Hardware, software and the user

Sayz Lim on upgrading computers:

The computing process consists of the interaction and combination of software, hardware, and human. Achieving the best result requires these three things to perform at their best. However, most people only pay attention to two of them which are software and hardware.

Give the best desktop computer to an ignorant user. Without enough knowledge, he’ll install all the crap he finds, run 10 apps at once, mess up the system startup items, scream for help, and complain about the slow performance of his powerful desktop computer. Not even the best software can help him, unless software controls the computer in his place.

Give an average desktop computer to a smart user. He’ll know which software works, configure optimal settings, use the computer resources efficiently, and execute tasks within the ability of the hardware itself. He knows what he can do with this device, thus not complaining when the device doesn’t do what he wants.

Sayz Lim makes an excellent point: software and hardware are only useful to the extent that the user understands and utilizes them. Ideally, as I see it, software should minimize the friction between the three.

Great software puts a device’s capability to good use without the user needing to do much. From a user perspective, it should be simple and effortless, and the interaction with the hardware and other software should be invisible and automatic. The user understand the software, and the software understands everything else.

It’s the developer’s job to make it so that the user doesn’t need any specialized knowledge for the software to do exactly what it’s supposed to do — the simpler the software, the more the user can accomplish without needing extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the software and hardware.

That’s one reason Apple products, especially the MacBook Air, work so well: for the average user, maxed out specs don’t mean much. But a computer that starts up fast and just works does.

Perhaps more effort should be put towards educating the user, instead of pushing the hardware further. Sayz continues:

To bring out the best of the computing experience, the users themselves need to upgrade their knowledge. It’s not enough to upgrade the system alone. To upgrade the system, you need money. Gaining knowledge doesn’t require as much money as upgrading the system.

It doesn’t apply solely to computing. Cars, tools, gadgets, and everything you use can be more effective if you try to learn more about it. Perhaps what you need is a little effort to study and learn about your system.

Read more on Being Efficient, Ideas, Opinion, Simplicity, Software, Technology.