I have had an excellent and long relationship with Apple’s operating system 10.6.8. I had vowed to stay with it as long as possible. But it is difficult to stay with something you like when dealing with the digital world, because digital hardware and software are changeable with little relatively little expense, designers of it are often motivated by the glory of “new” features, businesses like to boast about new products in their marketing, and any fool can add stuff to the internet. I unfortunately had a camera failure and had to get a new back (the digital information could no longer be read). My new one is capable of wi-fi, which I thought would be useful, but it didn’t seem to like 10.6.8, so I finally bit the bullet and upgraded all the way to 10.10, which is of course being trumpeted by Apple as the epitome of all operating systems.
I used to play the piano a lot, and clearly remember the agony of learning to do so. But one day, after many hours of learning and practice and years of playing, I realized that I could just play it. It would do what I wanted it to do without conscious attention to the mechanics involved. Driving cars, shooting basketballs, typing, riding bicycles, most human activities requiring some amount of skill follow the same trajectory. In a minor way, so did operating system 10.6.8 for me. I could just use my computer!
Since I was able to delay changing so long, I have a good view of what has happened to Apple’s desktop operating system over time. The answer is both a great deal, and not very much— new and useful features, but lots of trivial change in fonts and format, features that I do not want that would distract me from my work, inability to deal with several of my old applications (Photoshop), and a propensity to organize data for me in ways that have no meaning for me. I am presently trying to get rid of several of these new “features”. Fortunately I discovered the “notifications” box in system preferences, so I could disable several distracting notices at once. And I am sure I can figure out how to get iPhoto to open by just showing me my photos and albums rather than classifying them into “events”, that not only have no meaning to me, but are not events at all. But I will have to go back to a bit of learning to “play the piano again”, and I don’t want to just because someone decided the keys could be better arranged, And unfortunately, I don’t expect the music to be any better.
Granted that the digital world is improving over time, but such things as computers and the internet are tools to help people, and tools should honor the learned skills of the users. The digital world is filled with people who cluster around places such as the offices of Wired Magazine, Singularity University, and computer companies such as Apple and Google, and believe in constant change, constant growth, and the increasing dominance of digital technology. Technological determinism in its pure form! Digital technology is marvelous and bringing us valuable capabilities, but it works for us, not the opposite. I have pushed creativity and innovation for most of my life as a teacher, author, and engineer, am constantly amazed at our capability to do new and wonderful things, am a fan of the results of it, and have been involved in many very rewarding creative and innovative activities. But guess what —creativity and innovation need to be controlled. I will talk about that in a future post.