Friday 17 May 2002

Eight frustrating hours

I should have known when the instructions said: "You should be up and running in a matter of minutes." Yes, I've been upgrading to broadband. This involved a visit from a BT engineer who fixed up the hardware side quickly enough, although only after a last minute call from me telling him that the ISP provider had decided that he had to bring a different make of modem from usual. Then the trouble started. The install CD didn't work on OSX only on OS9. The computer went beserk. Apple UK helpdesk was away training. I had to call the US helpdesk which was actually in Canada. The lady there eventually got the machine working again. The ISP provider worked out that the CD would never work and that I had to download the OSX software from the modem's manufacturer. Many, many phone calls later, I was almost there. Next instruction: "Now, all you need to do.....". After another hour, it actually worked!

Then, I got my regular e-mail from Gary North at The Daily Reckoning

He writes:

You know when I knew the dot-com mania could not be sustained? In 1996. How did I know? Because I had read so many computer manuals. Only that tiny handful of companies in each field which sell utterly indispensable products could survive despite their manuals. The manuals were universally terrible, but we have to have a few programs, so we learn without the manuals. The manuals were the tip-off: "mania in progress; crash will follow." As a Texas A&M professor of computer science told me in 1996, "We cannot find any manual that does not have on average one instruction error per page, except for the NeXT manuals." NeXT was not a major player, despite its founder, Steve Jobs (the co-founder of Apple). How could anyone who ever tried to read a computer manual have expected the Nasdaq to overtake the Standard & Poor's 500? But they did.

So there we are. As we libertarians always knew, companies which make life easy for the customer have a future. The others will have to answer to the marketplace.