything remotely useful, such as rename a file, or format the floppy disk.

Just last week, mom got a brand new iPhone 4. The idea was that it'd be easy to use and hassle free in doing video chat (via Facetime) across the Pacific Ocean. It's after months of frustration not being able to get her webcam work properly on her PC, leaving many sessions of Skype in futile attempts to "see each other". The first day she got it, she was telling me how complicated it was to use, and how it wasn't really a phone at all. I believed in Steve Jobs' promise that the iPhone "just works", but alas, mom's iPhone didn't "just work." After studying how to use it, it crashed on her and never came back to a normal state. Disappointed, she returned it for a refund and went back to her non-smart phone. She said "I'll wait until Apple works out all their issues and makes a better phone." I chuckled.

I was reminded of the Bill Gates quote she shared what seems like eons ago in technology time. Using computers is just as easy as using phones alright, except the phones are now more computer than phone.

A month back, while visiting family friends in Sacramento, I drooled over their newly bought Android phones, the Samsung Galaxy S. It took beautiful pictures, seamlessly integrated with Google apps, and connected crystal clear with their car's bluetooth hands-free system. Except, to an older couple who weren't used to smartphones, the Android phone was confusing to use for all its non-phone qualities. To make a call, you have to touch the "phone" app. To answer a call, you have to slide the puzzle piece to its right place. You can swipe down to bring a set of menus. You can push the physical buttons to bring another set. You can open an app and there's yet more options to choose. Gone are the days of flipping open a phone, dialing a number, and pushing "talk."

So, Bill Gates' predictions still has some ways to go. Hopefully one of these days, a phone will be as easy to use as, you know, a phone.

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Written by shindz

December 8, 2010 at 1:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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