Dear Mr. Bill Gates And The Development Team At Microsoft,
I am a thirty-eight year-old, not some old crank who fears technology and change. I am a member of the mass of Americans known as the working poor; I have no real disposable income and planned obsolescence of products like cars, computers and kitchen gadgets will likely force me to work until the day I die. I have been using computers my entire life and my livelihood and business relies upon my ability to use computers effectively.
For the past five years, I have been using a Dell laptop that has been slowly failing or becoming less usable because the hardware cannot handle a new operating system and the old operating system installed upon it is no longer supported. More and more errors come up on it on a daily basis. So, for our sixth wedding anniversary, my wife spent the last seven months scrimping and saving to be able to buy me a brand new laptop computer. It is the first new laptop computer I will ever have; it should be a phenomenal gift as I have wanted a new (not refurbished, not a hand-me-down, etc.) laptop computer for the better part of two decades. My wife is about to fulfill a dream gift that I’ve wanted for over half my lifetime.
And you, Microsoft, have ruined it.
I’d like that to sink in for a moment: I’ve spent half my life waiting for something, my wife has spent more than half a year earning and setting aside enough money for it and at the fulfillment of that, on what should have been an amazing day for me and my family, Microsoft has taken a big, steaming dump all over it.
I am referring, for those who have not yet had the misfortune of attempting to use it, to Windows 8. After a year of research and months of saving, my wife purchased a brand new Toshiba laptop computer. It was one of the few that she could find with an optical drive and storage space on the computer itself (as opposed to Cloud storage) and it came with Windows 8 pre-installed as its operating system. My wife presented me with this gift a month ahead of our six year anniversary for a simple reason: she wanted me to have enough time to get it set up so that on our actual anniversary, I would not be made miserable with trying to figure out the new computer and get it to work. Fortunately, she who has been using Windows 8 for the last year and a half since I got her a new laptop, knew me and Windows 8 well-enough to know that it would be nothing but a colossal pain in the ass to work with that she wanted to make sure our actual anniversary was not ruined. Since giving me the new laptop, she has been so patient, understanding that my uncharacteristic level of cursing and complaining has nothing to do with the actual laptop computer she gave me, but rather with its functionality and the problems of Windows 8. She is a saint at this point and it absolutely sucks that after months of researching the perfect laptop computer for my needs, the result was not something she could even give as a celebration of two huge goals achieved, but rather with a realistic trepidation based on her experiences.
As we understand it, Windows 10 is about to be released and before that happens, I hope you’ll consider the following: the last time I enjoyed using a computer, truly loved it, was when I was using Windows 3.11. It has been that long since Microsoft made an operating system that was functional and enjoyable to use, as opposed to imposed upon the world something that forced a learning curve and made using a computer a chore.
You know what was great about Windows 3.11? I would turn my computer (at that point in my life, a desktop computer) on and all my files would be right there, on the desktop. I’d double-click them and they would open. When I was done for the day, I’d press the power button and the computer would turn off. And the next time I wanted to use my computer, I would press the power button and it would come back on and everything would be right where it was supposed to be.
All of the computer geniuses at Microsoft could instantly leap into a litany of differences between where computers are today and where they were when Windows 3.11 was the dominant operating system, but all of that is back-end, behind-the-scenes specialized computer jargon that means nothing to me as a consumer. Once upon a time, I had a computer that was user-friendly, turned on, turned off and did what I needed it to in between.
At this point, half of the staff of Microsoft that began reading this has given up. They know that deep within the Microsoft Knowledgebase, there are articles on how to change the appearance of Window 8 to a “classic view,” which is very much like Windows 3.11. While it is possible to make the desktop look like Windows 3.11, it does not change a number of functional aspects of using Windows 8, like where programs go when one tries to install them, the preponderance of apps, and that funky issue with the mouse that suddenly causes the sidebar menu to pop up with seemingly random mouse movements while I am doing other things. Changing the appearance is just a windowdressing on a turd in this case.
Never one to simply complain without having solutions, I’m actually writing today because I want to make you, Mr. Gates, and Microsoft its next billion dollars (or more!). I am pitching to you a product to be released with Windows 10, which I’m calling Microsoft Windows Classic! I propose the following: when you release Windows 10, release Microsoft Windows Classic, an operating system that is (essentially) Windows 3.11 re-coded for current hardware and software. Offer it as a real alternative to Windows 10 and I think you’ll discover there is a pretty huge market for it.
Microsoft Windows Classic would have the look and feel of Windows 3.11. When you turn on your computer, it brings up a desktop and there will be all of your programs and file folders. Everything easily accessible from one screen. Let the following be your guidelines:
1. If it takes more than two clicks to find something, it is too far. From the desktop, one should be able to find and open every program and storage folder. It should be that simple. You should be able to make new folders within folders, but finding pictures – one click, finding programs – one click, finding saved downloads – one click,
2. Logging on should not be a social statement. One of the most ridiculous aspects of Windows 8 is that when I turn on my new laptop, I have to log into a Microsoft Live account. NO! I don’t want to have a fake, bullshit e-mail address that I had to make up just to log onto my computer. I want to log onto my private computer without Microsoft knowing, tracking, monitoring, or being aware of it. My O/S shouldn’t require more log-in steps or communications with the outside world. If I wanted a social networking device, I would have asked for a smartphone: I want a laptop, a private device of my own that allows me to escape the world, not one that forces me to connect to it,
3. Stop trying to sell me on the Cloud. Microsoft Windows Classic will use hard disc space. Everything you need to operate your computer will be right there on it. It won’t be dependent upon connecting to the internet or getting constant updates from the Cloud. How many hacks does it take for you (Microsoft, Apple, any other big business) to realize WE DO NOT TRUST YOU!!!!!!!!!! I don’t want my stuff Out There until I put it there. If it’s on my private hard drive, behind my firewall, I control it. My writing, my art, my photographs, my downloads, my digital media; it is not at risk of getting stolen there. Your Cloud?! Who the fuck knows?! It’s only a matter of time before it is breached or crashes. If the apocalypse comes tomorrow and my laptop and I survive it, I want to be able to write about it and save it right there on my computer,
4. While we’re at it, stop trying to sell me anything! When I turn on my laptop, I shouldn’t be bombarded with things to buy or pay for. If I want to buy something, I will go out looking for it. When I turned on my brand new laptop, the first thing my wife did with me once Windows 8 got up and running was spend ten minutes removing bloatware. There’s a name for it already and bloatware is not flattering. Neither is its presence on my computer. Some people might like sixty apps to come up when they turn on their computer: Windows Classic customers would not. And the further bullshit of bloatware is that after we removed it from the “app page,” I found all the same programs (and more!) still needed to be removed from the “remove programs” section. Microsoft Windows Classic would have no such deception: you remove it, it’s gone, NOT you remove it, it’s still hidden elsewhere taking up space. Microsoft’s next operating system should be one where it is more time consuming to add all of the programs one wants, as opposed to remove all of the programs and apps one does not,
5. Programs, not subscriptions. I have enough monthly bills without having to pay for a subscription for software for my word processor or e-mail programs. Bring back programs and stop trying to sell me stuff!,
6. When the mouse moves, it goes where one sees it. Moving the mouse should not open side panels, bottom menus, tool-bars or anything else that was invisible before and is nowhere near the mouse’s current position. I don’t want an operating system that thinks it knows what I want; I want an operating system that does what I want. It will know what I want because I’ll point and click or I’ll type. That is it,
and finally 7. Release it when you’ve gotten it right. Computer technology changes and occasionally, unforeseen gaps in programming are revealed through use, but rushing a product to market to satisfy stockholders or to keep a name based on a date is ridiculous. Microsoft Windows Classic (and, hell, Windows 10) should be rigorously tested with all of the existing software Microsoft can get its hands on and released after problems are experienced, found, and solved, as opposed to forcing consumers into constant Live Updates that crash the computer, slow the system and do not actually solve the problems they set out to.
I’d like to close with a philosophical idea for you, Mr. Gates, and all your subordinates who execute your programming wishes: there is virtue in simplicity and in the fundamentals. Microsoft was built on the idea of creating functionality (making computers work), not capitalism. The two need not be antithetical, but they have become such with planned obsolescence. If you are engineering the future, think of the most successful visions of the future and how they fly in the face of the capitalist model that celebrates the need for constant re-engineering for profit. The Microsoft 8 universe is one where Captain Picard orders Worf to arm the photon torpedoes to prevent the Romulans from bombarding an innocent planet, but Worf cannot because an update is in progress and the system needs to be rebooted. The Microsoft 8 universe is one where Luke Skywalker’s comrades are trying to target the Death Star’s main power generator, but pop-ups keep appearing because their O/S pre-loads them. The Microsoft 8 universe is one where Ripley tries to close a door to prevent the Alien Queen from getting her, but a cargo bay starts prepping a dropship instead.
I want Microsoft Windows Classic and I know of many, many, other people who would rather have that than a super-connected, “app based” operating system. There’s no shame in admitting you got it right several generations ago and return to that, updated for faster hardware.
My wife worked long and hard to give me a brand new laptop and for that, I am so grateful that I should have been moved to tears. Instead, I am writing this on my older laptop. My wife knew how bad Windows 8 was and she knew it would only frustrate me and undermine the awesomeness of her gift to me. Microsoft should develop and release Microsoft Windows Classic and restore ease and awesomeness to the operating system.
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.