[OT] Microsoft Office's New UI Blazes Some New Trails for Us

Mark Smith mark at maseurope.net
Tue Oct 11 18:00:25 EDT 2005

I think the history of synthesizers is quite an interesting example  
of what happens in the real world.

Back in late seventies, most synths had wonderful UIs (ie. lots of  
single-function knobs and buttons).

Sequential Circuits (RIP) had noticed, even then, that 90% of the  
synths returned for service had nothing but the factory presets in them.
Yamaha, having fallen behind in the synth market, had presumably  
noticed the same thing, and in the early 80s, came up with the DX7,  
which was a very complex synth, with a truly dreadful UI (a small  
number of multi-function membrane switches, a slider, and a 2 line  
LCD). However, it came with a bunch of really usable presets, (eg the  
cheesy, tinkling faux electric-piano, still popular in 'smooth jazz'  
today). It was, however, about half the price of the then current  
generation of synths, and it sold like hot-cakes.

Sequential eventually responded with some very good products with  
similar (though better) UIs. Sadly, they never got their presets very  
good, and by '87 they were out of business, as were Oberheim and  
Moog. To this day, the synth with the best (and greatest number) of  
presets beats the competition. It's circular, of course, as most of  
them are so hard to program, that few people have the time or  
patience to bother, so the necessity for for good presets is obvious.

If even musicians (supposedly a creative bunch) aren't generally  
willing to delve into creating their own sounds, then what can we  
expect of the overworked and time-strapped office worker trying to  
put  letters, presentations etc. together? It seems to me that as the  
software gets more and more capable, it must, to some extent, get  
more complex, and so this MS thing is both necessary and inevitable.



On 11 Oct 2005, at 21:30, jbv wrote:

> Scott Rossi a *crit :
>> Actually, there is a difference: not how things *should* look but  
>> how things
>> *can* look.  Again, the premise is that users are more comfortable  
>> modifying
>> existing designs/layouts/templates, rather than starting from  
>> scratch.  The
>> template designers are giving users a starting point, which they  
>> can either
>> choose to use as is, or modify to their liking.
> IMHO this is the kind of approach that works perfectly
> on paper, but not so well in real life...
> Let's take the example of electronic music devices (synths,
> rhythm-boxes, etc). Since the mid 80's most of them come
> with numerous presets, but also with editors...
> I've been in touch with many musicians between the early
> 80's to the late 90's and I must say that very few of them
> took the time to learn how to program / edit / modify...
> Most of them seemed to be satisfied with presets, and used
> to sell the device and buy another (brand new) one once they
> got tired of the presets.
> It is true that UIs of this kind of gear were rather crappy (tiny
> LCDs), but anyway the vast creative possibility of some synths
> were really worth the effort of reading the manual and try to go
> beyond the presets (for example additive synthesis with the
> K5000).
> I afraid that providing too many templates might lead to
> lazyness for users, and in the end every document / layout / etc
> might look the same, just like every piece of electronic music
> sounds the same these days...
> JB
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