I’ve noticed a disturbing trend - it seems that all kinds of systems are getting slower and slower, almost as though usability is being deliberately sacrificed for other factors.

The onscreen menu of my Sony VHS Video recorder (around 8 years old) changes selection instantly when I press up or down on the remote. I can literally move around the menu as fast as I can hit the buttons. In comparison, there’s a perceptible delay in movement when selecting from a menu on my Sony DVR Recorder. Moving more faster than a couple of items a second just doesn’t work.

EFTPOS machines have simple user interface requirements - prompt for an account (cheque, savings or credit card) and then for a PIN. So how come machines recently introduced at the local supermarket are so slow that I can enter my PIN faster than they can process it?

My Amstrad CPC 6128 home computer (1989) could boot into the Protext word processor in under two seconds. It took the monitor longer to warm up than the computer did to power up and start the software. In contrast, my PC takes five seconds to start Word - and that’s with the machine already powered on and running.

Digital cameras are affected as well - the Fuji MX-1200 (1999) would be ready to take photos in well under a second from power on, but the Sony H2 takes 2-3 seconds, not including focus adjustment.

What’s going on? Did I miss the memo? Is responsiveness consigned to the scrapheap of history, or does it still matter?


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October 2008