Sugar and Windows like Honda and Volvo

Recently I’ve been a tad annoyed at the criticisms of the Sugar interface to the laptops in the One Laptop per Child project (OLPC). The developers chose to forgo the desktop metaphor as the kids over there in the third world don’t even have desks or files or anything like that. Instead they tried to reengineer things to be as fun and intuitive as possible for the kids that will get the laptops. So many people have complained that the interface is so non-intuitive that there’s no way these kids will get the interface. It should have been made to mimic Windows they claim! I think they just find it unintuitive because we’ve been using the desktop metaphor here since the 80s.

Well, let me tell you a story that proves my point. I’ve been driving for around ten or so years now and I have always driven Hondas. This week I had to drive a Volvo from the 80s because my car was in the shop. I couldn’t figure out how to do something as simple as turning on the air conditioning because the metaphor was different enough that I didn’t quite get which knobs were supposed to be turned which way. I tried twisting this way and that way and only got hot air no matter what.

So it all boils down to what you’re used to.