Bad software

Date:     11 June 13
By:          Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.,
                2252 Joyce St.,
                Burlington, oN L7R 2B5   
                905 634 9538
For:         Letters, The Economist, London, UK
Re:          ” … Hewlett Packard and Dell have struggled … ” p. 64, June 1
 

Dear Editors:

 
Yes.  And they have brought it on themselves.  The “thousand dollar doorstop” syndrome is worse than ever.
 
Most desk- and lap-top computer software is non-intuitive, unfriendly, badly structured, mystifying, unpredictable, untested, illogical, buggy, and inefficient.   It is flabby with endless demos of programmer cleverness that are of little practical value and which, with unwanted, irritating automaticity, just get in the way.  It is unusable for large numbers of potential customers who want to do serious computational, writing, or other Value Added tasks and do not want to become computer geeks or (heaven help us) “communicators”, risking spraining their thumbs and atrophying their  brains. 
 
My 30-year-old Osborne, with its Wordstar, Supercalc, and dBaseII, is the exact opposite of each of the unflattering adjectives above and, seven computer generations old, is superior, for my purposes, to the machine on which I am writing this.   Given several tweaks (e.g. internet, a link between the spreadsheet and the DBM, colour, reduction
 to laptop size, AND PROVIDED WITH A MANUAL!!) it would sell like hotcakes today.
 
Recall that, in the early ’50s, Volkswagen identified a huge market of which the Big Three were blissfully unaware.  “Volkswagen sold 50,000 cars last year?” the then head of GM pontificated scornfully, “We LOSE 50,000 cars a year on their way to the dealers!”  
 
The original Bug was cheap, simple, dependable and of superb quality.  We earned their gold watch for 60,000 miles without a repair.
 
The computer industry today needs a Volkswagen Bug.
 
Cheers,
 
F.
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