Friday 5 June 2015

The Mandroid

Innocent journalist chained to technology

In the spirit of the scientific researchers who gave iPads to monkeys, I have been transformed into a digital journalist. Once I was a slave to the keyboard and a bunch of scribbled notes that, whilst being indecipherable, occasionally produced something entertaining when handed to a pharmacist. Now I’m under the thumb of a startlingly wide range of devices.
In computing terms I’m about as old school as Alan Turing’s dad. A school teacher built a computer from car parts or something in 1978 and off we went. I started off as a computer operator - do they still exist? - loading paper tape, later progressing to COBOL.
What has changed since then is not technology, but human imagination. My teacher said that he could imagine a computer in many people’s homes, but couldn’t think of what it could be used for, beyond household accounts.
A couple of years later, the horizon looked only slightly brighter, but like processing power, it grew exponentially.
Perhaps is was culture that provided a spark, with books, lovingly printed on paper, a variation on papyrus, like William Gibson’s Neuromancer, but the wider the technology rippled through society, the potential appeared more inventive and less predictable each year.
The reason is humanity. People use technology in ways the originator’s never imagine.
As a poor record company executive once turned down the Beatles because “guitar groups are on the way out”, so Tim Berners Lee thought the internet didn’t need image files, Microsoft gave away Outlook Express, we’re looking at a distance beyond our focal length. Telecoms never thought that there would be any use for text messages, and so on.
Internet booms have passed, bright dreams have faded, but nobody knows what will endure.
Windows has been the dominant operating system for decades, only having hiccups when the Seattle giant does something really stupid, like the Metro interface. In the fringes, Linux advocates have finally shut up about next year being the year of Linux on the desktop - a goal they never approached, but with the the off-shoot, Android, Linux has really taken off.
Android has quietly overtaken Apple as the interface of today. Apple’s approach has won plaudits, they are becoming more like AOL as time passes, whose early walled garden and ease of use, faded as customers headed for wider pastures.
While Android is excellent on a phone, on a tablet, it is less impressive. Developers have gone for ease of use over functionality. It is said, not entirely accurately, that tablets are for consuming, not creating content. A good test of one, is to try to write a 100 word article on one.
Microsoft had a go at resolving the perceived conflict between ‘a nice and simple toy for relaxing with’ and ‘serious work tool’ with their attempt at a tablet and laptop crossover, Surface. However, the device was priced too high and failed in the marketplace, placing the black spot on its cut down operating system and the accursed Metro interface.
This is why I’ve been transformed into a Mandroid.

No comments:

Post a Comment