Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Bugs Are Not Features


I keep saying a computer can do anything, but I can’t get my new computer to do practically anything I need. Never mind what I’d like it to do, i.e., what I want; I can’t get it to do the essentials of what I must have, i.e., what I truly need.

To prove this, we just have to look at the previous paragraph. I don’t know about you, but I have never seen “i.e.,” with a space after the first period. But the word processor I’ve been given insists “i.e.,” is misspelled without that space! (“E.g.,” also.)

Back in the day, when you encountered programs with inconsistencies you called them “buggy.” If it was your software, your job was to get rid of the bugs: major bugs first, minor bugs last. And bugs found by clients always came first.

If it wasn’t your software, you reported the bugs with enough specificity to help others fix the problem. Sometimes, an accurate description of what the bug was (and where and when and how) kept you busy for days. It was a one day turnaround.

I’m not suggesting a return to those old days, but I sure as hell don’t care for what passes for software nowadays. I just tried to do a page preview and the program crashed! Totally. Suddenly, all the files I was working on were gone. This is acceptable?

My programming experience tells me what to expect from software. When a simple task is far too slow, I yell at it. When a long task doesn’t bother to show me its progress, I yell. There are many reasons I yell because this incompetence is frustrating.

It’s not simply that I expect more because I know more. It’s that most people don’t realize the computer can do anything and if it isn’t doing what they want it’s the programmer’s fault, not theirs.

Does that explain why all this shoddiness is acceptable? Are people so bamboozled by the complexities of programming they think it’s as good as it can be? Do dazzling graphics blind people to the extent they can’t see how clunky the software actually is?

Are our expectations seriously that low? Are we really willing to accept bug-ridden software without complaining? Are we so mystified by the high-priests of programming that we feel unworthy to challenge their efforts? Well, I’m not—it’s buggy.

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