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What’s wrong with Windows 8? I can’t put my finger on it

7/4/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

On the Mark — By Craig Marks

Over the 20-plus years of this column, I’ve taken note of some of the revolutionary advancements in personal computers. This is from the 1992 column “Who’s that clicking in the window?”:

“One of Microsoft’s friendlier new products is Windows. With Windows, you no longer need to type in a series of commands to begin a program. All you need to do is position your high-tracking ballistic acceleration serial mouse and ‘click.’”

Plain-speakin’ Craig, that was me.

I went on to compare the mouse to the clickers that were in “home versions” of TV quiz shows, the ones often sold by Milton Bradley. (Instead of buzzing when you knew the answer, you’d clicked a little plastic grasshopper.) This column helped familiarize readers with the concept of the mouse and with Windows, and while I won’t take all the credit for how quickly the public embraced them, I’d say Microsoft owes me, at the very least, a thank-you card.

Being a long-standing member of Team Mouse, I was disturbed by the direction Microsoft took last year with Windows 8, its most recent operating system. It was designed with tablets and smartphones in mind, devices where you touch the screen rather than click on a mouse. Those of us with desktops were an afterthought. Sure, I could touch the screen of my desktop’s monitor, but, other than causing dust to fly and possibly getting a small electrical shock (I’ve half a mind to return it to Fretter!), it’s not gonna have much effect.

This was not the Windows I knew. The “start” menu — which, paradoxically, is also the “shutdown” menu — was gone. The desktop icons were replaced by tiles. And using your mouse causes Windows to make a “tsk tsk” noise as if you were eating authentic Chinese food with a knife and fork. (OK, it doesn’t do that, but that’s what I imagined.)

I’ve been considering getting a new PC and taking our 12-year-old Dell off life support, but I can’t make the leap if it means surrendering to Windows 8. To my poor family I go on 10-minute rants on why I’m not budging. I rant because I feel strongly on this issue, and also because I have the time as we wait for our spreadsheets and Word documents to open.

But there may be help for us late adapters. Last week Microsoft rolled out Windows 8.1, which includes some tweaks for those of us who ran screaming from Windows 8. In a blog, Antoine Leblond, Microsoft’s Corporate vice president of Windows Program Management, says that touch devices are the wave of the future “ … [b]ut we also recognize there are many non-touch devices in use today — especially in the commercial setting. As such we’ve focused on a number of improvements to ensure easier navigation for people using a mouse and keyboard.”

I’ll hold off making any purchase until I read the reviews and give it a test drive, to see if this version of Windows clicks with me. One thing about us users of the high-tracking ballistic acceleration mouse — we’re not a soft touch.

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