1. 31
  1.  

  2. 16

    Well, for one thing, I/O was extremely slow before SSDs.

    I agree that latency for CPU-bound tasks has increased, but let’s not forget about saving a document and waiting for 10 seconds of blocking disk drive write access.

    1. 3

      I don’t remember it being that slow unless your IDE controller on Linux didn’t support Ultra-DMA/66/100/133 and you were forced to use slow PIO.

      1. 6

        1983 ≠ Ultra-DMA. I’m talking about floppies – in response to the slightly angry title

        But even in the HDD era (late 90s/early 00s) we spent a lot of time looking at spinning hourglasses while hearing disk scratching noises.

        Sure, nostalgic and comforting, but slow nonetheless :)

    2. 12

      “Please insert floppy disk 3 to continue.”

      1. 11

        Despite the ranty nature of this post, I actually think there are some good, balanced points in it. Most people either fall off on the side of “keyboard and text mode everything” or “gimme my javascript clicky click”. Meanwhile, there’s a better option in between that utilizes modern hardware without giving up the advantages of text/keyboard when they’re available.

        One of my favorite examples is Blender. The user interface absolutely requires a mouse or tablet, but gives power users quick access to common tools through keyboard bindings.

        Other interfaces (that I have less experience with) that mix text and graphics well are emacs and Mathematica. Some mouse commands work for beginners, but power users can learn keybindings.

        I also have a vendetta against high latency UIs and wasted CPU cycles, but I feel like that is due to people building software with too many layers more than anything else.

        1. 1

          Microsoft Office also has a bunch of keyboard affordances.

          Sadly their recent Electron stuff doesn’t. There’s no way to use the keyboard to switch between areas in Teams for example.

        2. 7

          Not a completely honest comparison, unless there is a feature in paper maps that lets you use street view that I haven’t discovered yet. For some tasks, you just don’t need technology. For their particular purposes, a whiteboard or list for the grocery store still beats a any piece of technology.

          I agree with the sentiment though: I know designing is a hard job, but it feels like most designs are not thoroughly thought out, and we are layering abstraction upon abstraction without regard for the final product. Computers have gotten thousands of times faster in raw computations, which has not translated in a good user experience. We should be able to do better.

          1. 1

            Not a completely honest comparison, unless there is a feature in paper maps that lets you use street view that I haven’t discovered yet.

            I don’t see how it’s dishonest, when it’s comparing the main function of google maps – to be a digital overhead map. Street view is a cool feature, but it would entirely be possible to keep street view and redesign the google maps application to be much faster and more usable.

            1. 2

              It’s hard to pick a specific point in the article, because it seems to be mainly a rant about how Google maps doesn’t do what the author wants it to do. There are dozens of ways in which Google maps is more practical to use than a map*, and I don’t think you need me to list them for you.

              *) Probably also dozens of use cases in which it isn’t.

              1. 1

                it seems to be mainly a rant about how Google maps doesn’t do what the author wants it to do

                We must have read a different article, the google maps section was only a small section of the main artice.

                1. 1

                  Yes, I meant that section, not the whole article. The article is of a similar ranty nature, though.

              2. 2

                The interface of google maps is a digital overhead map. Thats not its primary function. Most people don’t go to google maps to find the distance between two location as the crow flies or to optimize the route of a multistop road trip. They go there to see how long their commute will take, find the nearest fast food chain and the time it closes, to see what bus transfers they need to make. And in those use cases Google Maps is vastly superior to their paper counterparts.

                1. 0

                  Thats not its primary function.

                  Street view was a late addition to google maps. How you use google maps is different to how other people use google maps. I’ve observed both millenials, gen-xers, and gen-zers use google maps and they do not, for the most of the time, go straight to street view. In fact street view is a rarely used feature unless they’re hunting for a specific house.

                  They go there to see how long their commute will take, find the nearest fast food chain and the time it closes, to see what bus transfers they need to make. And in those use cases Google Maps is vastly superior to their paper counterparts.

                  Google maps is, as mentioned, substandard for doing that already, for the same reasons as mentioned in TFA.

                  1. 2

                    I’m not GP. And I almost never use street view.

                    How you use google maps is different to how other people use google maps.

                    That’s exactly my reaction to the article. Google maps supports a ton of different features and exposing it all in a simple understandable UI to the user is a difficult problem. Design involves tradeoffs and sacrifices. Complaining that the interface Google Maps is worse than paper maps for his specific use case is not interesting without bringing forth ideas of their own. What would a UI to cross reference data look like? Does he want a pen and ruler tool for drawing on the map? If Google maps switched to a keyboard controlled interface is there not the equally valid rant waiting, “Why does the map randomly jump around as soon as I touch a key????”

            2. 7

              https://danluu.com/keyboard-latency/

              the stack travel distance has increased dramatically to make up for faster cpu and dev time pressures.

              1. 6

                The author of this article never waited 30 minutes to load something off of cassette ONLY TO HAVE IT NOT LOAD RIGHT AND THEN YOU HAVE TO TRY AGAIN.

                1. 5

                  Occasionally I think about my first home PC, a Mac LCII, with it’s 16MHz processor and 2MB RAM. It handled gaming (Prince of Persia!) and word processing and drawing (Corel maybe?) without ever seeming to be slow.

                  It would be interesting to use one now, to get an idea about whether my expectations have changed or whether it was as good an experience as I remember.

                  1. 6

                    My first computer had a ps2 keyboard (interrupts, instead of packet queues for usb), a crt monitor (fast refresh compared with lcd), no network to block on, and no multitasking in the OS, no scrollback in the terminal.

                    Everything was instant. Nothing was ever perceptibly slow.

                    1. 5

                      My first computer - Amstrad CPC 464, 4MHz Z80 - was notably slow in a couple of areas (text scrolling, and floating point maths).

                      But my first decent PC - an actual IBM 5150 - was plenty responsive. And my first Unix machine, a 486DX4 running Linux back in 1995 - flew.

                      And my normal choice of laptop - used ThinkPads running FreeBSD - still do fly. Tiling WM, Emacs, plenty of RAM and a fast SSD.

                      Things only start dragging when running a IDE (I’m looking at you IntelliJ / RubyMine), a Web browser, or any abomination running on Electron.

                  2. 5

                    Not related to the contents of the thread, but I don’t think ‘a11y’ is a good tag for it.

                    1. 2

                      Yes, I was hesitant about that tag, too.

                      1. 1

                        Thanks for updating the tags, and nice post!

                    2. 4

                      Even if true (not my recollection), but components and capacity are sooo much better now. I would not even dream of the beautiful display I have in my current XPS 13s back in the 90s.

                      1. 7

                        But that’s sort of the point. We have glitchy, laggy, less powerful interfaces despite the shiny hardware.

                      2. 4

                        This reminds me a bit about using Pidgin as an IM client way back, it would basically never hang and have pretty instant feedback. Compare to Messenger or Line…. yikes

                        OTOH it was a really bad IRC client and would get really slow with a bunch of data.

                        I do wish that more apps would just use local stores (at least for caching). I bet most services I use have just a couple megs of data for me (especially if we’re ignoring stuff like images). Just use local stuff and a sync button or something!

                        1. 4

                          I remember feeling like this was a problem even 20 years ago. I remember trying BeOS around 2000 and feeling like I got my PC back. The problem is much worse now though. I could be sitting on a 3.0Ghz i7 with a fast internet connection and some web apps are just crawling.

                          1. 3

                            The author and I clearly use machines in very different ways. And if I were attempting what he’s described, I’d probably also be frustrated.

                            These days, I mostly play with stuff, and write about it for online publication. That typically involves local VMs and remote VPS. So it’s decent bandwidth and fast SSDs that keep me happy. I could never do that on even 90s hardware and dial-up or even ADSL. Or at least, I’d spend lots of time waiting. Rebooting took minutes!

                            Back in the day, I wrote on WordPerfect for DOS, in DESQview. It was glitchy, and I saved frequently and prayed. Because a hard crash could corrupt the file on disk. But now I write plain text in Geany or ReText. They’re light, and they check spelling. Final formatting I do online, I admit. But that’s not so painful.

                            1. 1

                              Keyboards present fewer possible discrete options. Mice present a continuum. One can be operated blind; the other requires feedback. You cannot use a mouse without using your eyes to confirm everything.

                              This guy nails it.

                              1. 1

                                I don’t know why so many people are taking the thread to imply that we should go back to 1990s technology? I also don’t understand why everyone’s focusing on the hardware involved, when the post in question only uses that to compare against the relative operational speed of user interfaces. I took the thread as meaning that we should learn what we can when we build for the future, not that we should go back in time to the 1980s?

                                1. 2

                                  It’s a Twitter thread, so not really a format conductive to rational arguments. The thread meanders between extremely specific use cases for maps, to paeans to POS systems, and after that I honestly stopped reading.