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July 31, 2021

As a kid, I found two things that were pure magic to me

As a kid, I found two things that were pure magic to me: computers and music.

They held so much potential for expression and ideas, and so much potential for making life great.

Music never disappoints.

But computers do.

Computers simultaneously mesmerize and disappoint me. I think this is why computer science is ultimately the field I went into. Lots of things fascinate me, and lots of things disappoint me. But it’s computers that do both. They harbor so much potential, yet so often they fulfill very little of it.

My work in software has always been borne out of this gap: How can software improve people’s daily lives? What concepts might open up our thinking and elevate what we’re capable of producing? Who should be in charge of the future of personal computing, and how should they be charged with its direction?

Keep reading in How I approach my core work, recently updated with a few new sections.

Today our thinking on user interfaces is severely constrained: “This text box is here. I can only change what’s inside it.” In five years’ time, we should think of changing any data or view as “changing my stuff” — effectively the same class of action; making your software reflect your thinking, just the way you want. Today, we don’t feel like these are personal computers. “The text box is there. That is up to someone else. They might change it in an update. That isn’t up to me, the user.”

So often, we want to redo our office, remodel our kitchen, reconfigure our workspace, or refurbish our RV. Our minds naturally consider how our environments could be improved to better our experience and effectiveness within them. Yet we don’t do this with our software — for the most part, we can’t. We spend an enormous amount of our lives on our personal computing devices, and yet today, we do not have the freedom to redesign, remix, remodel, or reconfigure our digital workspaces.

All of us have vastly different kinds of work to do in our lives, yet we all have the same workshop from which to do it all.

Excerpted from The Potential Merits of an Itemized OS, an article I published on my work in operating systems thus far.

Two other updates:

I’m starting a discussion forum soon for the community to discuss various ideas related to the future of personal computing, such as the ones that I often send in this newsletter.

If this is something you’re interested in, let me know so I can put you on the list for access.

Second, I’ve finally published an RSS feed for this weekly newsletter. If you use an RSS reader, you can subscribe with this URL: https://alexanderobenauer.com/assets/feed/rss.xml

I hope all is well in your part of the globe this weekend.

— Alexander

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