Yesterday, announced its new mobile phone, the Fire. Just in case the phones that run on Apple’s IOS or Google’s Android or BlackBerry or Windows don’t do it for you. The phone has some sort of a 3D holographic imaging, for whatever that’s worth. Also, you can take a picture of some product, and if Amazon has it in stock, they will send you one (for a price, of course). I’m sure there are other features as well that will create a compelling reason to switch from your favorite phone to this one.

And there’s the rub. I can’t speak for the rest of the technology consuming public, but the last thing in the world I need to think about is learning yet another operating system. As is, I already suffer from a bad case of interface confusion.

These days, everything has an operating system, aka OS. Throughout most of human history, our creations didn’t require an operating manual to understand how to use them. The operating system for a knife or a spear is pretty self-explanatory: Hmmm, sharp point. Got it. No 64 page PDF required.

This was true for many millennia. Even more recent technology, such as radios and televisions, were easy to understand. Two knobs, one for on-off and volume, one for channel selection. If you had to, you could move the metal antenna around via trial and error. Who couldn’t handle that?

Also self-explanatory was the rotary phone. Indeed, most household appliances required no operating manual. By the time automobiles went mass market, they too were point and shoot.

This all began to change on Nov. 18, 1963. That was when the push-button phone was introduced. Thus began the dividing line between operating systems that needed no explanation, and the world we live in today.

I blame the octothorpe  . . .  Continues here

Category: Technology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

13 Responses to “Operating System Overload? Blame the Octothorpe!”

  1. ByteMe says:

    Just in case the phones that run on Apple’s IOS or Google’s Android or BlackBerry or Windows don’t do it for you.

    Umm… the Fire IS an Android. Uses Android apps, just has additional features, like the Samsung has different features from the Moto Droids. No biggie.

    • Gadget Head says:

      Somewhat different OS, tracking your eye movements, etc. but clearly Android based

      • Moopheus says:

        Yes, it is Android, but it is a _fork_ of Android, like the Kindle Fire. So technically it’s not really a new OS. Which means that it is somewhat outside the Google ecosystem–no Google Play store, no Google Apps. Amazon, of course, doesn’t care about Google Play. Amazon wants you to get all your things from Amazon, and not from Google. So maybe you don’t need it, but Amazon does.

  2. johnsillings says:

    Fair point, but I doubt it applies to Amazon Fire Phone.

    First of all, Amazon’s likely running a version of Android on the Fire phone, so the OS will probably be familiar to most smartphone users already. Second, while the phone has a lot of unique features built-in, the OS itself doesn’t look particularly exotic, and it looks like Amazon’s gone through great pains to make the UX as intuitive as possible (see video). Further evidence that Amazon really, really cares when it comes to UX – check out this short piece on how Amazon tracks cursor movements on their website to make the navigation quicker:

    With respect to the broader point, though: why would you suppose that the evolution of OSes would be divergent rather than convergent? I see interface confusion as less and less of a problem as time goes on.

  3. CD4P says:

    Classic operating system failure in action!!!

  4. orsogrigio says:

    You are right, but things could be more dangerous. Think of Air France flt 447. Human interface MUST be planned quite carefully, particularly now that OS are becoming ‘horizontal’ in the sense that can span from a dishwasher to your car or the airplane you will be seating in. The core issue is to have ‘mission critical’ information immediately available, on top of the whole screen clutter, so you are sitting on two chairs at a time, the SO chair and the application software . And the application software has to use SO internals (call routines, functions, APIs, classes, … anything but that’s it). Bad human interface is NOT a ugly one, is a ‘confusing’ or even worst, an ‘authoritative’ one, this one being the worst, the one that lets you imagine a situation NEARLY true. Flt 447, for example

  5. Concerned Neighbour says:

    I try to minimize this by trying to select software that’s available cross-platform. For example, Libre Office will do 99-100% of what your typical office user requires, and it’s available (for free!) on Windows, OS X, and whatever flavor of Linux you want. This isn’t a silver bullet though, as even if all the apps you want are cross-platform, often the interfaces have minor differences, whether it’s the different keyboard shortcuts on a Mac keyboard or what have you.

    Just be thankful you don’t have to be running multiple different operating systems concurrently as virtual machines, like me!

  6. “…I tried to rewind the radio the other day in the car, as if it were a TiVo…”


    no kidding, Where is the ‘Radio “DVR”‘?

    it isn’t like there aren’t SSDs, already, in most vehicles..

    I’ve asked various Car Dealers about it, but, other than some foggy ‘Rights issues’ (that sound like have, already, been settled by the VCR lawsuits), there’s no intelligible response..

  7. Joe says:

    Yeah. But the other side of the coin is that we’ve lived through a period 30 years ago when so many VCRs flashed “00:00 / 01/01/00″ for years on end. The most used programing button was the real time Rec button

    A half a decades ago all the really old folks on a cruise the wife and I were on had Kindles.

    VERY few people really learn operating systems. Fire may be just another to learn some of.

  8. DuchessGateau says:

    And get off my lawn! Have you considered replacing Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes when he retires? I completely relate to your point of view and choice of subject matter (as I suppose older people relate to Mr Rooney).

  9. muysbfu_9481 says:

    Ahh interface confusion – he doesn’t know how to use the three seashells!