Living a life immersed in technology, sometimes I forget the massive power that we wield with just a few keystrokes or mouse clicks.
My grandmother was born in 1926. She and her siblings were children of a pre-technical era.
I spent some time over the past few days cleaning up some photos of her from the 30s and 40s. My wife had some of them reprinted and the rest I made into a simple iDVD movie/slideshow, of which I made copies for several family members.
We gifted my mother with one of these framed prints this weekend. I can emphatically say that the power of a simple photo from the past made new again cannot be understated. My mum was absolutely stunned that we had printed a photo that meant so much to her and that she thought was beyond being printed again. The DVD was also very well received and people were genuinely happy to have access to so many family pictures that now so many can enjoy.
This post is not about what I did or how I did it. I just used the computer to do something decidedly low tech: Print a picture and make a slideshow on a disc.
My point is that not everyone loves the computer for the reasons we do. Not everyone reads Hacker News everyday. Not everyone cares that PhotoShop can make text look like it is on fire. Not everyone understands why Git is great. Not everyone knows what a unit test is for and why it is important.
This is okay; actually, this is a great thing that the geeks of today are missing.
My father can fix or build anything. Well, almost anything, as long as it isn’t a computer. His bug reports drive me crazy because all I get is “the printer is broken” or “Skype doesn’t work” or “there is a fluke in Amazon that I found” and I have to figure out what might be the problem from there. On the other hand, he provides me with some unique gems like “it would be great if there were software for x” or “this is too difficult, here is what I want” or “this makes no sense to me; here is all I wanted to do”.
You’d never run out of software to write if you hang around decidedly non-technical people and listen to what they are saying.
What does that “non-technical” term mean anyway? Actually, we rely on “non-technical” people every day; to build our homes, fix our cars and the like. It is these people who don’t live online everyday that are talking about the genuine state of computers today. I don’t think we can see it objectively anymore. We are too close.
It is likely that we have adapted our lives around the computer, instead of making them work optimally for us.
There are probably very simple things we could do, perhaps in the way of explaining software and services in a better manner that would open new worlds for people who use computers not as much as we would like to think they do.
It starts with not dismissing those people as “not technical”.
There are lots of articles on how any given technology works, on how a certain business is successful and how agile software practices are revolutionary.
I don’t see a lot of articles on how the computer simply makes life better for people.
I wish that I did.