WIMP-ing Along

I suppose I have at least 8-9 computers at home – most of them junkers which I have upgraded to still be useful. I run a variety of Linux, Windows 11, and ChromeBook operating systems on this dubious collection.

You might expect that I would have a wide variety of desktop environments for all these operating systems – a different look and feel for each one. But I stick pretty much to what you see above for every one of them. I rock some sort of taskbar or panel at the bottom, a start button if I can, and not much on the desktop in terms of icons.

Like many long term PC users, I still cling to what is commonly referred to as the WIMP model of computer operation. Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer. This approach – which features a keyboard and mouse – was developed close to 50 years ago by Xerox and first appeared in Apple products around 1985. For many people over 50 it probably is the only model you use apart from a Smartphone.

A few of my junk laptops have a touch screen but I never use it. The mouse is by far my preferred way of navigation, and a real keyboard is far better than that ridiculous tiny touchscreen and tap,tap,tap of a Smartphone. Right now I’m writing this post on a desktop computer with a 24 inch non-touchscreen, a massive wireless keyboard and a chunky Logitech Mouse. That’s the way (uh huh, uh huh) I like it.

To its credit, Apple realized early on that using a regular computer was different than operating a Smartphone. They developed two different operating systems, each one optimized to the hardware in question. Google later on followed the same path with Android and ChromeBook systems.

Microsoft did no such thing. It commited a massive error with Windows 8 where it tried to integrate the Touchscreen and Mouse-keyboard experience into one dog’s breakfast of an O/S. In the process it failed to get a toehold in the Smartphone market, turned off millions of loyal WIMP-y customers, and created arguably the worst version of Windows ever.

Microsoft has learned its lesson though. The desktop environment above is the very satisfying Windows 11 – an interface that even the oldest WIMP users would find perfectly OK.

Linux gives you the choice of many desktop environments, but its most popular ones do follow the WIMP model by and large. A distribution like Linux Mint would be very familiar to a Windows user, so Mint is a great choice to replace an obsolete Windows O/S on an old junker.

The OK Boomer generation are probably the most comfortable with being WIMPs. Gen-Xers are OK with it, but they are more into laptops and Touchscreens and Trackpads. Either way of computing will work fine to do serious work like spreadsheets, documents, databases, presentation graphics.

The Millennials seem to be fine with Smartphones, selfies and touch icons. And as far as the Gen Z and Gen Alpha kids go, they just use everything and anything. Go figure.

Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.
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