Kage Baker was sternly opposed to change just for its own sake. She liked novelty; but she abhorred its being pointless.” Improvements” to the things she used in her work and home were especially suspicious. Their only justification, in her eyes, was to make her buy more crap.
New and Improved, Kage often opined, just means a new package and fewer uses. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And she pretty much felt that applied to everything from computer programs to peanut butter and laundry detergent. She was a natural market for retro products.
As a computer user, for example, Kage fervently wished that Windows would just – you know, settle down. Her profession, as she had arranged things, required a lot of word processing and Internet use. She didn’t want to be distracted by her tools. They weren’t supposed to engage her imagination, which worked just fine by itself – they were supposed to do what she told them to do and not mutate all over the place.
Kage hated the changes constantly being made to Microsoft programs, and felt most of them were made just for the sake of slapping NEW! on the labels. Their Office programs drove her especially nuts; no sooner did she figure out the bells and whistles than a new version came out and had to be re-learned. It was one of the worst habits of the technological age, she believed: that urge to change things just because you could. Kage didn’t like changes; she also didn’t want to be continually educated in how to use what was, to her, merely an enhanced typewriter – it was a waste of her time.
Eventually, Office became essentially unusable for her. She couldn’t access her carefully customized dictionaries, or use the controls for margins and font sizes; she couldn’t even find icons for saving and closing documents. And it had taken her so long to learn to remember to save and close in the first place! I think it was Office 6 that finally unhinged her mind. That was when I gave up and installed Open Office, which looked and acted like the programs she knew; and Kage turned her back on Microsoft Office forever.
By that time, the joke was already going around that Windows was like Star Trek movies: the even-numbered releases were good and the odd-numbered ones were crap. A corollary went that OSes with names instead of numbers were also crap, but I never really found that, myself. The original release of Vista gathered hideous reviews, but I’ve used it for 4 years now with no difficulties. I waited until after Kage was dead to try it, though, because she wasn’t about to take a chance that the stories were right.
Well, now I’ve just replaced my entire drive, and have been dumped willy-nilly into the unknown seas of Windows 8.1. According to cyber folklore, it ought to be one of the good ones. And I guess it is better than some of the OSes that have come down the line … however, it seems to have an extreme case of change for its own self – and a lot of the changes are annoying and pointless. Kage would never, ever, in a million years have been able to figure this thing out – and I am seriously worried about teaching it to Kimberly: who, while much better at computers than Kage, is sufficiently of a Luddite stripe that 8.1 is gonna make her furious. She doesn’t like having to argue with her system in order to use it …
Windows 8.1 is easy to use: for me. For Michael, too. But we’re the IT department for our household. I bet it’s a pain in the ass for a lot of people, because it is not at all intuitive. I’m using it with no problem, but for the first time I am seriously considering dumping the Windows OS and trying something else.
Windows 8.1 gives me the willies, you see. The egregious use of large blocks of primary colours instead of simple text labels is ridiculous. The colour schemes remind me of kindergarten classrooms. The icons seem to have been designed by someone from Nickelodeon, circa 2000 or so.
And where the hell has the Start menu gone to? Or the Shut Down prompt? They’ve been replaced with position-dependent zones that have no directions to their locations and are invisible until you find them. Those two innovations alone are gonna drive older users and liberal arts majors up the freaking walls.
You could read the manual, of course – but it’s a sad fact that most people never do. By the time folks think to try that, their blood pressure will have gone up 50 points while they try to figure out out to turn their damned machines off. Windows 8.1 is not well thought out for the majority of casual users.
None of this would surprise Kage, however – she’d recognize it easily, once she stopped screaming in rage and I took the mouse away from her. She predicted this. Windows 8.1 is meant to be easier to be used by people who use phones and tablets like extensions of their limbs. People who communicate in photos and abbreviations and emoticons; people who never look at a newspaper, seldom look at a book, and would rather watch a video online that read an article. I sense an underlying assumption that this is intended to be used by the semi-literate – on their way to becoming the not-literate-at-all.
Only clerks need to learn how to read, Kage prophesied; her readers took it largely as satire, more of her “wry wit”. It wasn’t. She really feared it might be true in the very near future. She hoped that emails would give literacy a fresh beginning – then the NewSpeak of texting began to evolve, and she began to worry again.
Windows 8.1 would not make her feel any better.