The payback for misery is beginning

Windows 95 is more complex on the inside and simpler on the outside than all others


During my vacation from this column last month, I talked with many of you (by email, of course) about my "I'm Scared" column. In that column I described how we've given control of the data in our computers to outsiders.

We let online services send us more material to be added to our systems without knowing what that material is or what it does. In other situations we give up information about our computers and their contents when we register software online.

Sharing with strangers

We share floppy drives with strangers without observing simple rules about "safe computing." We generally trust our computers and their allied technology with our most profound office confidences and with tasks that can no longer be done without computers.

We blithely entrust our time-critical projects to brand new or, even worse, failing technology that's not backed up, or with old and unreliable or new and untested components that in the name of competitiveness or leading edge envy put our practices at risk.

But the introduction last year of Windows 95 and a dozen other wonderful products convinced me that at last, the inevitable direction of computing is that the payback for all those years of misery is beginning.

No matter what version of DOS you had, when you typed "help" you got the friendly response: "bad command or file name." Help!

Windows 95 is an operating system which for the first time is actually simpler on the outside and more complex on the inside than its predecessor.

You can bet that the next operating system interface you see is going to be even simpler (and even more complicated on the inside).

Factor in all the brilliantly simple new law office Windows applications, Web pages, and on line services and you've got the beginning of the payback for all those years of increasing techno-madness.

Starting today

Starting now in our business it's productivity, simplicity and usability!

If the software/hardware combinations in your office don't meet these standards, it's time to look for better solutions.

These three standards are not just for computing; they apply to telephones, fax, video and even your postage machine.

Tear up the ads that proclaim "it's user friendly!"(which of course means that if you can't use it, you're not friendly) or "made by lawyers, for lawyers" (what do lawyers know about interface design or simplicity for that matter?).

Right out of the box

There is now definitive evidence in our market that there are vendors who can make software that we can actually use right out of the box, so why should we settle for less?

The brand new Zip drive from Iomega ($200 everywhere) is an excellent example of this design philosophy.

It's a portable disk drive that holds $20 removable floppy sized disks that hold 100 megabytes.

They are almost as fast as your hard disk and plug into your parallel port (or SCSI if you have one).

Start with their documentation: two sheets of paper which fold out into poster size, most of which is illustration. Installation instructions are friendly, simple and non-technical, and the product is sturdy, logical and easy to use. The drive itself is small, sturdy and easy to move from your laptop to your desk machine. Software installation was a breeze and actually fun.

Take it with you

And if you're still wondering how to keep your data safe from prying eyes of outside vendors, or even from unfriendly eyes in your own office, remove the disk from the Zip drive and take it with you.


Martin Dean is president of Cavalcade of Law Office Technology and can be reached only by e-mail at