Monday, October 24, 2011

"Two Modest Computer Proposals"

I know they can do anything. Computer people are the smartest people in the world. They just have to think something and – snap your fingers – they’re selling it in stores.

And we can’t live without it! Something that didn’t exist, and you never thought, “Boy, if that thing existed, I would be the happiest person in the world.” The consuming public did not know it was possible. How can you covet something you had no idea they can make? Then they make it. And you gotta have it!

And once we have it, it’s not like, “Now I am truly content.” We know better than that. Before you know it – usually around holiday season – they come out with something new. And we can’t live without that either!

Now, if I may respectfully interrupt myself…

I believe that, on occasion, computer geniuses are too smart for their own good. Yes, they are creatively ahead of the curve. I imagine meetings where they brainstorm better and more desirable products, ”aps” (or is it “apps”) and services that currently don’t exist, but that’s hardly an obstacle, because they’re geniuses, and whatever they can think of, they can make.

Is there anything geniuses can’t think of? There is. Geniuses – being geniuses –can think of a lot of things. But geniuses have one blind spot. Geniuses cannot not think like geniuses. They’re geniuses. And they are unable to think any other way.

“Let’s dial our brains down a bit.”

They can’t do that!

And so I propose, along with all the geniuses sitting around the table, that there be one ordinary person in that brainstorming session, voicing the thoughts and concerns of ordinary people, someone like, let’s say, for example, I don’t know, me.

If I were included in that brainstorming session, I would nervously raise my hand and propose “Ordinary People” ideas for improving computers, such as this one:

“Make the cursor red.”

This would be the place to be if you wanted to hear a room full of smart people groaning. I, however, would take their groans as a personal challenge, and courageously keep talking.

“Sometimes the cursor, I don’t know, it just moves somewhere. And I don’t know where it is. Since the cursor is black and the letters on the screen are black, I have the darndest time trying to find it. Even with the ‘mouse’ – I’m movin’ it around, ‘Where’s the cursor! Where’s the cursor!’ And I can’t find it anywhere!”

“We’re on to phones now. We’re finished with computers. Unless it’s making them lighter, smaller and thinner.”

One little change. It would make my life so much easier. I know there‘s already red in computers. My “misspells” are underlined in red. Why not take that red that’s already in the computre, and “redden” the cursor, so people can see where the darn thing is.”

This would be the place to be if you wanted to hear a room full of smart people sighing.

“Okay, hands! How many people have a problem finding the cursor?”

No hands go up. Except mine.


My hand shoots up again. What the heck, I’m fired anyway.

“Speaking of underlining – and I think this will be more challenging for you than making the cursor red – although I’d like to go on record as still being in favor of doing that – how about some kind of underlining for words that are not the words that you meant to type – you know, like when you mistakenly type “t-o-o” instead of “t-w-o”, or you type a word that’s an actual word – it’s not misspelled or anything – it’s just not the word you intended to put down, and the computer – because you guys programmed it to – would ‘red flag’ that mistake – of course it doesn’t have to be red, it could be, I don’t know, blue – to alert you that there’s something written there that you need to fix.”

This would be the place to be if you wanted to see a room full of smart people surreptitiously checking their phone messages.

Despite the response of that room full of fictional smart people, I think those are both valuable suggestions. Make the cursor red. What would it hurt? The “contextual underlining” idea would help me, for one, not embarrass myself, by erroneously typing a perfectly spelled word, just not the word that makes sense in that sentence. (FYI? When I was going back to italicize the word “word”, I totally could not find the cursor.)

I know I make mistakes. I type things I don’t intend, and unless I catch them in proofreading, out they go, to an admonishing public. My computer, as currently configured, is no help in this regard.

To my computer, what I rote is prefect just the weigh it is.


Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; the cursor thing, it should be an easy thing to configure different colours and such but alas it's not done. The reading your mind to replace a properly spelled but wrong word with it's homonym that is correct - we don't want computers that smart.


JED said...

Hello Earl,

Are you using Windows? If so, and you are talking about the mouse cursor and not the flashing line cursor in the text, then the Mouse Control Panel has two settings that may help. Of course, you've got to be able to get to the Mouse Control Panel first. There may be a Control Panels option you can get to and it will show a lot of different control panels but one will be named Mouse. If you open that and then go to the Pointer Options tab, you will see two check-boxes in the Visibility section that can help.

One option lets you hide the cursor when you type. I don't know why but this is normally on by default. If you uncheck that option, the mouse cursor won't disappear - as often.

The other helpful check-box lets you show the location of the mouse cursor by hitting the Control key. If you check that option and then hit and release the Control key, you'll see concentric circles converge on the location of the mouse cursor.

As for replacing the word you typed with the word you should have typed, I agree with Zaraya. I hate it when computers second guess me and that would just be inviting them to engage in more of that behavior.

Hope I've been descriptive enough with my explanations.

Jim Dodd

Frank said...

I had to look up the meaning of admonishing so I wouldn't worry to much about perturbing the admonishing public.