Operating System Overload? Blame the Octothorpe!

Yesterday, Amazon.com 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

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