Authorative technology

Tags: computers.
By lucb1e on 2011-12-13 16:57:09 +0100

This is a translation from a Dutch opinion article by Christian Jongeneel, published in 'De Ingenieur' (The Engineer) on October 28th 2011.


Once, I owned an Apple IIcx, a payment in kind of a befriended editorial, who had purchased a new one. Back then you were tied to an Apple if you wanted to design a magazine. I used it for my volunteersmagazine. It was a nice machine, it came with a big screen, which I could júst lift on my own.

Just like my PC the Apple crashed regularly. Instead of a blue screen with ununderstandable code on it the device displayed a little bomb. Besides that you could still see the work which was irrevocably lost. Rebooting was the only option after which you simply hoped the best. Other than with Windows you can't look under the hood with an Apple.

Most people don't even want to look under the hood. That was the brilliant insight of the recently deceased Apple-CEO Steve Jobs. If it works slightly easy, most people are fine with it. Apple guards the hood of its devices like a lion. Everyone may create apps for the iPhone, but Apple decides whether they pass the ballot.

Microsoft has less authorative traits. On the PC all software is welcome and you can open and modify the file with the most important settings (at your own risk). Even though I don't write software and I hardly ever dive under the hood, the open philosophy always attracted me more. After the IIcx was at its end, I didn't purchase any new Apple products from principal.

If I was really serious about this, I would have switched to Linux. At Windows you may look under the hood, but you can't touch the design of the engine (which is besides just like Google's Android). With Linux you can tinker as much as you want. Not that I need that a lot, but I like the principal - although not enough to choose for it. I am not the only one on that.

You don't hear a lot about Linux as consumer product lately. The system is mostly successfull in technological environments, where nerds amongst each other have a great need to tinker with the system. The computerspecialists themselves deny that Linux is hard to use, but hearing their descriptions about how easy it is, a semi-nerd like me finds that it might not be so easy.

No wonder that people go with the user friendlyness and funkyness of Apple. Engineers, people like to conclude, are so focussed on functionality that they forget marketing - while the breakthrough of the pc and the internet for the masses was brought by Microsoft, a company where nerds hold the steering wheel tightly. Apple's power lies in a luxury, but affordable design layer on other people's technology. This exclusive look is being guarded by a ballot committee.

Personally I think the gap between engineers and technologyconsumers goes deeper than a chic box and smooth graphics. Because they are so comfortable with with technology, engineers have a difficulty to understand that others are fearful of the options which technology provides them. Consumers say that they want as many options as possible, but when Apple directs them with an iron fist to the iTunes-store for their tunes, they follow without repine.

People want custom freedom of choise - not too much, not too little. They want to be more dependant of technology than engineers wish for them. Rather powerlessly watching a bomb than knowing how a system works. If engineers were not such helpful folks, they would have had the power of the world in their hands already.



Again, this is written by Christian Jongeneel, science journalist and publisher of the book "Het zit in een lab en het heeft gelijk". This opinion article was published by "De Ingenieur" (The Engineer), No 17 (October 28th 2011), page 31.
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