SINCE IT IS ALL TOO COMPLICATED TO EXPLAIN, WE’LL TELL THEM AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE—AND NEXT STOP REDMOND!
One has to admire the chutzpah of the movers and shakers in the computer industry. As the various devices have become ever more powerful and complex, the industry has virtually given up on including comprehensive manuals—and has left us, the users to fend for ourselves. To paraphrase Marie Antoinette (the French queen who was guillotined—along with a whole bunch of my ancestors—a true story): “Let them click around until something happens.”
It is one of these brilliant counter-intuitive solutions that seems to be working. After all, when a book on MS Word can run to over 1,000 pages, what hope does one have of covering the true complexity of a computer. Besides, writing good manuals is difficult, boring and expensive; and think of all the trees one saves by ignoring the task.
Just over three years ago when I bought my last HP laptop, it came with rather a respectable manual—which I put to good use, especially when I upgraded the memory. This time around, there is a single fold-out sheet explaining how to set up the machine; and the thinnest, flimsiest booklet on Windows 8 that one can imagine. It talks about ‘charms.’ Frankly, I never thought I would hear that word associated with Windows! On the other hand I thought a lot about guillotines back in the days of Vista and its predecessors. A guillotine in Redmond—operated by Windows users naturally—might have had a truly wondrous effect on the Microsoft mind set.
Have I managed? Somewhat to my surprise, I believe I have—and without calling a support line. I have learned to dread support lines.
Is this because we have all become more computer literate, or have the interfaces been so vastly improved that they are now intuitive—or has the internet made manuals obsolete? I’m sure all three factors are relevant.
Still, I cannot help feeling that we are entering an era where no one will ever fully understand anything properly, but will merely learn enough to do the minimum—and rarely utilize the full potential of the device in question. In a world of scarce resources, that is somewhat worrying—to the point of being frustrating. Besides, I have always rather liked manuals.
They are books, you see.