Thomas Sowell

One of the maddening things about some computer programs and computerized products is their making you fight your way through a maze of complications to do simple things. Whether you want to play chess, take a picture, or do some other obvious and straightforward thing, you must first deal with a zillion options to do things you have no interest in doing.
The fact that there are innumerable features built into any product -- whether computerized or not -- does not automatically mean that you have to deal with the features you don't want.

 There are cameras with features that you will never use -- and that will never get in the way of your taking a picture. Some of these are complex computerized cameras that have a "program" button you can press, so that you can take a picture without having to slog your way through innumerable options.

 Your automobile may have a global positioning system and other high-tech stuff, but you don't have to work your way through it before you can turn the key in the ignition and drive away. You don't have to work your way through all the options on your television set before you can turn it on and watch a ballgame.

 Too many other computerized products and computer programs, however, force you to get bogged down in so many options, functions, and modes that you may just give up before finding the simple thing you want to do. Moreover, the simple thing may be what most people do 90 percent of the time.

 Those who design some computerized products or computer software seem to have no interest in making it easy to do simple things, and will seldom tell you what to do in plain English if they can coin some new jargon instead. They keep adding features in such a way that even programs that were once easy to use become a struggle to deal with, even if you only want to do the same things you have always done.

 Playing a game of Scrabble on the computer used to be a quiet, relaxing pleasure and you could install it from a floppy disk or two. Today, it takes a CD to hold all the bells and whistles that have been added -- and the patience of Job to work your way through all this stuff just so you can play a game of Scrabble.

 As for quiet, the new Scrabble comes on with loud noises that some may call music. If you are awake in the middle of the night in a hotel room and your spouse is asleep, you would never dare to turn on the new Scrabble game. It would wake up your spouse and maybe people in the next room.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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