High tech isn't always the answer

I have two sons, one of whom, Alex, is Autistic. That presents its own challenges in our life but my wife and I are getting to be seasoned veterans in that battle now that he’s 14, and our “typical” 13 year old son is getting that teenager attitude which is a whole ball of wax on it’s own.

At any rate, Alex has an obsession with a few things like most Autistic kids do and I appreciate most of them. Two of them are video games and Star Wars. And, of course, that means we have pretty much every Star Wars video game that’s out there. The latest addition was one he found on eBay Canada called Star Wars Dark Forces. I wasn’t sure what it was, but given the $6.95 price, I was sure it was pretty old. But it was cheap enough, so I ordered it for him.

Well, when it arrived I looked at the CD and found it was copyright 1994. Will this thing even work on our XP box at home? Well after I found and installed a Sound Blaster emulator, it runs like a charm. And you know what? He loves it! It looks like DOOM II and probably uses the same engine from id Software. It’s pretty well done for 1994 but cheesy as all hell.

But I felt a lesson in all this. We often work hard in the software industry to pile features into our boxes and provide the latest bleeding edge of technology. But we often lose site of what this hole industry is about. It’s about the people who use this stuff. If they’re not happy with the end product, they we just wasted a lot of our time and money. And probably a lot of theirs.

And I guess that’s what’s led me in the last little while with the CDT. I don’t work on the indexer much any more. I’m glad that we have a few other guys looking at it. And that’s given me more time to focus on cleaning up the user experience. Because, no matter how fancy our stuff is under the hood, if people feel that the CDT is too hard to use, they won’t even get far enough to try out the fancy stuff. And sometimes, at least in my house, 1994 technology is plenty fancy enough :).