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As Hardware Becomes Ever More Impressive, Software Suffers Rough Edges

Back in the early days of the Mac, the hardware was relatively crude compared to what we have today. That’s not meant as a criticism, merely a statement of fact—industrial design and manufacturing capabilities have come a long way since the mid-1980s. But while the software of the time may have had fewer features and could be weighed down by the slow disks and chips of the time, Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines helped ensure a high level of overall quality. Violations of the HIG or failure to abide by interface conventions were reported as bugs and noted in reviews, even down to little things like keyboard shortcuts in dialogs. Attention to detail mattered. Craft mattered.

That’s the backdrop to Craig Mod’s essay, “Brilliant Hardware in the Valley of the Software Slump,” which points out a few of the ways that a lack of software quality and reliability is now hanging around the neck of top-notch hardware. So many little things are wrong in modern software that would never have been tolerated in the past. Examples from the last few hours include the inability of Messages to remember its window position between launches on a secondary display and the choppy scrolling and the lack of support for the Home and End keys in Apple News. Let’s hope Mod’s call for a return to craft rattles some windows in Cupertino and among Apple developers in general.

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Comments About As Hardware Becomes Ever More Impressive, Software Suffers Rough Edges

Notable Replies

  1. Thanks, @ace. Excellent article. I especially liked his footnote on TouchBar.

    The TouchBar is categorically the worst hardware “feature” added to anything Mac-related in the last two decades. I can’t think of anything — aside from that bastard hockey puck mouse (which one could easily opt-out of by plugging in another mouse) — that the company has so readily doubled down on despite it bringing almost no benefit, only negatives, to the table. (I’ve tried BetterTouchBar, added weather widgets and AirPod battery levels to the TouchBar but in the end find it detracts more than adds.) Thankfully, in these recent revisions of MacBook Pros we got back the esc key and a dedicated Touch-ID button. This at least makes the TouchBar bearable, slightly. And the new keyboards are, truly, excellent (assuming they stand the test of time). True, these MacBook Pros should have probably looked like this four years ago, but better late than never.

    Maybe it’s time for Apple to pause on features and undertake High Sierra style update of macOS and the apps it comes with.

    Probably iOS too, but TBH in my own experience iOS 13 is far more stable and usable than Catalina. But maybe that just reflects that my work takes place 99% on my Mac whereas iPhone is basically just mundane stuff like maps, reading news, and checking email.

  2. I was going to say “bravo” to Craig Mod’s essay, until I came to his description of Quicken “(which, against all rational expectations is just a joy to use)”. Clearly from his footnote, he had never used Quicken 2007 or earlier versions which ‘just worked’. Quicken 2020 may be prettier than 2007, but functionally it leaves much to be desired. It cannot run a common report for those of us who are self-employed - comparing year to date results this year with last year." After nearly 3 months, I cannot get splits to work. Form has won over function. I feel like changes have been made for the sake of change.

    Otherwise, it’s constructively thought-provoking. My own thought is that Apple is trapping itself, trying to do too many things for too many people who want to do things differently. The end results is a wealth of confusing options, never explained, and never tested adequately because too many users are doing too many different things to test them all. One size fits all may be easy to make, but it fits nobody well.

  3. I have to disagree. The big problem is how much software must now do. I’ve been writing programs since the late 1970s and the crap we use to get away with was unbelievable. Programs would trash their own data, computers were constantly crashing. Users had to remember cryptic command sequences. Look at vi and emacs. If you accidentally ran either program, the chances are you couldn’t figure out how to quit them.

    We expect a lot out of our software. We expect it to work on multiple platforms. We expect it to know what we want even when we’re not too sure ourselves. We expect it to integrate with dozens of other programs. I’ve ran a few software departments, and we just couldn’t keep up with what was expected.

    One more thing: In the old days, we would map out every detail of our program and then have a year or so to write it. In the 1990s, we use to put out a software update every three months, and that was considered rapid development. Now, software is continuously released. New features are added all the time. There’s just no way to test like we once did.

  4. We certainly do, at least for PCs and Macs. 20-30 years ago networked workstations really were not A Thing. Cloud storage was an IBM pipe dream. Communication among applications (beyond copying and pasting) was difficult and rarely real-time. Security? Pffft.

    And, yes, the expectation of “Internet time” has not improved things. Continual requests for features; having to deal with changes made by the applications with which your app interacts (or depends), rapid OS and security updates that tend to break things,… Dealing with all of these is involved even without having to push something out the door annually or even every couple of months (cough Mozilla cough).

  5. System 7’s “Publish & Subscribe” feature did this really well (for the time), and was great with apps that supported it. I used to love it. Just pointing out one exception – overall, your points stand.

  6. True – I thought of P&S as I wrote my response. I’ve long thought of it as a “killer feature” for Apple of that time though it was not universal among apps of the day. And, alas, that was back when Apple needed serious marketing help.

  7. Here’s my guess based on my decades long background in the publishing industry. Publish And Subscribe was just about a miracle when it was released on Macs. It was a very good selling point for Macs, and MS Word did support it. Not long after, Microsoft developed its own equivalent technology for its Windows version; IIRC, it was buggy. And not long after that, Aldus Pagemaker included a version that would correct type changes between publisher and subscriber. Then along came Quark Xpress which included changes in major formatting, including the ability to open and work on graphics directly in projects; all the files were embedded. Just click on a photo or illustration in a page and it would open in Photoshop, Illustrator or whatever, and make changes seamlessly, without jumping back and forth. You could have people sitting in workgroups working simultaneously on a project in different kinds of software. It changed automatically for all the document’s stakeholders, including embedding fonts, etc. It was manna from heaven for workgroups. InDesign made editing graphics and text directly even easier. So shortly after Publish And Subscribe was born, newer software with more and better features made it obsolete.

    Publish and Subscribe, as well as the buggy Windows equivalent, were not a must have feature for many Mac or Windows users. In fact, except for power users, most Mac and Windows users never even knew about them or cared if they existed. They didn’t even notice when they were gone.

  8. I think that perhaps the major problem is that the basic hardware changes so fast that the programmers just begin to learn the idiosyncrasies of a chip and it’s associated support chips that they change and they have start all over again.

  9. The hardware may be brilliant for the iPhone. But I have friends who tell me that they returned brand new laptops because the new laptops weren’t faster than older ones.

    I want faster hardware than my iMac. But I would have to shell out way too much money. I’m too small for the iMac and can’t use the uppermost 2 cm of the screen. Because - you know - humans don’t come in small sizes. And the iMac gets so terribly loud.

    The software quality is becoming a disgrace. It’s like they don’t even use their own software anymore. I recently had a look at server-side rules in iCloud. The icon with a capital i is for editing. Next to the i is a hamburger icon that does nothing when I click on it. And the rules look totally different to the ones in Mail.

    @rem177: as developer I couldn’t care less about the hardware. I need to learn the new stupidities from Apple each year.

  10. Did they check the specs before they bought it or just assumed that because it was new it would be faster?

    That sounds like an ergonomic problem. I have done many setups for people of all heights and it sounds like the setup is wrong. the top of a screen ideally should be at the top of your line of sight. Human beings don’t truly look straight ahead but at a 15 degree down angle

  11. A new laptop should be faster than a laptop that is 3 or more years old. In the olden times that was the usual time span between new computers.

    I had my physical therapist check out my desktop/computer setup. The computer would need to be lower than the desktop.

  12. Do the laptops have ARM chips? If so, they are Windows machines, and Microsoft has not optimized a version to take advantage of ARM’s speed and power consumption. Neither have most Windows developers, so a lot of stuff runs in emulation, and there have also been complaints about them being slow, buggy. So it’s no surprise the Windows ARM laptops don’t live up to expectations about speed and power consumption.

    The odds are in favor of next week’s WWDC being focused on developing software and upgrades specifically for ARM Macs.

  13. I forgot to mention that the friends are all macOS developers. So no ARM.

  14. That is an assumption that should not be made. the selector should “always” check the spec of the machine that they are selecting because companies make changes that sometimes don’t appear to make sense.
    This comes from experience as I was a computer consultant from 1987 till I retired in 2012. I was a member of the ACN (Apple Consultants Network).

    I am glad that you had a physical therapist check out your setup. It is true that sometime, especially with the current iMacs, that the computer needs to be lower than a standard desktop. there are a couple of ways to do this,

    1. There used to be desks that had a cut out at the far end of the desk that had a shelf that raised or lowered and you could put a monitor or in the case of the iMac the computer on that shelf. This would allow you to sit higher than the item involved.
    2. You could raise the area where you are sitting to higher than normal and using an adjustable keyboard tray you could then be sitting is such a way that you would be looking at the top of the screen helping you with your problem,
      I hope that one of these suggestions helps if not perhaps you could send me a picture of your setup and perhaps I can be of more help.
  15. Or if not, at the very least it should be cheaper.

    Personally, I find this the most intriguing aspect of the ARM rumors. The potential to see larger performance increases again (though I’m not at all convinced that will actually be realized). MBPs simply aren’t getting faster quickly enough.

    I just recently replaced a 2013 13" dual-core i7 MBP with a 2020 13" quad-core i7 model. The new Mac is fine, but the speed increase is underwhelming considering a full 7 years have gone by. Everyday work is snappy, but so was it before. The one thing that IMHO has improved most (apart from TB3 of course): speaker quality, believe it or not.

    But here’s a real time waster, and if anything it’s getting worse. Apple’s OS updates take forever. And this despite 1 Gbps fiber download, super fast SSD, loads of RAM and the best 13" CPU money can buy. Why is this process getting slower rather than faster? Even more so because these updates seem to be coming out at shorter and shorter intervals. This wouldn’t be a problem if we were talking a mid range throw away PC. But on a $3000 notebook that’s not acceptable. Real performance progress would be making sure processes that take on the order of an hour are reduced to minutes.

    But you know, all that I’d be perfectly willing to shoulder if the OS and apps were actually solid. But they’re not. And we all know if we’re being truthful that Apple’s software QA/QC has taken a dive in recent years. Fast and loose releasee schedules, wizz bang flashy stuff, and lots of hype. But the substance has suffered and rot has been allowed to creep in. It’s high time for a serious High Sierra style come-to-Jesus moment. How about no new features until the last “new features” are made to actually work reliably and work well. Refine the system, take out the inconsistencies, make it actually fun to use again. How about do for software what the recent butterfly axing did for keyboards?

  16. That golden age of great software? I remember:

    – disk swapping continuously to boot up my Mac Plus or save things on MS Word;

    – catastrophic system crashes that would take down the entire system and often lose substantial data

    – rarely any kind of security protection

    As for the software being universally consistent(1) and usable(2): No.

    1. Kai’s Power Tools:

    2. Apple’s DVD player:

    Finally: hardware design is definitely good now, but I still have to plug my Apple Pen into my iPad’s lightning port after taking a tiny cap off (I’m still not sure how I’ve not lost this) and then basically can’t use either for a while. Meanwhile, the screen on my previous MacBook Pro died because dampness migrated under the glass and the screen on my current MacBook Pro is thin enough that the edge digs into my finger when I open it.

  17. OS updates (Windows, too) have become gargantuan in part because it’s easier to integrate and send every module than it is to figure out which ones have changed (and guess right about that, because otherwise there’s another highly public mess to clean up) and because the general availability of high-speed Internet is sufficient enough to make it an assumption.

    As I recall, System 7.5 Updates ran into multiple diskettes, which certainly were no faster to add to the computer (in fact, the current “come back when the status bar is gone” method is preferable [to me] than feeding a bunch of diskettes into the one disk drive on command). And I remember tales of people going to Genius Bars to get updates because they were just too big for the level of Internet access they had at home.

    I’m no fan of huge updates (especially n.n.1 updates fixing something n.n just fixed). But I don’t see the issue as being one of recent duration.

  18. This is one of the many reasons why Apple wants to dump Intel processors. And Apple doesn’t source speakers from Intel.

  19. I suppose it depends on how you define A Thing. Certainly Apollo computers functioned as networked workstations, and the remotely stored files were accessible, transparently to the user, on any workstation. That was by 1987, so more than 30 years ago.

    YES! I rarely use all caps, but this earned a shout.

  20. I will qualify “networked workstations” as A Thing that John and Jane Q. Public were not using at home in the mid-80s or even mid-90s. If they had a modem (and knew how to use it), that was big.

    Certainly universities and NASA and CDC and the like had networks, as did many larger companies. But people using computers at home did not have the expectation or equipment to support always-on, always-connected access to other computers.

  21. With that understanding, I agree with you.

  22. Ok. Nothing new until OpenDoc works

  23. Software was probably better in the 1990s. We had more choices.

    In the 1990s there were more companies, thus more competition, thus higher quality products. I remember years where something like this was common: I bought Cyberstudio for web site design. It even came with a manual. Amazing, right? Great program. Then Adobe bought it. Then changed it. Then killed it. Companies were bought right and left and their products eliminated. iTunes came from SoundJam by Casady & Greene, a great company which also made indispensable programs like Conflict Catcher and Spell Catcher. We don’t need Conflict Catcher, but Spell Catcher was never replaced. I think it even had a medical dictionary, which I don’t have in my current setup. There was a verision of the OED on CDROM. Today? Nope.

    I find interfaces today especially inferior, esp. in Windows, which is odd because this used to be such an important topic. How is that in a system called Windows, you often can’t resize…the windows? Maybe you have one or two resize options, fill screen or reduce by 20 percent, but often none. I’m begining to see this in the Mac. If you don’t use the default size of your monitor, you are short-changed. Bad news for those of us who wear glasses. Then there’s the inability to change fonts, a problem in Windows that has been coming to the mac. I can’t change fonts in Console. There are no preferences in Console. I can’t check spelling anymore in the Sierra version of Pages. Now what? I’m not even going to go into Quicken on Windows.

    I honestly don’t know why anyone would develop for the mac. Apple has always treated developers badly and has done little to nothing to increase the market share of the operating system. Apple insists on releasing a new OS every year, whether it works or not, whether the old OS works or not. Old bugs get ignored, new ones introduced. Pointless features are added. Good software is broken, crippled, or eliminated. Why? Just because. Something is changed. Why? Just because. The subscription model is a terrible idea, one I will never subscribe to. Software gets tethered to the cloud or sends telemetry to the mothership without your knowledge. You have to have an internet connetion to run some software. The OS phones home when you start a program. Why is the Finder sluggish even on an i7 with 32GB of RAM? Just because. The App Store is lousy for so many reasons, I don’t need to list them.

    These are easy examples of how power has been taken away from consumers and developers and become more centralized in the hands of a few companies. That’s always bad news for the vast majority of people. It helps only a tiny number of people. Who knows where it will lead?

  24. This right here – the insistent marketing need to release something on regular intervals – probably has contributed more toward my user dissatisfaction than anything else.

    And that’s just the OS, released once a year. I have to say that I’m darn tired of bring prompted to update Firefox about every two weeks (it seems). By the time I give the release a little time to shake out and I finally log out, take down all my tabs, download and install the update, do my validation testing, and log in all over again, there’s another update. Can’t. it. wait? Seriously, update the thing when you’ve got something decent to talk about.

  25. I just upgraded from a 2013 13" Quad-Core i7 2.7GHz, 650M NIVIDA 1.5GB, OWC SSD to the very same 2020 model and I’m very happy. While the old laptop was pretty snappy once it’s connected to an external 2K or 1080p monitor it all fell apart. The entire experience on the 2020 is fluid no matter what I throw at it. I’m sure many CPU/GPU tasks could be faster but in that case I should have bought the 16" model. With the 10.15.5 update Catalina seems to be on par with Mojave too; 10.15.4 was a problem right out of the box.

    Software aside, the 2020 13" (10th GEN) hardware is simply being held back by the INTEL processor. Note, I have not experienced that left-side Thunderbolt thermal issue. I have maybe a dozen devices to include a monitor and power on that side and it’s been smooth sailing. The graphics processor may not be a beast but it’s still three times as powerful as that NIVIDA GPU I had and the SSD screams at 3000+ MB/s.

  26. An old version of SuperDuper takes about a minute to start up if the internet connection is off. The new version won’t even run. No message telling me it wants internet. I imagine it’s checking for an update, but it would be more reasonable to put up a dialog box telling me that the check for update failed rather that allow for a minute’s latency and the be silent about the failure.

  27. I’m not experiencing that. SuperDuper has always started very quickly and I just tested it with no internet and it started right up. Is this a Catalina issue? (I’m on Mojave, avoiding Catalina, waiting for what comes next.)

  28. Started here without delay on macOS 10.15.5 Catalina, no internet connection. Wonder what’s up with @Will_M’s situation?

  29. No, I’m on Mojave, too. When it took SuperDuper so long to start up, I assumed it was doing some disk scanning. Then I started it once with the internet connection active, and there was no delay.

    I just tried it, with both the old and new versions, and startup was prompt in both cases. As @ron said, “Wonder what’s up with @Will_M’s situation?” I assure you that earlier startups took about a minute, but I’m happy they now don’t.

  30. It’s worse in Quicken for Windows. The shenanigans!

    One of the main reasons I bought my parents a Dell was to use Quicken. They are in their eighties. You have to create an account in Quicken even if you are not going to do online financial transactions. So you have to sign in whenever you use the program. Then you get ads pushing you to upgrade to the latest version. Or some other junk. Just starting the program is a burden. At one point, when I couldn’t get it to work, which was often, I called Quicken and just started swearing. I told the guy it wasn’t his fault, but the company he worked for (who is it now?) was making the program so much harder than it had to be. I was furious. I told him it worked better in the 1990s and it should be a simple task. The company was built on Quicken. Now it’s wrecked.

    This was years ago before I became Windows savvy. I had assumed there would be plenty alternatives to Quicken. Surely what everyone said was true: There’s so much more software for Windows than Mac. They were right. There is. And most of it is crap. I couldn’t find a decent alternative to Quicken. The closest was Moneydance, written in Java by a Scottish company. I even tried the open source Gnu Cash. Not terrible, but not great either. Nearly all finance programs are linked to the cloud. Are you kidding me? Who in their right mind puts their financial information in the cloud? I like Earth. I’m OK with Earth. Let’s stay here. Where’s Aristophanes when you need him?

  31. Yes! Firefox has gotten so nutty and bloated. And it can’t afford to be if it’s going to compete. You won’t find me using a Google product, but so many people use Chrome that web sites are tailored to it. I think Firefox has always been the best browser. The extensions are excellent. But the problems, the endless features, and the creeping intrusiveness try my patience. Upgrades alter your preferences, so you always have to check to see what has been changed without your knowledge. And there are so many preferences now. How long does it take to check them all? An hour? When oh when will Firefox print web pages reliably? Didn’t icab get that right years ago? That’s one guy.

    If getting better products requires payment, I don’t have a problem with it, so long as it’s done sensibly. I like buying good software. I like helping good developers. I don’t want free crap. I’m almost at the point where I purposely avoid free software because I suspect there’s some catch.

  32. "We expect a lot out of our software. We expect it to work on multiple platforms. We expect it to know what we want even when we’re not too sure ourselves. We expect it to integrate with dozens of other programs. "

    I don’t. I expect it to work and keep working. I expect it to have a clear interface with either a manual or integrated help or both. I expect it not to spy on me. I know what I want.

    I don’t care if it talks or links to Facebook or syncs with an iphone or ipad or runs on Windows or Linux. Can I at least change the font? Or resize the windows? Can I own it? Or am I borrowing it?

  33. Moneydance is also available on the Mac, and for anything not involving communication with the operating system, should be using the same code as the Windows version, Note that although it is written using Java, it does not depend on any live Java code in the operating system–it does not use live Java libraries, but incorporates any Java modules used within its own envelope. Importantly, Moneydance does not require live Internet links. For example, I use Moneydance and load my credit card data via .qfx files which I download via a web browser and then load from my computer.

    I load most of my stock quotes by again using an Internet service via creating appropriate .csv files to load via a user-written extension.

    The Moneydance interface isn’t perfect, and I find the reports not in the best format for me. Also, some of investment tracking code is a bit funky. However, I have learned how to deal with these quirks. For non-investment purposes, I find it as good as Quicken ever was, and contrary to the posters implication, passive Internet connectivity is not required.

    That said, the major worry I have about Moneydance is lock-in caused by not having an export format that adequately captures all the inter-relationships in the database. So, if I should want to change to another financial program, substantial work would be involved. When I originally switched from Quicken to Moneydance, that transition was eased by the fact that almost any non-Quicken financial programs was able to convert native Quicken files without losing the various interconnections and relationships that were also supported in the new program. This, I think, was due to the fact that Quicken dominated the program category; if a program wanted to succeed, it needed to do this. Unfortunately, Moneydance has not reached the point where competitors feel it necessary to deal with native Moneydance files, and exports to common formats do not preserve those relationships. Thus, Moneydance users are locked in.

  34. That was what stopped me—the reports weren’t there yet. But if the reports ever do what I want, I will dump Quicken for Moneydance in a heart beat.

  35. Your point is well founded and Mac OS Mail is a great example of buggy software in decline. Over time features are removed and stability compromised. Even with 16 GB of ram & lots of SSD room, Mail can be amazingly slow to search or display a Smart Folder. And it still can’t compose and format a proper html message. Some attachments can no longer be opened except by ISP webmail. The “advanced features” that Apple has added, such as iCloud sync of Mail settings are incomplete & may conflict with each other until the user is forced to disable them. Features you might expect (advanced mail rules & searches, export of all preferences to use on your other Mac, export of mail rules, display remote content from known senders, Edit subject lines) are not added.

    Actually in the case of mail rules, Claris Emailer was much more robust.

    Apple Mail has had odd unfixed bugs for years & years. It really is as if Apple doesn’t use nor prioritize Mail. Which is strange because as a business person, I use Mail ALL DAY long. Smart & reliable improvements to Apple Mail for MacOS would be very much appreciated.

  36. You’re right about Mail’s search being way too slow, and I’ve also found it to often be inaccurate. But I found that Spotlight has always done the trick for quick and accurate searches in Mail. And I’ve never had a problem with iCloud Mail synching; I think it’s a great feature. I’ve never had a problem with opening attachments, though I am suspicious and therefore will not open any attachment in a format I am not familiar with.

    One of the things I most appreciate about Apple is that it is a very intuitive and friendly device for someone who is not at all technically inclined and short on patience, like me. When I did need to send out HTML email, I designed it in Dreamweaver and pasted it into Mail.

    I also use Mail all day long, and I very much prefer it to Gmail and Outlook, which made me miserable for years at work.

  37. I hear that, @macmedix. I use Mail a huge amount for work all day. While I in general get along quite well with it. A few things are just silly.

    Most recently (Catalina) the fact that Apple thought removing column width adjustment was somehow not a completely misguided idea. And then, why does Mail search have to suck? I’m always amazed how much better search works when I use gmail’s (at work we’re a Google outfit) web interface and realize I can actually use that search field so much better and find things so much quicker than with Mail’s half-baked search (based on Spotlight?). Well actually, Spotlight sucks too but that’s another issue.

    Hopefully 10.16 will rectify some of this. I guess we’ll learn more in a week.

  38. Mail’s Smart Folders (and most likely Mail’s Search) are Spotlight. If you exclude your Home folder from Spotlight (in System Prefs) then the Smart Folders stop functioning.
    Search is one of the things Apple is making into a system wide functionality instead of application specific functionality.

  39. Ya know, I’d be perfectly OK with system-wide search being used by apps. It’s just that system-wide search should ideally not suck. This is one area where Apple could really take a page from those who know how to do search.

  40. Interesting article. I agree with many points. What I’d love to see is more research into WHY software quality has declined. For my comments, I’d restrict the discussion to Macintosh, iOS or Web-based software. Some guesses include:

    • Poorly defined requirements - no one took the time to design the UI/UX
    • Inadequate testing - no one tested what happens when people do obviously incorrect actions
    • “Agile” development, that has given developers an excuse to build without quality – “we’ll just fix it in the next sprint…”
    • Software development no longer is seen as a “craft.” Fewer developers truly understand WHY documents like the original Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) existed.

    My favorite example is software (usually web sites) that asks for a phone number and can’t automatically process dashes or parentheses, stripping them out as required before storage – they instead have a text box telling the user not to enter dashes, etc. It used to be no software developer worth their salt would ever release code that didn’t sanitize before storage. Now – it seems common. I’d guess that if you asked the individual “coder” they’d say, “no one told me to do it…”

  41. That is a management failure, not the coder. The coder works to the standards set by management.

    Those who ignore history are condemned to build bad software.

    I really miss Steve.

  42. That’s a great question. Some off-the-top-of-my-head possibilities along with those you listed:

    • Time to market. Everything moves much, much faster than it used to, which compresses the dev cycle such that there may not be enough time to apply the polish.

    • Lack of strong leadership from the top. Apart from a few outlying examples, none of which were in core apps, Apple generally abided by its own guidelines, which encouraged the majority of developers to do so as well. When developers deviated, such as the canonical example of Kai’s Power Tools, it was a notable move. But not one that caught on at the time.

    • For many years, there was an established playground for those who didn’t want to make a “real” Mac app: HyperCard. HyperCard stack interfaces were often weird and wacky, but they seldom splashed over into the world of commercial productivity software.

    • Short attention span for users. With most apps (particularly iOS) being free or cheap, users don’t need to invest money, and if they’re not investing money, they’re less likely to invest time. If you’re only using an app every so often for a short time, you don’t care as much if it’s weird or poorly coded.

    • Short attention span for developers. Developers have a tough time because if they don’t invest quite a lot of time and effort into making their app compelling at first glance, it’s unlikely to stand a chance with the short attention span of users. But if they don’t have the resources to make that investment, the app will be more likely to be weird or bad. And if the app isn’t an immediate success, developers may not be able to afford the time and money to polish for a 2.0 or even a 3.0. Lots of apps used to require multiple major revisions before they became classics.

    • Less public beta testing. It’s just harder to do these days, what with profiles and App Store codes and whatnot, and I see less of it.

    • Less connection between developers and users. In the past, it was more likely that users would be able to meet a developer at Macworld or would exchange email with the person who did the work. As the markets have grown, that connection has become weaker, such the developers have less of an idea of what users want, and users have less of a sense they could influence the direction of development.

  43. Short attention span for users. With most apps (particularly iOS) being free or cheap, users don’t need to invest money, and if they’re not investing money, they’re less likely to invest time. If you’re only using an app every so often for a short time, you don’t care as much if it’s weird or poorly coded.

    This resonates. Fewer people care, so fewer people complain.

  44. All of what @ace said… The nature of attention has definitely shifted.

    I saw a piece by a French artist in a gallery in Lisbon last December. Part of her work resonated in particular, she was visualising the early Internet. She said that the slope of the Web had changed in the recent past. She posited there was a gentler slope to the Web earlier, that you meandered around the Web, at a slower pace, visited more places, came across things which were unexpected. Now that slope is much steeper, people are propelled, ever faster, funnelled into fewer and fewer spots.

    This crunching of time seems to have become a dominant tendency. Space is long overcome, now Time is being vanquished where everything is instant. It has a huge impact upon not just the user but also the developer. Attention certainly is one casualty, and with that perhaps due care or dreaming is set aside for quick hits and fixes.

  45. I can add a few more to what Adam said:

    • The advent of the web. Web interfaces are notoriously awful, there are few standards, and the underlying tech keeps changing. The result is there’s a whole generation of users and developers who don’t know good interface and that translates into poor apps.

    • Quantity of users. It used to be there was a small pool of users (a few hundred million worldwide) so software cost a lot and users were picky. Now if your product only has a few million users it could be considered a flop. This has created a strange market where giant companies chase billions of users and give away stuff for “free” hoping to monetize some other way; smaller developers don’t have the resources to compete, especially when it comes to marketing their app.

    • The “default” standards of an app are very high now. I don’t mean quality, but just the basics of what an app needs to do. In ancient days, like under a command-line OS like DOS, your app needed to do its thing and be able to save and open files. That meant the developer could concentrate on the program’s functionality. Nowadays apps have to support a million technologies, from drag-and-drop, copy/paste, undo/redo, internet/cloud, etc. Much of that is provided by the OS, but there’s still overhead to support those things (even just in testing), and while the tools to build apps have gotten better, the complexity underneath is horrendous and making even a simple app requires a huge amount of work – especially if the developer is concerned about quality.

    • The vast number of apps. With so many millions of crap apps out there, average users can’t tell the difference. The problem with that is there is no incentive for the good developers to make their apps better as the marketplace doesn’t reward them. People won’t pay extra for an app with undo support, for instance. They download apps based on sketchy marketing schemes and never see the good apps. Eventually those good app developers either stop making apps or start making crap apps.

    • Larger development teams. Software used to be created by individuals or tiny teams of a few people. They could communicate with each other and make things better. These days software is created by committee with dozens or hundreds of developers. Small “insignificant” interface issues, visual bugs, rare bugs, etc. are low-priority.

    • Education. Programming used to be a esoteric craft and those involved were geeks who were really very good at it. Now it’s mainstream, but the vast majority aren’t any good. They don’t have the passion for it. It’s just a job, a career they got into for the money or notoriety. The advent of website programming has also impacted this as so many who “code” in HTML or Javascript think they can also make apps.

    • Speed of change. I personally hate web development more than anything, because the tech changes every five minutes. By the time I learn HTML, there’s CSS. I learn that and there’s Javascript, then JQuery, then PHP, and then whatever the new flavor of the month is for development now. The whole programming world is like that, and while usually the new languages and tools have definite benefits, there is no “deep knowledge” or “20 years of experience” that a traditional developer had. Even a current top programmer who has been doing stuff for 20-30 years can’t use many of the skills from 20 or 10 years ago because everything is new. The tools are all different, the languages are different, the APIs have all changed. This means the developer is spending half their time learning new stuff and that’s time they used to spend polishing their app. This trend is slowing slightly, but not enough, and the modern generation is going to be addicted to the high you get from “new stuff” and is always looking for the next big thing instead of just using the tools they have. Apple and other hardware companies have certainly contributed to this attitude with annual release schedules and an emphasis on “new.”

    I’m sure there’s a lot more, but these are a few of the “big picture” aspects of software development that come to mind. I’m not really sure I see a fix, either. Bad software is the new normal. I’m not sure it’s “bad” in the sense of losing data or not functioning as intended (i.e. doing its job), but it is bad in the sense of being harder to use, buggy, and annoying. The vast majority of users don’t use the app enough to notice (or don’t have the taste to notice), so it’s only power-users and experienced software users who complain, and they’re a minority. So nothing improves.

  46. I’d add to the list outsourcing.

    In my career, the US developers (especially those who grew up in high-tech regions like Silicon Valley) were very very good and paid great attention to detail.

    But there aren’t enough of these people to go around and they command very high salaries. So companies keep their best people to work on architecture and high-level design, giving all of the actual code-writing to outsourced teams in low-cost countries. These teams may have good programmers, but they didn’t design the software, they have limited contact with the people who did design it, and they are often paid with fixed-price contracts.

    So it’s not in their best interest to ship a fully-polished application. They make the most profit by shipping as soon as possible. Once the app passes its acceptance criteria (based on the letter of the contract, not based on if anybody on the team is satisfied with the results), it is delivered and everybody moves on to a new project.

    You can get quality from an outsourced team, but it requires very good management that can be directly involved in the team’s daily work. This is very uncommon - it’s a lot of work most managers are not trained to do, it involves working during odd hours (to sync with foreign time zones) and manager salaries are high - cutting into the cost saving that is used to justify the outsourcing.

  47. I’ve not ever published on the Apple App Stores, but my understanding is that they intentionally make it nigh impossible for users to communicate with developers and vice versa.

    I find communicating with users to be a great source of satisfaction when doing development. I think my experience as a developer would be impoverished in the world of app-store publishing, and likely the quality of my work would suffer.

  48. I’m fortunate enough to make a living in academia so I can’t offer first-hand experience. But I have a wife who works for a medium sized software engineering company in Silicon Valley that makes devices in a highly regulated safety critical market segment. One thing she keeps telling me that interferes with getting good software to market is the the combination of Agile workflow and MVP (minimum viable product).

    Basically, very early on in the planning phase of a new product the higher-ups decide what the MVP is. It is always low-balled so as to make sure the product managers don’t have to ask for many resources. It makes the product look less expensive and risky, and thereby promises much more revenue. That gets the top brass and board sold on the idea. But the MVP itself is a crappy product because a once great idea has now been stripped of all that makes it sexy and interesting. It’s really just a skeleton of a great idea. But anyway, the board was sold on that so that’s now what’s gonna happen.

    The teams get to work on the MVP and start developing a very rough and crude product. It’s constantly reviewed an demo’ed (Agile) which creates this new normal of “that’s broken, but we’ll fix it later”. People can always ‘demo’ something, but they never ‘demo’ the real functionality because some parts are always sufficiently broken so you can never really demo the whole workflow. The engineering teams are working beyond full capacity and pulling overnighters to meet deadlines set by people who haven’t written a line of code in 20 years but are very afraid of a board room full of angry old dudes with short tempers. At some point the MVP is ‘ready’ and testing starts along with all the certification for the highly regulated market these products are used in. During this time the coders wind down and start to have time again to work on polishing the product and turning the bare MVP into something you might enjoy using. By the time regulators have approved the product and the company is ready to go to market, the engineers have meanwhile have managed to fix a lot of shortcomings in the MVP and now there’s all of a sudden a large amount of useful additions and nice-to-have enhancement along with a lot of bug fixes just waiting to be added. Sales people have already told their clients about all the great new stuff and the pressure is on to not bring the MVP to market as planned (and approved by the Federal agency), but to incorporate as many of the latest new features and bug fixes as possible. Management then needs to convince themselves that the changes don’t warrant having to open up an entire new regulation cycle, but that they’re nevertheless crucial product improvements and therefore important enough to warrant a delay. With the delay now settled, again the pressure is on for the coders to work overtime, because they’re now the ones delaying the launch. Rinse, wash, repeat.

    From hearing all these stories, what seems to be missing is leadership that a) understands what it takes to make good code and how much effort is realistically required and b) have enough chutzpah to require certain usability/features right from the start rather than try to push some half baked MVP, and c) finally have the stomach to put their foot down when it counts and not rush a product to market just because that’s what a completely unrealistic plan somebody came up with 3 years ago says.

    I would really like to learn what it is we users and consumers can do to reward good coding and software, and create incentives for companies and software devs to put in the extra effort to actually make good software that’s polished and fun to use. Paying for good software and avoiding crap is obvious. But what else?

  49. I feel a bit silly, after all the preceding bullet points, posting a whine. But here goes.

    Yeah, except when they don’t even have the text box. There is just an error message if the user doesn’t enter information (phone number, date, nine digit zip code) in the format that the programmer expected. “Please enter a proper …” In another thread, someone mentioned perfectly valid email addresses being rejected because the programmer didn’t anticipate something properly.

    Alright, back to useful comments.

  50. I’m not sure that I buy all of this. Is software really that bad? It’s easy to pick out anecdotes of bad design and failure, but perhaps it’s also easy to forget how limited software/apps were in the past compared with now. I almost feel that this is a little like Louis CK’s “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy”. I realize that things can get better, but, really, so can hardware. Intel’s chips we learn are plagued with speculative processing vulnerabilities (albeit without real world exploit, but is that really as great as it can get?) Apple just spent a couple of years selling no decent notebooks without flaky keyboards. It is 2020 and still Apple sells no cellular connected Macs, especially notebooks. Are we sure that hardware is as good as it can be? Are we sure that software is really worse than it was before - or is it possible that some things are worse but there are some (many?) things that are better?

    How do we measure those things objectively?

  51. I think your wife has it pegged. Not all companies are like this, but it does seem to be a common factor of the biggest (and therefore most bureaucratic) ones.

    There’s noting inherently wrong with Agile and MVP, as such, but these concepts need to be supported by a management team that understands them and their ramifications. Managers that see them as an excuse to sacrifice quality in order to meet impossible schedules are the real problem. And these managers run the biggest and more bureaucratic corporations.

  52. I really miss Steve.

  53. Regarding software, I would be happy with two fundamental changes, both back to basics:

    1. Software developers (especially within Apple) should follow Apple’s original human interface guidelines; and

    2. Remove the Apple security that shifts control of computers from the owner/purchaser/buyer/user to corporate Apple. Minimally, let us install anything that we want on OUR computers! Remember when we would simply download or copy software and then run it?

  54. Er, I do that regularly today.

  55. Why do we have to type in our password to install applications in our Utilities folder but not our Applications folder?

    Why do we need to approve running an application we’ve installed the first time we run it (yes, I know it’s intended to address viruses)?

    Why are we prohibited from installing hacks in our system such as SIMBL without increasingly sophisticated deep hacking?

    Why can’t we change default icons that are now under lock and guard in the System folder? Remember when we could actually open and change items in the System file with ResEdit?

    Why the insistence on sandboxing applications with heavy pressure (to the unknowing) to purchase applications only on the App Store instead of the wide open internet?

    In other words, why doesn’t Apple trust us anymore? Perhaps during a system installation, we should be asked just once if we are expert users and want to strip away all of these “protections”?

  56. I think in part it’s because Apple wants to be a consumer electronics company, IOW any idiot should be able to use a Mac without ever getting into trouble despite never having read a single readme or caring and taking responsibility for his/her security. It feels a bit to me lately like macOS has become the Simple Finder version of the former OS X. I realize a lot of this was done because of security concerns, but it would be nice if there were some more granularity for those of us who know what they’re doing. I’m no big fan of the locked down sandbox. I want to be able to continue using my Mac for work.

  57. Precisely. Apple wants iPhone users to purchase Macs, so it dumbed down and locked up the Mac system. In the process, they’re making Macs more like Windows machines. It’s so sad.

  58. If Apple didn’t trust you, you wouldn’t be able to do most of the things you listed.

  59. I’m not sure if these are real questions or rhetorical. Just in case they are real…

    Sounds like a matter of permissions. What do you see on your system? Here’s what I see:

    $ ls -ld /Applications /Applications/Utilities
    drwxrwxr-x+ 92 root  admin  3128 Jun 11 12:43 /Applications/
    drwxr-xr-x+ 28 root  admin   952 Jun  9 09:47 /Applications/Utilities/

    Both folders are owned by root:admin, but note the permissions. /Applications is group-writable, so anyone in the admin group (that is any, account you configured to be an administrator) can copy files there. /Applications/Utilities is not, so everybody must authenticate before copying files there.

    I don’t know why Apple did that. Probably to make it easier for administrators to install software.

    If you don’t normally log in to an admin account, which is a very good practice, then it doesn’t matter - you’ll be asked for an admin user name and password before copying files to either location.

    Because the system doesn’t know if you deliberately installed it or if it got installed through some other means (e.g. malware). By making you confirm your intent, you have the chance to abort launching something that you didn’t install.

    In the Classic MacOS world, some of the worst instability problems were the result of people installing “haxies”, including APE and SIMBL. Either because the extension was buggy, or because it interacted badly with other haxies that were all installed and running together.

    Even if you know exactly what all the risks are, most people installing these did not (and still don’t). They’ll just read random forum posts by people advocating various add-ons and install stuff they don’t understand. And when the system becomes flaky as a result, they blame Apple, who has to spend a lot of tech support money to figure out that the user’s problem was self-inflicted.

    Yeah, I’d also like to customize these things. But Apple has always been this way. They don’t want users changing the look and feel of the system, and they definitely go overboard with things like this. But this is nothing new.

    Using new system permissions to block access might be recent, but as far back a System 7, Apple was known for shipping system updates that would revert any such changes, forcing you to redo it all after every update.

    I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about. You can still download and install apps from any source. Apps need to be signed and notarized in order to launch the first time with a simple double-click, but that’s hardly a heavy pressure thing.

    The App Store is so popular is because it is easier to distribute software that way than through other means. But there are plenty of publishers who distribute their software in other ways as well.

    And how many non-experts will say “yes” to that question and then go crying to Apple’s tech support when they make a complete mess of their computer? Probably everybody.

    This is as much an issue of reducing support costs as it is anything else.

  60. And we all know how tight money is at Apple these days. Can’t overspend on support if you’re aiming for that $300B balance. ;)

  61. In part, it’s because macOS is Unix, and Unix is a full multi-user operating system that supports remote login over an always-on Internet connection. It’s not that Apple doesn’t trust you, it’s that macOS can’t afford to trust anyone. Just like Unix never did.

    We’re not in Kansas anymore, and Macs aren’t standalone devices that can be used only by one person at a time. This hasn’t been true since 2001, although the level of connectedness and the evolution of malware to attacks by organized crime have increased radically since then.

  62. Absolutely. When you’re developing for real people who you actually know, and who will tell you when things don’t work well for them, you’re likely going to put more effort into pleasing them.

    I’m not sure we can. Except for the “wow” factor. Unbox a new iPhone 11 Pro or Apple Watch or iPad Pro, and what Apple has done is just amazing. When they explain the technology behind Face ID or what happens with computational photography, I’m astonished. It’s just mind-boggling what can be done these days in silicon, and the industrial design is also fantastic. Who would have thought we’d have powerful computers with high-speed Internet connectivity in our pockets? That was science fiction not that many years ago.

    Software, in contrast? I can’t think of anything that’s really knocked my socks off in a long time. Sure, there are apps that are impressive, and I think Discourse (what we’re using for TidBITS Talk) is an amazing piece of work, but most of what I see on the Mac and iPhone? It’s OK, but nothing special, and that’s especially true of Apple’s apps.

  63. I hear you, Adam. Just today I was reminded again of how great hardware can be. I have never wanted an Apple Watch, but this video still blew me away.

  64. Apple’s camera app for the iPhone remains remarkable and gets ever more so. It takes a very small sensor and cheap lenses and now using machine learning creates some remarkable images and videos from them in a very simple to use app. How can you not be amazed by Apple’s image processing software?

    But the OSes themselves (for all of the grumbling about them) remain remarkable imo. Stable, providing ever-more underlying APIs to developers to give us ever-more capable apps. Besides mail on iOS and MacOS, which could definitely be made better, Apple’s apps are stable and provide decent, basic functionality. If you need more, there is probably a third party app that provides more.

    Also remember all of that great hardware requires software to actually be used. Yes, Apple Watch is pretty great, but it’s not just great hardware - the firmware and OS services that make that hardware works are also pretty remarkable. (And of course people still find things to complain about.)

    I don’t mind Discourse but people still wish it was better at what it does, and I don’t think it’s a great example of specialness.

  65. Interesting – just in the last few days, Audio Hijack knocked my socks off, as did the automatic transcription feature in Zoom. Going back, with the last year, the scanning in Scanner Pro took out at least one sock. Those are just what I can think of at the moment.

    Also, I’ll note what didn’t knock my socks off (in this context, a good thing). On March 13, I walked into my home office, plugged in my MacBook Pro, and haven’t gone into work since then. And you know what? MacOS just worked – handled all the new requirements I threw at it in quarantine without missing a beat, and was a large part of why I could finish my spring semester classes without losing my mind. That was pretty amazing.

  66. Two more that knock my socks off on a regular basis: Panorama (and the enterprise version is just around the corner) and Dorico, a music engraving program, which in just a couple of years has eclipsed anything else available and gets regular and spectacular updates. What they have in common is small dedicated teams who know their craft phenomenally well. Panorama is essentially a one-man shop; it has been going since the early days of the Mac and was recently rewritten from scratch. Dorico is a small team functioning in many ways independently within a large corporation (Steinberg). And both have phenomenal and continuous contact with the user base.

  67. Other sock knockers:

    Devonthink Pro
    Nisus Writer Pro

  68. I don’t see that as being the Camera app, but being the iPhone’s hardware. The app doesn’t provide any of those features without the iPhone’s custom silicon, which makes it less capable on older iPhones.

    Actually, that link is a perfect example of why I like Discourse. It’s pretty neat from a user perspective (which is why I keep encouraging people to use it directly rather than via email), but from an admin perspective, it’s freaking brilliant. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of settings, all completely searchable and configurable. Great logging, reporting, and statistics. And a development team that responds quickly, fixes bugs, and interacts with users.

    @Simon made that suggestion, I conveyed it to the developers via their public Discourse forum, and although it hasn’t been implemented in the 24 hours since I posted, the fact that Jeff Atwood, one of the co-founders of Discourse and the guy behind Stack Overflow, said it was a good idea suggests to me that we’ll see it happen in a future version.

    No one is saying that ALL software is terrible or that ALL hardware is great. That would be silly. We regularly write about apps we think are great and want to tell you about, and we’ve slammed the butterfly keyboard for years. There are obvious exceptions. The point is merely that there is a lot of truly amazing hardware out there that doesn’t seem to be matched in quality by much of today’s software.

  69. Interesting that you don’t see the software involvement. Perhaps that’s a perfect example of great software: so well done that you don’t think of it as software.

    Yes, the A12 and A13 have massive neural network coprocessors, but, you know, it’s not just hardware. There is an amazing amount of software engineering involved along with the hardware engineering.

  70. Obviously, there’s an insane amount of code that makes hardware possible, and to the extent that the hardware works well, that code must also be working well.

    What we’re talking about here, however, is software that you do see and interact with. You see it crashing, behaving badly, and violating interface guidelines. That’s the problem.

  71. Oh wow, I remember Kai’s Power Tools. I still have a few old Photoshop files of stuff I produced using KPT. And by ‘using’, I mean ‘randomly clicking stuff’.

    You can see echoes of that user interface in modern versions of KPT’s one-time sibling Poser. (KPT was sold to Corel when MetaCreations dissolved its software range, while Poser passed through several hands before eventually finding a home at Renderosity.)

    I don’t remember that version of the Apple DVD player, but I recall that both Windows Media Player and RealPlayer went through similar phases of in-your-face user interfaces.

  72. Another thing to consider is the completely changed pace of development. This has been mentioned by others above, but this example really underscores it. I was reminded of this issue when reading Brendan Shanks’s post on WWDC 1990.

    System 7 had been ‘introduced’ a year prior, but then didn’t ship until one year later. So it shipped two years after it was announced (and more than three years after System 6 was released). There were two years of WWDC that focused on a version of the OS that wouldn’t ship until quite far into the future.

    Add to this the fact that the ‘OS’ today includes loads more features and interactions, and many more (significant) apps. So there was much more time in the past both for Apple to refine the OS before releasing it, and also for app developers to refine their upcoming apps.

    I’m not trying to pass judgement on which is better, but we simply live in a different world now. No one would accept three years between OS releases (there were some updates to System 6, but only the kind of bug fixes and new hardware support we get with 0.0.x updates now). And no one would accept an OS as ‘bare bones’ as System 7. Or some people would accept this, but not enough and it wouldn’t be competitive.

  73. I get what you’re saying and I won’t disagree with it overall, but I still think this statement is not true for everybody.

    I personally would probably be fine if major OS releases were released on a roughly 3-year schedule. I know that the present 1-year cycle is completely exaggerated. I’d prefer Apple polish things and make everything work reliably before releasing. Deliver on your promises. If that takes more time, take the time. I never subscribed to this ‘ship broken, fix later’ mantra.

    Bugs can be fixed in between major releases. If major new apps are needed to enable connectivity with other devices those too can ship independent of the major OS update cycle. If new software is required to make new hardware run, add that to that hardware. Don’t screw with everybody else’s setup.

    My hunch here is that precisely because of the complexity of macOS it has become so difficult to keep clean and stable. There is no need to integrate every last feature. There is no need to bundle every last functionality. Stick to the 80% basics, let dedicated apps or third parties cater to the remaining 20%. Heck, Apple can deliver those 20% themselves if they want, but disentangle it from the 80% bulk of the OS. Just make sure that latter part is rock solid and squeaky clean. Only once that is successful, think about bells and whistles.

  74. I did try and qualify ‘no one’, as that’s clearly an exaggeration, I realise some people would be fine with this. But I think Apple would get slated, and it wouldn’t be viable. We’re not talking about 3 years between ‘major releases’, but 3 years between any new features. And spending two of those years talking about the features you’re working on, but not releasing them. As I say, I can’t see this being viable these days.

    I’d love a slower pace and more polish, in fact I’m kind of on that as I’ve given Catalina a miss. But 3 years is probably a bit much.

  75. I think a lot of people would. Note the existence of “LTS” (long-term support) releases of Linux distributions. These are typically released once every 2-5 years, with little more than bug fixes and security updates between releases.

    These are very popular, especially in business environments where a stable platform for running apps is far more important than having the latest and greatest eye candy. That’s the same reason I only run LTS distributions on all of my Linux PCs and VMs - I don’t have the time to go learn a new GUI every time some paradigm briefly becomes fashionable.

  76. A lot of people just don’t upgrade their macs until the next new version is due to come out, perpetually being one or two releases behind. Just because you can upgrade on day one doesn’t mean you have to. Apple provides security updates going back 3 versions and they don’t twist your arm to upgrade on Mac like they do with iPhone.

  77. Brief relevant comment by Alan Jacobs at

    1. Apply your existing rules consistently.
    2. Alter those rules to promote maximum creativity and ambition in Mac/iOS software development.
    3. Take a smaller cut so more developers can stay in the game.
  78. Steve Jobs was a jerk, a borderline sociopath, certainly narcissistic. But he cared about quality. Few people do. They care more about cheap.

  79. “Apple wants to be a consumer electronics company”

    Steve Jobs repeatedly said his goal early on was to be like Sony. That was a goal I never admired. It suggests the unhealthy desire for power and world domination.

  80. Where do you see the difference between Apple’s “nudging” with iOS vs. macOS?

  81. Apple software development has become totally undisciplined.

    Apple internal software development has become totally undisciplined. I bought an SE/30. The thing that impressed me most was ALL the applications had shortcuts (key-chords) for every menu option and they menus and the shortcuts were consistent across all applications. Adherence to the Human Factors Guidelines was ubiquitous. For crying out loud on Apple’s own applications they come and go.

    As for testing it is beaming nonexistent.

  82. Quit VI and EMACS? That’s what ctrl-c was for.

    VI and EMACA were for wimps to be a man you really needed to learn TECO. TECO was a manly editor and FYI EMACS was written as a TECO MACRO.

    TECO had an option which allowed you to open disks bypassing the directory. You could open any block or series of blocks on the disk. You could edit them in ASCII, OCTAL, HEX, and more. Heck if you had a problem with the direcotory you could edit it.

  83. Control-c doesn’t work in either program. If you were lucky and used csh rather than Bourne shell, you might be able to do control-z which will suspend the program and put it into the background and spawning a new shell. Then you could do kill %1 to end whatever editor you’re using.

    And if you understood any of that, you spent way too much time with Unix programming.

  84. You must be a youngster. TECO, Text Editor & Corrector is both a character-oriented text editor with it’s own programming language and was developed in 1962 for use on Digital Equipment Corporation computers, and has since become available on PCs and Unix. Dan Murphy developed TECO while a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was a ubiquitous editor on DEC computers and ctrl-C worked on all DEC computers applications and operating systems. UNIX was developed in the 1970s. EMACs came along in 1976.

  85. Alright, whenever people start trotting out emacs and vi in a discussion about modern software interfaces, it has officially gone off the tracks.

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