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The Invisible technological glass wall

What is it?

I have been involved with computing since 1967 when I wrote my first computer program when I was at high school. So that's over 50 years. I have seen computing change from being a relatively minor part of most peoples lives to the situation where the vast majority of people, either directly or indirectly, are involved with computers every single day. To not be involved with computers, today, you would have to be a hermit .

A lot has been talked and written about the digital divide. That is those people that embrace and use computers versus those that don't.

But there is another divide. I call it the invisible technological glass wall. It is part of the reason for the digital divide.

When I first got involved with computers over 50 years ago, I never saw the computer that I first used. It was in a completely different location from where I was. It was housed in a room at a university, whereas I was located and a classroom at my high school. We were taught by our maths teacher how to write programs in Fortran and we would use a straighten out paper clip to push out holes in perforated punch cards. The punch cards would be delivered to the university, run through a punch card reader, transferred to the to the computer, which would assess the program, print out the results on paper, which was then returned to us, usually a week later.

As computers were very expensive and educational institutions or businesses that owned them, wanted to show off their new computers, quite often ther would be a glass wall separating the computer from the computer and other people in the organisation. Part of the reason for that was because the computers had to be in special air conditioned rooms otherwise ther components would have melted, because they generated so much heat. Only the computer people were allowed to go through the door in the glass wall. There was this physical segmentation between the computer and non computer people.

As computers became more common the need to show them off diminished and they were then put it in rooms without glass walls. Even buildings without windows. Computers don't need to be able to see out The computer people moved, to be with all the other people. However the psychological differences between the computer people and the non-computer people continued and still continues today. This is what I call the invisible glass technological wall.

How is it manifested

After writing computer software for sometime I discovered my philosophy in writing software was completely different to most of the other people doing it. I've always been a strong believer that information is power and the more information you give people the more power you give them. And being very socially minded I would always attempt to give people as much information and therefore power is possible. In writing software that meant making it as easy as possible for them to use and giving them full control over the way they use the software.

But that is quite often not the mentality of others. I would hear comments like, you can't let them do that, they may mess up the system. Functionality would be hidden from end users. Supposably for their own good, but more likely to give those that have the information some power over those that don't.

In more recent times, the amount of functionality that is kept from end users has escalated, often without any explanation as to why. An example is the operating systems of phones and tablets. Often these do not have any end user ability to access the file system. Within certain applications an end user may be given the ability to save information, but because they have no access to the filing system they cannot find or even no were the saved information has been stored.

Even some lower leval programmers don't know that this problem exists because they are being segmented from the upper level programers by the same technological glass wall. often for the same reason. They don't want them messing up their system or perhaps there's a monetary incentive to keep information to themselves

Unfortunately because this has become accepted practice,the newer generation of programmers are often just following the behaviour of those that have taugh them and have absolutely no idea the real reason they are doing it. See 5 monkey principle

Another aspect all this is that programers tend to do things that makes it easier for themself, rather than easier for the end user. But they rarely admit to that.

technological_glass_wall.txt · Last modified: 2020/09/20 14:27 by geoff