Journal: News & Comment

Saturday, December 08, 2001
# 12:09:00 PM:

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The cost of computers

People use computers to improve their productivity, to do tasks they couldn't otherwise, to have fun -- many things. But we often find them infuriating. Jakob Nielsen, perhaps the Web's foremost usability expert, puts it well in one of his recent columns:

I recently wasted half an hour trying to print a report that had many screenshots. Several of the images printed only as "X." Why? Was it a problem with Windows 98? Or with Word 2000? Or was it that the vendor had yet to update the printer driver? Maybe the printer simply had too little memory. The point is: I couldn't figure it out, and I have a Ph.D. and 28 years' experience using computers...
Even worse is the resulting feeling of powerlessness that dominates most people's attitudes toward modern technology. Things happen to you, and you don't know why. You don't understand how your own tools work because of their random and unpredictable behavior.

Crashes in Microsoft Windows alone are estimated to cost people worldwide $170 billion each year -- and other non-crashing bugs may cost trillions. The problem is true of Windows and Macintosh computers, of Web sites, even of automated teller machines sometimes. And it's a shame.


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