The concepts in modern operating systems — apps, windows, desktops, notifications, and so on — have so permeated our understanding of personal computing that it’s hard to imagine anything else, let alone believe there could be anything better.

It’s easy to assume that this is, somehow, simply, how computers work.

But this can’t be further from the truth.

Consider our concepts of time: the day and year are based on the earth’s rotation and orbit around the sun, yet the seven-day “week” and the twelve months are constructs of human imagination, which hopefully serve us well.

Similarly, in computing, binary is how our chips process logic. But the apps, windows, desktops, notifications, and such — these are all constructs of human imagination. This is true of nearly all the systems, metaphors, and interface patterns we’ve built on top of our binary-crunching chips.

Common as some of these concepts are, they are all manufactured attempts at making personal computing easier for people to contribute to and use.

But today, our abstractions are holding us back.


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