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Schweb's Lounge Forum for general conversation, chit chat, or most topics that don't fit in another forum.

Simplexity of our gadgets, good or bad?


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kowalskil

 
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I am reading "Simplexity," the 2008 book by J. Kluger. He writes:
"Electronic devices ... have gone mad. It is not just your TV or your camera or your twenty-seven-button cell phone with its twenty-one different screen menus and its 124-page instruction manual. ... The act of buying nearly any electronic product has gone from the straightforward plug-and-play experience it used to be to a laborious, joy-killing experience in unpacking, reading, puzzling out, configuring, testing, cursing, reconfiguring, stopping altogether to call the customer support line, then calling again an hour or two later, until you finally get whatever it is you've bought operating in some tentative configuration that more or less does all the things you want it to do--at least until some error message causes the whole precarious assembly to crash and you have to start it all over again. ... "

After elaborating on this topic (for several pages), the author concludes that "there's necessarily complex and then there's absurdly complex."

What he does not analyze, at least in the chapter I am reading, is the effect all this may have on the minds of our push-button youngsters. Push-button experience is very different from building radios, repairing grandfather clocks, tractors, cars, etc. Will the overall effect be positive or negative?**What do you think?

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MYmacROX

 
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My 5 yr old nephew didn't need to read a 125 page manual to operate his dad's iPhone 5. He knows where to look for photos and where the games are and how to pull up the calculator and oh yeah... how to make phone call and facetime calls. I don't know who this author is but he sounds like a grouchy old man or someone who's recently had a bad experience with complicated electronics.

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harryb2448

 
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Don't worry about it Ludwik. Youngsters will just ignore what he has written and as MymacROX says they will have it working in a much quicker time than it takes to read Mr Kluger's work of art.

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toMACsh

 
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I see lots of "help me" threads here concerning syncing of redundant devices. This is complexity driven by addiction or obsession. No one needs all of these different devices. The angst they cause for some people trying to get them all to play nice together negates any benefit, especially where time management is concerned.
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iggibar

 
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If a task can be completed in one step, there's absolutely no need for more steps. I'm sorry, but I truly believe that people are moronic to think the opposite. The only exception to this is if the additional step allows for more variations or tweaking, but that's pretty rare in this case. In some cases, making a task simpler means giving it a dedicated shortcut key. In cars, this would make it more complex because you now have too many buttons. If you remove those buttons, to give the layout a simpler look, you make the interface to complex. I firmly believe that people actually don't care about this preference, as long as it sides by their fanboism products...like Windows Vs OSX for example, or Android OS vs. iOS, or BMW's iDrive, Mercedes' Command Center, and etc. I don't believe an accurate assumption can be made unless someone actually knows the a vast experience to cover both variations, and I believe what matters most is whether or not a person is whiling to get used to setup. My iPhone had a somewhat simpler OS, but I wouldn't say it's much more simpler than Android OS, especially since Android OS has that exception I mentioned earlier having an additional step that provides more options.

Also, there's a stark difference between mechanical and electrical(push-button) simplicity/complexity. I learned a lot from my father growing up, who's a professional engine(marine, locomotive, aeronautics) builder, mechanical designer, and chief builder, and believe I an pretty darn decent in complex building/maintenance. I wouldn't compare that up with "push-button" electronic devices for a second, though from my experience, they work in conjunction with each other. Now-a-days, you need more than mechanical wits. You will be beat by that youngster who can easily wrap his mind around mechanics and understands push-button like the back of his hand, where you understand mechanics like the back of your hand, but can't wrap your mind around push-button tech as well.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” Marcus Aurelius
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XJ-linux

 
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I think it has a lot to do with our experiences in life, exposure with similar things (mechanics -vs- electronics) and preconceived or prejudiced misconceptions about things we don't intuitively understand based on what we are familiar with. A 16th century French milkmaid could probably grasp an iPhone interface if she had prior experience relating to 16th century cows in such a manner, and was sufficiently assured it wasn't witchcraft.

"Those who don't understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly." – Henry Spencer
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theoak

 
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Ahh, for the good old days, when things were truly simple.
The TV did one thing, and was easy to operate, but ours only got 6 channels.
The telephone? You just picked it up and made a phone call. It still worked when power was out.
A camera? Just pick it up and take a picture. Then let someone else develop the pictures.
The radio? just turn it on, and find a station.
A record player? Just be careful not to scratch the records.
A typewriter? Just put a sheet of paper in, and type.
A movie camera? Just remember to take the lens cap off.
Games? They also worked when the electricity went out.
A calculator? Just don't run out of paper tape.

I agree that those things were much simpler to operate. Each device did only one thing. No need to change "modes". But laptops, tablets, and smart phones have sure cut down on a lot of clutter.

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three8one

 
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Perhaps some things were less complicated back then, but could they do as much as today? My current phone allows me to carry all of these (and more) without a huge backpack:

laptop
photo album
GPS
maps
calendar
agenda
bank booklet
tv remote
watch
cellphone
iPod
camera
gaming console
calculator
flashlight
hard drive
code scanner
contact booklet
newspaper
weather station
notebook
recorder
compass
portable DVD player
cookbook
playing cards
alarm clock
stopwatch
radio
air hockey table
level

And it's not that complicated; my 2 y/o daughter knows how to unlock my iPhone, chooses her coloring app, closes the ad, presses play, chooses her pic, chooses her colours and play with it. It's pretty impressive actually.

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You're gonna put the tool belt companies out of business!
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I will take the complex gadgets over the old any day ,spoiled I guess.
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I'm no hipster, but some old school things are still great today; gaming consoles, vinyl records, cars, Betamax tapes, 35mm cameras, roller skates, and more.

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