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OFF-TOPIC: the metaphors we use

Richard G. Combs wrote:
>... If your kitchen window consists of multiple sections of glass,
>and you break one of them, do you say "I have to replace that panel"?
>The subsections of windows are called panes, whether they are in your
>house or on your computer monitor. To be effective, metaphors must be
>used consistently.

OK, but just how consistent are the metaphors we use?
Nearly every computer today uses the "desktop" metaphor, invented
by Xerox, which tries to resemble our work with the computer to an
ordinary physical desktop in an office.

Think about it, when was the last time you put a waste basket on
top of your office desk? Or a collection of religious symbols known
as icons? Admittedly, we do use a "cup" of "java" nowadays, but I
cannot find it on the desktop... that's weird. And the documents
I work with and temporarily put away, shouldn't they end up lying
on the desktop somewhere, instead of mysteriously turning into
religious symbols, or folded into small rectangular thingies placed
in a bar attached to the front or back end of your desk? Or even
worse, on a second desktop on top of your ordinary one...

OK, OK, papers and documents are organized into "files", which
are put into "folders". And maybe the Explorer, Finder or File
Manager is a decent filing-cabinet stacked away in a drawer or
under your desk. But the metaphor needs more or less a completely
furnished office room to be similar to "reality".

And then there's this thing called windows. Let's see, I go to a
folder to pick up a file, and when I open it on my desktop it
appears in a window with frames and panes??? Yeah, right. I pity
the poor officle clerk that has to run around with these completely
equipped windows between the desks. Or do you have a set of windows
stashed away in a drawer? On the other hand, perhaps we can now
better understand why our applications are so fragile that they
crash every now and then. And we do have to "clean" (refresh) our
windows quite often nowadays, don't we? That damned air pollution!

Have you ever been able to resize a window? I've seen blinds on a
window, but scrolls? When *I* open a window, there's an apparent
risk that my desktop papers will blow away and get mixed up.
When I close a window, it generally stays there and doesn't
disappear. What religious spell do you use to "iconify" a window?

Let's face it, our metaphors aren't that useful anymore. We have
learned to accept them, but they don't resemble a non-computer
reality anymore. And if our desktops are all equipped with
computers, what use is there for a "desktop" metaphor?

Some 8 years ago, a co-worker came up with the idea of the
"book-shelf" metaphor. As long as we still have books, binders,
compendiums, etc., and no computers placed in book-shelves,
perhaps this is an idea worth considering?

Thanks for your off-topic time. Have to go now, our office clerk
is out of windows and my boss needs one right away!

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Thomas Michanek, [Michagon], Linkoping, Sweden
Documentation Consultant, FrameMaker/UNIX expert
EMAIL:  mailto:Thomas.Michanek@telia.com
WWW:    http://go.to/framers , or go directly to:
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