Monday, June 25, 2007

Mother's peeve

When we bought our first Television, my grandmother just turned a knob to watch M.S.Subbulakshmi render her favorite raga. That was three decades ago. Now my mother cannot watch the video of her grandson in unless we’re home. She just can't keep up with all the booting, logging in, URL, UID and password, download and all that. She snuck a wistful glance at the TV that she's so much used to, even as I was going through the motions to animate her grandson on my computer screen.

Her argument – “I get to see the same image on the monitor as I do across the TV screen – what’s all this fuss?”

To her, it’s the effect that matters. Not the exoticism of the technology behind it. Neither does she need or care the other accompanying features. Why not `grandma friendliness' be made a feasibility criterion before every product launch? Guess it's quite sensible.

Advancements in technology have no meaning if they fail to eliminate real life complexities. Be it the fountain pen, offset press, the mariner’s compass or the clock movements, the bets were clearly on ease of use and common sense.

Like David Gelernter says, the bureaucratic overhead of everyday life should diminish, significantly. Real digital institutions should move closer to reality. It's the Information Beam that matters, not the computer, the operating system or the network -- just as for most people the film or TV program matters, not the camera, the projector or the communication satellites.

But I am beginning to wonder whether that touchstone has been altered in the current digitized firmament. Mom just showcased one.

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