Complexity/Economist: Make it simple - SURVEY: INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, in: The Economist, Oct 28th 2004.

The next thing in technology, says Andreas Kluth, is not just big but truly huge: the conquest of complexity - “THE computer knows me as its enemy,” says John Maeda. “Everything I touch doesn't work.” Take those “plug-and-play” devices, such as printers and digital cameras, that any personal comput...

THEMES: Complexity | Economist
YEAR: 2004
 

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Make it simple
Now you see it, now you don't
A byte's-eye view of complexity
If in doubt, farm it out
Spare me the details
The mom test
Metaphorically speaking
Hearing voices
The blood of incumbents
Author interview
Offer to readers

From The Economist
Keep it simple
Oct 28th 2004


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Computer technology

Websites
Click to buy from Amazon.com: "The Unfinished Revolution", by Michael Dertouzos; "The Invisible Computer", by Donald Norman (Amazon.co.uk).

John Maeda launched the "
Simplicity" research initiative at MIT. The Standish Group monitors corporate spending on IT. See also Donald Norman's homepage.



SURVEY

SURVEY: INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY


Make it simple

Oct 28th 2004
From The Economist print edition

The next thing in technology, says Andreas Kluth, is not just big but truly huge: the conquest of complexity

“THE computer knows me as its enemy,” says John Maeda. “Everything I touch doesn't work.” Take those “plug-and-play” devices, such as printers and digital cameras, that any personal computer (PC) allegedly recognises automatically as soon as they are plugged into an orifice called a USB port at the back of the PC. Whenever Mr Maeda plugs something in, he says, his PC sends a long and incomprehensible error message from Windows, Microsoft's ubiquitous operating system. But he knows from bitter experience that the gist of it is no.

At first glance, Mr Maeda's troubles might not seem very noteworthy. Who has not watched Windows crash and reboot without provocation, downloaded endless anti-virus programs to reclaim a moribund hard disc, fiddled with cables and settings to hook up a printer, and sometimes simply given up? Yet Mr Maeda is not just any old technophobic user. He has a master's degree in computer science and a PhD in interface design, and is currently a professor in computer design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is, in short, one of the world's foremost computer geeks. Mr Maeda concluded that if he, of all people, cannot master the technology needed to use computers effectively, it is time to declare a crisis. So, earlier this year, he launched a new research initiative called “Simplicity” at the MIT Media Lab. Its mission is to look for ways out of today's mess.