Rose Tinted Iconography

There’s been lots to read about stuff that has been, shouldn’t have been, and won’t be released by Apple recently. There’s a lot of bashing going on, some of which is fair, most of which probably isn’t, but almost all of it is from the jaded in some way. As a reformed nerd it’s been tricky to resist the pull as the black hole sucks you in pretty quickly.  One of the things I’m genuinely interested in is the new MacBook Pro Touchbar, but this post isn’t about that, it’s about this screenshot and throwaway line from Stephen Hacket (unreformed nerd and good read) which I came across whilst splashing around the macosphere:

The full article is here but linked only for proprietarys sake, this isn’t about that article either (although you should read it, and Stephens other posts too if you find this stuff interesting), it’s about that sentence in the middle, or rather the common view that the new stuff isn’t better, it’s just newer (and often the worse for it)…

Nostalgia is a great thing in moderation, and it’s always fun to pull back to when you were properly amazed by something for the first time ever, especially when there’s something ‘new’ to pull apart with the years of cynicism you’ve since accumulated. I came across the above post and initially had a quick grin of amusement and agreement; I had previously spent some time kicking about on eBay hunting Amiga 500s, those were the best, right?  My nostalgia engine was already primed.

And then I actually looked at the said masterpiece, and I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t, indeed can’t, see what’s so good about it, particularly in comparison to the current incarnation.

You see, as mentioned my days of being amazed were centered on my Amigas, I never had a Mac until Mac OS X 10.4, so I’d never seen much less used the OS in question in anything other than screenshots like these.

As a total newcomer, let’s take a look at it in detail and see if I can work out what it all means, and why it’s so worthy of posthumous praise. This is just a bit of fun, I’m not really critiquing it, or it’s author or anything in between…

Firstly, it’s a simple window, with a title and some control in the top left, so far so good, nothing unexpected.  There’s a date and time underneath, and apart from the odd format (American m/d/y aside, why no trailing ‘0’ on the date) it’s remarkable only for having marginally excessive white space.

Let’s pop round the other sections In  clockwise manner from here. First up is this:

I’m not sure if this is 2 controls, or 1, and I have no idea what it refers to. I would guess that it’s the amount of time it takes to select a submenu when hovering over it without resorting to a click? Utter guesswork I’m afraid

Next up is what’s looks like the flash repeat delay for a cursor, if so it’s fairly straight forwards and self explanatory:

Then we have the double click delay, easy although that’s a creepy long finger:

I have no clue for this bit, I’m sure it will seem about right when someone tells me, if not even obvious, but right now I’m not even prepared to guess:

Normality returns for the next two, although I question a few things.  Why is the mouse acceleration button not in the order off then on, seems odd. And why does the volume go to 7, not 10 (or 9…). Additionally, the lower volume icon could easily be the higher one, there’s not a lot of differentiation there.

  And last but not least some keyboard controls:

Other than an outsize icon, I’d probably just swap the order around, you have to press the key before it can repeat after all.

So mainly, I give it a C. I can understand most, but certainly not all, of what it’s doing, and I have minor changes I’d make for clarity. It’s no masterpiece to me.

So what have we learned? Well, let’s be fair, not a lot, but mainly that on the whole nostalgia isn’t about how things were, but what we experienced. Whether it’s music, old GUI interfaces, or old workplaces, on the whole it’s great to reminisce, but it’s probably fun rather than useful. It’s no masterpiece to me, but it is to Stephen, and that’s cool, his glasses are tuned to a different rose hue than mine is all.

The original post is clearly fun reminiscing too, ands it’s unfortunate that the use of a single word triggered my thinking on it in this way, but I guess we all need to know when our fondness for our formative experiences drives us to batter the present with unreliable recollections and unfair comparisons.


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