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I Just Want Something to Happen When I Click

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In the olden days of personal computing, we were on a continual hardware upgrade path seeking better performance. Now our low-end PCs would have been supercomputers ten years ago, and they're still bogging down. Is there no end in sight?

My first PC was a borrowed Macintosh LC II, way back in the last millennium in 1994. It was fun to play with, it came with a laser printer, and that's about all I remember. The first PC I ever bought was a used Tandy running Windows 3.1 and MS-DOS. It had a 386 CPU, four, count 'em, four megabytes of RAM, and a gigantic 107 megabyte hard disk. It came with a 13" color CRT monitor at 256 colors, remember those nice blocky pixels? Paid $400 for that outfit, and it cost almost $2000 new. Those were the days.

That old Tandy ran a lot of applications just fine, like Doom, Quicken, and ProComm Plus, which I used to manage BBS-surfing, and some ancient Borland compiler I forget now. (I do recall it was bleeding-edge because it supported both 16- and 32-bit programming.) But that was due to running mainly in MS-DOS and not even starting Windows, which was a steaming pile of instability. It was stapled on top of DOS, and not very securely, and just like its descendants Vista and Windows 7, needed much horsepower just to get out of its own way. (Isn't it funny how Windows 7 has the same system requirements as Vista, and performs about the same, but is touted as "leaner and faster!"?)

As the years went by, hardware advanced rapidly. Power went up, prices came down. But software was always a bit ahead, so we spent a fair bit of time waiting for something to happen even on the latest and greatest machines.

Fast-forward to now, and a quick specs comparison: My newest PC has 4 gigabytes RAM, dual-core CPU, terabytes of hard drive storage, good PCIe graphics card, and onboard everything. It should handle all tasks with ease. And yet, I still experience that familiar click-and-wait syndrome.

This happens the most Web-surfing. It's still the world-wide-wait. Click, wait. Click, wait. You know why Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest of those fun sites that bosses hate are so successful? Because people have to fill all that waiting time somehow. They're just sitting there, waiting on their computers. It's not enough time to do something productive, but it is enough time to Tweet.

I swear there are only six Web developers in the whole world, and four of them are mental cases. They write terrible, unnecessarily script-heavy pages that kick multi-core CPUs into the red zone, and have hundreds of elements per page. Pages take forever to load, and they hammer your system so hard you can't do anything else while you're waiting. Then all the rest of the Web devs in the world copy and paste from the Terrible Four. Why not the Good Two? Because humans are perverse. I laugh, I mock Google DNS because they bill it as a way to speed up Web surfing. My dear Google brainiacs, DNS lookups are the least of our problems. They won't do a thing to fix boggy Web pages or overloaded ad servers.

I think it's funny how some vendors persist in marketing netbooks as mere Web application interfaces. Sorry, but a lower-powered netbook is going to get creamed trying to run obese Web applications. Lotsa luck with that!

Some local applications are almost as bad. Click to open, wait...what the heck is the big deal about just opening the darned thing? Are they trying to hypnotize us with the little spinning cursor? Which brings me to my #1 wish on any computing platform and any application: I want a Stop Right Now button. Boom, just stop what you're doing. For so many apps, interrupting anything is like trying to get a word in on an annoying self-centered blabbermouth, the kind that never shut up, and you have to grab and shake them to get their attention.

While I enjoy mocking Microsoft's Jabba-ware, Linux is an offender as well. Too many Linux devs are all jazzed about GUIs and flashy junk, and ignoring or even trying to do away with the CLI. Dear ones, when your GUIs are as fast and efficient as the CLI, then I will quit crabbing at you. Where ever did you get the idea that I want to waste my life wading through poorly-organized menus, and waiting for lardy slow-ware to actually do something when I click, when I can accomplish the same task in one second on the command line?

So there is my computing wish for the new decade: I want something to happen when I click.

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