Point, Comma.

Monday, 7 December 1998
Computers are bad yat listening. They do exactly what you tell them to do, which is not what you want. These machines permanently work-to-rule, highly irritating.

How do users hold out with these shitty things? People take many things for granted. Well, computers don't. They need detailed instructions, up to the smallest point. Don't omit anything as the tiniest detail can cause failure. How much longer will users accept this? Will the User's Bill of Rights be a success, ever? I doubt it and fear the worst.

A print-out showed a mix up of points and commas. For months I did not notice it. To me $12.345,- is just as easy to read as $12,345.- This PC used the English standard, exactly the opposite of the Dutch. The Dutch language uses a decimal comma and a point as digit grouping symbol. Well, just change the setting. Done. I replace some points by comma's and vice versa. On screen it look good. Thoughtlessly I click 'Save' and request a test print.

Illegal Operation The PC is less optimistic. The program crashes. The program has a problem. Contact the vendor. I beg your pardon? What? The program refuses to restart. Switching the whole thing off and on does not help either. This starts to get annoying. Shoulder to the wheel and start working.

Fortunately there is a backup available. For hours I try to get things going again. No success. In despair I print the backup, with the English settings. That's successful. Once again I choose the Dutch settings. I retype the whole lot from the paper backup. What a disgustingly stupid machine. The difference between $12.345,- and $12,345.- can't be that difficult, can it? The typing helps. The whole thing is working again.

The year 1998 is almost over. A few weeks to go before all stock markets switch to the euro. Get the Euro sign (.../euro/...) in one font or the other. "International stock trade will be a lot easier." Well, I surely hope so. Seek the differences between € 12.345,- and € 12,345.- A year later we'll enjoy the millennium. After that the full introduction of the euro.

Reader, a final conclusion. For the time being one single user right would be just great: "Computers must do what the users tell them to do."

I put a stop to this column. Till next week.