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ACM Opinion

Why Can


Back in the dark ages of personal computing, if you wanted to look through the programs on your machine and, say, open a Microsoft Word document from the floppy drive, you would need to type a list of arcane commands that went something like this:

DIR *.EXE
MSWORD.EXE A:\REPORT.DOC

In an effort to win over less technical users, both Apple and Microsoft dumped that command-line interface for personal computers more than two decades ago, replacing it with visual icons for files, folders and applications.

Over the years, they added animations and search technology and other features to make navigating a Mac or Windows PC even easier.

Yet all of the gloss and glitter doesn’t hide the fact that both operating systems are still pretty geeky and difficult for many computer users to navigate. I frequently get calls from family members asking why the font size on their Web browser suddenly changed or where they should look for the photos they have just downloaded from their digital camera.

I never get that kind of call about Apple’s iPhone.

From The New York Times
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