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Parallel universe (really ease of use)
I have been using Symbolics for a while now - I am comfortable in the
environment. I cannot say this for new users. One can take the
arrogant attitude that "Well as new users, that's what they should
expect", or, rather, do something to improve the situation.
Seems to me that one of the real issues here is not the complexity of the interface;
rather, it is the learning curve that is required to master the interface. For a tool as
powerful as the Symbolics, it might be said that the long learning curve is a necessary
evil that goes with the power and utility of the machine. I tend to disagree. The Symbolics
has the (possibly fatal) weakness of lacking intuitiveness in many of its tools. (Try
interacting with the mailer for anything other than simple Delete, Reply, or Next commands.) Rather
a shame that a machine with the capabilities of the Symbolics lacks one of the basic attributes of
a good tool, that of being easy to interact with for the novice user.
I think the mentality that is reflected in the UI, and the Symbolics documentation, is pretty
indicative of the same sort of thinking that put it into its unpleasant corporate situation,
v.v. the rest of the computer world. Compare its actions with SUN's.(sigh) SUN set out to take
market share by lowering costs on the hardware, and by offering innovative networking software
for essentially no added overhead to the purchaser. Symbolics, on the other hand, while certainly
saturating its niche in the market, has made no effort to make its costs, its products, or its
platforms more accessible to the general computing community. Yeah yeah I know about the
MacIvory. To be honest, it's still too expensive to be a candidate for wide deployment among
developers. A good example for Symbolics to look at would be Silicon Graphics. They have
managed to produce a machine with custom VLSI, lots of graphics power, color, and some good
freebies and sell it for ca. $15000 in the academic world. Same goes for DEC, believe it or not.
>From looking at the cost of most of Symbolics products, it seems apparent that they are well
aware of how expensive R&D time is. Now they just need to realize that their customers' time
and resources are just as precious to them as Symbolics deems its own to be.