Scott Dorsey wrote:
>> you would type in a single command followed by coded search
>> arguments carefully coded, e.g. SEATBL1JDSX4355. If any of the
>> arguments were wrong you got back a bland "INVALID COMMAND" message
>> and had to figure it out for yourself.
> That's all computers STILL do. It's just that today you are seeing
> a glossy front end on top of all that stuff. In some cases, the
> glossy front end is a great thing because it allows people to use
> computers without really understanding how they work.
When it gets down to it, all computers "do" is 0100101101. Everything
beyond that is a layer of "gloss" to make it easy for humans to use
computers. Initially it was merely representing the binary in a
higher form such as octal. Then came mnenomics so you could program
"ADD" instead of 024, then labels and sophisticated assemblers. This
was all for programmers, end users didn't get involved.
Initially, outside users had to make do with terse commands per above.
The "glossy front end" evolved slowly, starting with more interaction
-- breaking the command string down into questions, first with codes,
then full literals. Errors got more descriptive. Typewriter
interface evolved into screen interfaces. Later, typewriter "green on
glass" evolved into GUI.
> I do not consider the development of glossy front ends and cheesy GUIs to
> necessarily be a technological advancement.
It depends on the application. Frankly, I use an old (30 years)
command interface editor for much of my work and am very happy with
it. I also use GUI interface when needed.
On a traditional 'green on glass' screen users often had to have a
paper "crib sheet" with codes for various entries (a common one is US
postal codes for states). But on a GUI screen a drop down menu can
provide the codes and meaning and allow quick selection. I think
that's a powerful advantage. GUI screens can also have a descriptive
block for each field having special instructions. GUI screens, using
different type sizes, can highlight important data, and show graphics.
> In other cases, it is a terrible thing because it means most people
> using computers have no understanding how they work.
Many professional programmers have no idea how computers work, let
alone end users.
The real question is how much does a user need to know about the
internal workings of _any_ machine? Years ago cars had choke controls
and manual transmissions. They're mostly gone -- do users still need
to know about them? As a motorist, do I need to know how fuel
injection works? If the injectors get clogged, I have no idea how to
safely clean them or even how to access them. Do I really need to
I do think it is helpful for end users to know a little bit about
what's under the hood. But sometimes a little knowledge is dangerous.
How much do they need to know?