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falling on our faces (was: Conversion filters)

Mike Shupp:

>In 50 years then, we ought to expect PC software with
>somewhere between 1000 to 1 billion times the capability
>of current day software. Even leaning so far to the
>conservative side that we fall on our faces, software
>ought to be more capable than we can even dream of

Point taken. But there seems to me to be a big difference between
capability on the one hand, and Microsoft's ideas of helpfulness on the
other. (I pick on Microsoft not because it's a company I love to hate
[though it is], but because it has by far the largest share in the word
processor market.)

Word comes with various "autoformatting" features turned on. Each of them
is, I suppose, useful to some people. They can be turned off, and on my
two computers in which Word is installed, I have turned most of them off.
Because I can turn them off, I don't complain much about them. But they
don't augur well for word processor helpfulness in the medium term.

Meanwhile, in http://photo.net/wtr/thebook/ , Philip Greenspun shows fairly
convincingly how an entire genre of DBMS software, a new and would-be
helpful genre called "middleware", can do more harm than good.

About the only thing I consciously share with George Bush [Sr] is an
admission that I lack the "vision thing". (That was him, wasn't it? Or is
my memory going too?) I don't know what computer software will look like
in twenty years, let alone fifty. But I imagine that
software-for-secretaries (of all sexes, ages, and levels of seniority) will
somehow manage be comfortingly all-embracing and "helpful" -- sort of MS
Office Plus Plus. Maybe even genuinely helpful. Meanwhile, oddball that I
am, I perversely continue to enjoy transparency (e.g. a file format that
lets me use software tools other than Xy/NB) and the ease of making all
decisions for myself.
Peter Evans