If there is one thing that I find particularly frustrating, it’s that of technology that is supposed to make life simpler but fails to do so. Instead, it aggravates, infuriates, and complicates. A prime example of this was my old cell phone.
It was a cheap pre-paid phone that didn’t cost a lot, which was exactly what I was looking for at the time – I wanted something that was cheap to buy and cheap to make calls. The phone itself was actually pretty cool looking – a black flip phone with an orange LCD screen on the outside and a color LCD screen on the inside. I discovered that it had a small calendar application on it, which I could put reminders and appointments in. This was all good until I discovered that anything put into the calendar would remind me 15 minutes ahead of time, no matter what. There was also no way to change this. So suppose I was at home and wanted to remind myself of a particular television show at 8:00 PM. I would have to put a reminder in my phone for 8:15 PM because there was no way to tell it to remind me exactly at 8:00 PM. This drove me absolutely up the wall. Yes, it’s simple to add 15 minutes to everything that I wanted to be reminded of, but that wasn’t the point. My point is here is an application that is supposed to make my life easier, but it really only succeeded in making me angry. Again, it wasn’t a bad phone, and it wasn’t a bad application but it really failed in what it was supposed to do. Also, when entering an appointment that occurred in the past, as soon as the appointment was entered the phone would freak out and start reminding you of a past appointment that hadn’t yet been ignored or ‘snoozed’. Instead of a subtle reminder that the appointment you had just entered was in the past (such as putting an AM by accident instead of a PM) it would go out all full-bore and blow all the horns and whistles letting you know that you had missed the appointment that you had just entered. Brilliant!
My old cell phone isn’t the only thing that gets me slightly worked up when working with technology that is supposed to make life easer. Almost every piece of scanner software I have encountered has been just as bad (Canon, I’m looking at you). Rather than using the scanning software, I’d only use it to get the image in, then immediately copy the scanned document into something else to work with. Cute ‘coochie coochie coo’ interfaces should have died in the Microsoft Bob era. I’ve also discovered that my own application – Todo 3.0 can be equally annoying. Modal windows, un-resizeble windows, settings that aren’t saved between reboots, etc.
Something that I’m really striving for with Todo 4.0 is to create something that does make life easier. I want to create something that is genuinely helpful, and won’t want to make anyone want to punch me in the face. The best kinds of technology are like that – people don’t really notice that they are even there because they are so natural to use, and never get in the way of what is trying to be accomplished. Technology should be a means, not an end.
Now here’s the ironic part of the story. I ended up buying a new cell phone (for several different reasons, not just the makes-me-want-punch-someone calendar application). The new phone cost roughly five times as much as the old one, but still had one massive glaring problem. The Windows Mobile version of Outlook still will only let me be reminded only down to a minute of an appointment, not right at the specific appointment time. Its bigger brother, Outlook 2003 (or newer) will allow you to be reminded right at the specific time of the appointment. I guess this goes to show that we are only 93% of the way there. How about the remaining 7%? Let’s see if we can’t do something about that.