At 11:37 11/05/01 +0100, you wrote:

but then any reasonably flexible multi-purpose device is always going
to have a hard time being a consumer device as by it's nature it's
complex and trying to make complex things appear simple is very very

I can never work out if life is getting simpler or more complex. Computers 
seem very complex, and an application (lets say, a spreadsheet) appears to 
have thousands of features and whatnot that make the business of creating a 
Profit/Loss sheet far more complex than it ever was (or by implication 
ought to be).

But this replaced a system of copybooks, ledgers, accounting systems and 
procedures that was also very complex. Not only that, but all the actual 
arithmetic had to be done (by the human) as well. So the accountant of 1890 
needed to do mental arithmetic very fast and accurately (and in L.S.D.), 
and had to know and understand a bookshelf full of different ledgers, each 
with different columns, tables and and systems. And they had to work with 
near 100% accuracy, because of the difficulty of erasing or re-doing work.

I think the difference is not that computers (or cars, or whatever) are 
that much more complex than what went before them. The difference is:

1. People are expected to understand and deal with all these things, not to 
specialise in one. Today, we are expected to be able to drive a car and use 
a spreadsheet, and then paint the spare room. The Victorian accountant most 
likely would not have known how to ride, certainly not have known how to 
look after a horse. They would not have done their own cooking, even, would 
not be responsible for repairing or even organising repairs to their rented 
accomodation, etc etc.

2. The rate of change is very fast. The Victorian's system of accountancy, 
while more complex, would have been what he grew up with, and would not 
have changed radically over his life (assuming he retired prior to the 


I see a topic far in the distance and rapidly dwindling...
Jonathan Peterson
Technical Manager, Unified Ltd, 020 7383 6092

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