It wasn’t always this way.
I’d recently emerged from a long term relationship with a sophisticated, but controlling, partner, and was looking for something fresh, different, and exciting. I knew that I’d had my fingers burned in the past, but the allure of change was proving too hard to resist. Then, almost by accident, it happened.
She was gorgeous, came from a wealthy background, and was trying hard to shed the difficulties of her past. It was a dangerous but intoxicating combination. Before long she was installed in the heart of my life and things seemed like they were finally looking up. But little did I know that there were two sides to her personality…two incompatible entities that would war internally to gain control of her…and that their ire would be turned upon me. Alas, Windows 8, you are a complex soul…
Microsoft is three years short of it’s fortieth birthday and, as is not uncommon for those approaching this difficult age, seems to be going through a bit of a mid-life crisis. Normally you’d expect them to buy some young startup with cool features and little baggage. They’d be seen around town with their new muse, laughing a little too loudly and lavishing an embarrassing amount of physical affection on them in public spaces. In many ways that would have been preferable. A dalliance with Twitter or Steam would have provided column inches for the gossip sites and made those of us who remember their better days think ‘good on you, if I could pull that off I would too’. Sadly that’s not the case.
The Redmond giant instead decided to make its offspring live out the dreams that it never managed to attain. Each day they drove their sad-faced progeny to Bauhaus design rehearsals or Feng Shui workshops, when all the youngster really wanted to do was play games, instant message her friends, and crash at the weekends. Over time she was moulded into this new, beautiful vision, but inside deep fissures had formed which would become more evident when she left the overbearing clutches of her home and travelled out into the world.
Of course, as is usually the case, someone else has to pay for the sins of our fathers. That, grammatically incorrect, someone is you and I.
When I first installed Windows 8 I was quite taken aback with how visually delicious the layout was. Gone was the reliance on a cool wallpaper, replaced instead with multi-coloured blocks floating in a sea of pleasingly toned blue. Was this truly Windows? Clicking on the blocks, each replete with equally aesthetic icons, resulted in a fluttering box that expanded quickly to fill the screen and beguile the eyes. The design was consistent, different to any I’d encountered, and for the first time in living memory made Microsoft the ones with the coolest looking operating system. I checked my arms several times to ensure that I hadn’t, unbeknownst to myself, injected huge amounts of cocaine directly into my bloodstream, but the absence of any tracking only deepened my confusion. How could this be?
Closing down the app I’d opened proved something of a poser, and when I look back now I can see that it was a warning sign my amorously forgiving heart should have heeded. You see Windows 8 is somewhat coy and requires you to work a bit harder to reveal her charms. She’s an indomitable spirit that will not be tamed by any man…unless you have a touchscreen, then slowly her mysteries are opened to you.
The longer we were together the more it felt like she was using me rather than the other way around. It was as if I was living within a Philip K Dick novel but without the happy endings. I’d go to explore the web with her, only to find that she’d hidden the search bar at the bottom of the screen. Conditioned, as I have been, by nearly twenty years of looking up to the top of a screen to search this seemed a cruel deceit, like a cat freeing a mouse only to catch it again seconds later. Further exploration also revealed more intriguing possibilities that were soon brutally quashed. Contacts would promise an elegant solution to the perennial mess that they have increasingly become over the years, but when I sought to add images of others she flatly denied…hers would be the only face I would be allowed to see.
Frustration mounted, but her coquettish nature drew me back with the hope that things would improve…then it happened. I found her secret. Desktop. It was a simple tile among the many, but by selecting it I found that she wasn’t really a new creation. Here was her heart, and the stripped down, elegant facade gave way to the workhorse that lay under the surface. She had played her cards well, but now I knew how she was wired.
It became a subtle game from then on. I’d see her face, marvel at its beauty, then spend the rest of my time with her avoiding its offerings. Soon it faded to nothing more than memory, and while she often fought to drag my eyes into hers, I would not be moved. And that’s how I realised it was over. The thing that had captured me was the thrill of the new, but when the infatuation lost its lustre I discovered that what I really wanted was something that could run a decent email client without making me scream in pain at the screen for the fifth time that morning.
How many times have we heard that old story?