Well, Jobs and Raskin agreed on one thing: They were both utterly opposed to people being able to customize their environments to be more pleasant (or, in fact, possible) for them to work in. That’s what I call the Design Disease: Thinking you know better than your users, and therefore forcing them to do things your way, even when they know a way that’s better for them, given the totality of their environment and workflow. It fits with the Cult of Mac, which can claim things “Just Work” for values of “Just Work” which necessitate building your entire environment out of parts sourced from a single company.
When that philosophy works, it works well. When it doesn’t, you’re the one holding it wrong.
Hmm… literally all of the commercially successful platforms I can think of that target non-specialist users have adopted this philosophy to some extent. I mean MacOS (from before it was called that), PalmOS, Windows, iOS, Android… and now ChromeOS, which takes it to an extreme, and is what I usually recommend for young kids and grandparents, even though I really dislike Google the company. It’s just so much less pain for a computer non-specialist to use. In my experience, most people don’t want to “build an environment” at all. They just want a tool that they can understand enough to have it get out of their way while they get on with their work.
Meanwhile, the year of the linux desktop never came. The closest we have are big slick distros like Ubuntu, which are still way too complex, have too many breakable moving parts, for “regular folks” to be comfortable with – unless they’re especially motivated to learn the arcana. If they do climb up that learning curve, like you and I did, they inevitably accommodate to a whole bunch of idiosyncratic design decisions that went into things like shells and editors and network config: things that, in practice, nobody can redo.
The conclusion that I draw is that it’s a far greater failure to require your users to customize their environment before they can get on with whatever they want to be doing. For most people, computers have always been a means, not an end. I think it’s a pity how easily technical people lose sight of that.
Your bigotry against the disabled is unwelcome here.
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I have re-read the commend you are replying to and cannot find any bigotry. Can you please highlight the quote where you see it?
Jef Raskin is not exactly an unsung genius anymore, but I’d still say “undersung”. Something of a tragic hero in the classical sense.
The Canon Cat is a little rare and expensive when you can find it, but a Swyftcard replica for your vintage Apple II is pretty affordable still. Also the Cat software (written in Forth!) is fully emulated in the MAME suite. If you find this stuff interesting, I’d strongly suggest at least reading Raskin’s book The Humane Interface. Wikipedia’s page on Archy has some interesting tidbits too.
Apart from some good ideas on human interface design, there is a broader lesson to be learned about the real political and economic reasons why technical projects succeed or fail. Smalltalk, Oberon, Lisp machines, BeOS, NeXT, the Newton… all worth study.
Lobsters, what are your favorite coulda-been systems? I’d especially love to hear from the old-timers among us.
Mainstream PowerPC Amiga. :’(
Making something impossible to configure makes it impossible to use if you’re disabled (or even less able) in some key way which hampers your ability to use the defaults. This is a form of bigotry, and must be stamped out wherever possible.