atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#965: Palm Sunday, 2008, with a bunch of stuff

I've been trying desperately to come up with titles which are descriptive of what's in the posts, but sometimes it's just not possible. I need to figure out how to use tags.

Here is a comic about user interface design. The comic makes the point that corporate in-house applications tend to be usability nightmares that--if they were written for sale to the average user--would be abysmal failures.

The idea of "user interface nightmares" makes me think of WordStar. Its user interface was horrifyingly clunky; it's a cast-iron bitch to use. Any time you wanted to do anything more complex than entering text, you needed to use a CTRL sequence to make it happen.

WordStar had one advantage: it was a word processor, not a typewriter, in an era when most text composition was still done on paper. The only reason I do not revile WordStar is that I used to have to write stories longhand. I could occasionally borrow a friend's electric typewriter to type stuff, but almost everything I wrote was scrawled out longhand. So I know what an improvement something horrifying like WordStar represents.

But when I first started writing on computer, I used WordPro 64 until I got my hands on Paperclip 64, two programs which were like black freaking magic compared to WordStar in terms of usability and interface.

If I hadn't started with second (or maybe third) generation word processors--if I had been writing with typewriters for several years and went right to WordStar--it would have seemed miraculous.

Somewhere 'way down in the comments Paul discusses the concept of something being "improved beyond use". That is a really useful phrase, and in my tiny little brain I have hit CTRL-D to bookmark it.

(Incidentally, why is it CTRL-D anyway? Wouldn't CTRL-B make more sense?)

In one episode of Doctor Who--the last one with K-9 and Romana--K9 has a line which I still paraphrase to this day: "The efficiency of this unit has decreased beneath zero utility." Adric (boo hiss) then translates for the audience: "You mean, you're worse than useless?" Computers make things so easy that, at times, it's possible to eliminate the productivity gain through the addition of useless bloatware. (See also "Windows Vista".) (No, I shouldn't have said that; that was a cheap shot. At least Vista makes OS bashing effortless.) (Dang, that's two in a row.)

Paul's phrase "improved beyond use" really points up a phenomenon which primarily comes to us via computers--something which has effectively been spoiled by over-improvement to the point of becoming useless: "the efficiency of this [whatever] has decreased beneath zero utility", as K-9 said.

A person trained to operate a lathe made in the 1920s would have no trouble operating a modern lathe. He might need some instruction on how to read the verniers and such, but otherwise would have no difficulty adapting to the newer version. This is because most machine tools were perfected long ago, and other than certain control and measurement functions they've existed largely unchanged since then.

...I've run out of words for this subject.

* * *

BTW, if you are a person who generates ambient electronic music, here are five things you should not include in your song:

1) An accordion. These instruments are made for polkas and waltzes, not ambient music.
2) A trumpet. Trumpets are fine instruments, but in ambient and "new age" music, 99.997% of the time they detract and distract rather than add anything to the song.
3) Mideastern chanting.
4) Mideastern flute or woodwinds.
5) A doumbek.

The latter three are okay for use if you know what you are doing. Most people don't, and they suffer from overuse anyway, so just leave them out.

Bluetech's "Oleander (Phutureprimitive Remix)" has a doumbek in it, and it sounds great because it is used sparingly. It's not the whole drum track. Mannesh DeMoor's music works very well despite all the mideastern chanting and doumbek stuff because he's good at composition. But most people aren't that talented. (If your song is 25 minutes of mideastern flute, doumbek, and chanting, you have officially crossed the line and can expect horrifying retribution.) (Yes, I have heard such a song, on XM's "Audio Visions" channel, twice. They will pay.)

I can count the number of good ambient/new age songs with trumpets in them on my nose. The trumpet is what ruins the song, too.

"Accordion?" You ask incredulously. "Who would do that?" Well for one, Entheogenic in their track "Mindless". At the end of the song there's about 30 seconds of "sea shanty" done on an accordion or some kind of squeeze box (real or simulated). It doesn't fit with the rest of the song, either. So I took the track and clipped the accordion off, and now have an acceptable song. And before writing this segment, I shut off the satellite box in disgust because XM's "Audio Visions" channel was playing some kind of junk of maximum cheesitude which was centered on an accordion.

Some brands of new age/ambient music I call "unicorn music" because I fail to see how it could appeal to anyone other than overweight, plain women in their 40s who are wiccan/pagan and read books like ZOMGDragonWizardElf! (Or was it "ZOMGWizardDragonElf!"? I have to start keeping notes....) And who then write 1,000-page fanfics about Talon Inthisone having kinky sex with Aragorn and Legolas. *shudder* The tune which led me to shut XM off this afternoon was "unicorn music", and it annoys the crap out of me.

What it all amounts to is me bloviating mindlessly about the stupidity of people. Heck with it.

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