I am the IT guy for my parents.
A call from Mom, two issues: She needs to print out prescription information she got via e-mail, but the printer is shooting blanks. Also, there’s something wrong with the answering machine, she’s unable to give me details over the phone.
Of course, arriving late last night, I discover the printer is out of ink, and the answering machine needs it’s time reset after every power failure ("How could Debbie been calling me at 4AM? I would have woken up!") I try to convince Dad not to print every picture of cute kittens he gets from the network of elderly who’s mission in life seems to be to forward such mail. "Dad, that’s $60 worth of ink I just installed. Try and make it last a while."
Showing Mom how to set the time on the phone seems futile half-way through. My real advice to her: "Just ignore the time stamp, it’s probably going to be wrong." As bad as consumers think computer software UI is, as vocal as they get about not being able to find files in their operating system or how it’s necessary to understand the difference between RAM and Hard Disk space, where’s the backlash on the arcane UIs for standard utilities like phones and microwaves?
Of course this is when Brother Ron and Niece Michelle show up and Michelle advises that you don’t have to understand the utility, just play with it until it does what you want. She is, of course, part a generation that has always had computer games. Is that what it’s come to, that the tolerance for bad UI equates to some computer puzzle? Can we enhance this, better motivate the user, maybe give the user a score every time they successfully navigate the menus to actually doing something with their phone or camera? "Hey, I got 100,000,000 points and an extra life on Microwave last night! Was having so much fun I didn’t notice it was 3AM when I finally went to bed. Want some more popcorn?"