Personal Computing Biases

We all have biases, the difference is that some people are better at not wearing their biases on their sleeves than others. In the tech world our biases are most commonly expressed through the computer gear we use. A person who choses to use an Android phone is likely going to think that Android is a better operating system than iOS. So what are my biases?

I seek flexibility so that I can tailor a device to my needs and therefore get the best value. Back in 1996 when Apple stopped making MessagePads the available choices were the Palm Pilot or Microsoft’s Handheld PCs. I chose the Handheld PC because it had a PC Card slot that supported peripherals and storage, and therefore I felt it was capable of doing more than a Palm Pilot.

Another bias is that I think a device should conform to my needs, not the other way around. To input text with a Palm Pilot you had to learn a character set called Graffiti, which you used to write letter by letter on a specific location of the device. Handheld PCs came with a QWERTY keyboard, which meant I didn’t have to learn something new in order for the device to be useful.

My biases toward flexibility and low learning curve were formed by the first mobile computer I owned, or what I call my first real personal computer, the Apple MessagePad and its Newton operating system. The MessagePad had a PC card slot for storage cards and peripherals and it translated natural handwriting rather than requiring one to learn a unique character set. (Graffiti was actually developed first for the Newton OS to provide an alternative to Newton’s famously inaccurate handwriting recognition.)

It’s ironic that the company who developed the first real personal computer upon which my biases are based later developed the iPhone, which conflicts with my flexibility bias. One can debate the merits of the design choices Apple makes, but you cannot debate that using an iOS device requires conforming to Apple’s approach and therefore one loses flexibility. I equally recognize that flexibility leads to more complexity that I tolerate, perhaps I am even drawn to, but that more people prefer the simplicity that is the hallmark of Apple’s user centered approach.

You probably are not surprised by now that I prefer to use Android smartphones rather than the iPhone. The first Android smartphones supported storage cards and you can continue to find phones that have storage card slots while an iPhone never had nor never will have such support.

Of course, it is well known that there are far fewer restrictions with the Android Market than Apple’s App Store, however, Android also supports direct installation of apps that one could find from other app stores, such as Amazon’s, or even any web site. This “sideloading” of applications is not possible with iPhone unless without rooting the phone.

One final bias that I have is the Internet. What I have learned is that personal computing is much more powerful when connected to the Internet. Although the iPhone has always been able to connect to the Internet, it is made by a company that designs its products around the user experience. Google designs its products around the Internet.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate a good user experience, but Google’s approach to the Internet more closely aligns to my needs. Google Maps is acknowledged by most to be a superior mapping and navigation application and it is because of how it uses servers on the Internet to provide current maps, directions, and voice interaction. Long before Android came to market I had already shifted to web applications for much of my personal computing, putting the Internet at the center of my computing needs.

So there you have it, the biases that form the context for what personal computers I use, my experiences using them, and what you see in my writing. I don’t fancy myself a journalist, so you won’t see news reporting and I commend to you one of many very fine web sites to get your technology news.

I think of myself as a teacher and I attempt do my teaching by writing. I write about my experiences so that the reader may learn from them, or as Jerry Pournelle often writes, “I do this crazy stuff so that you don’t have to.”

About Frank

Mobile enthusiast and author
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