Gus' Editorial 17

By Gus Donnachaidh

Originally published in EUG #30

I watched an interesting report on EBN, a cable TV channel for business about a service offered by Tesco which enables people to shop using their computers. (For our non-UK members, Tesco is a major supermarket chain.)

A female EBN reporter who has a lot of experience using a computer in her work, and is a working mother, tried it out. The ideal candidate. She kept hitting problems, like having to connect to an Internet Provider first, though she hadn't actually been told she would have to. She had great difficulty using the selection system which involved picking an item and placing it onto a icon of a shopping basket. And perhaps the silliest problem: she asked for a pint of milk and the program said "No such item". She then asked for a list of milk items and was presented with 250 different ones from which she had to find her pint of milk.

She took in excess of two hours to do her shopping by computer while she later did the same shopping in a local Tesco store in about half an hour.

The excuse being made is that the program is in its early stages and will be refined later.

That really is no excuse. Tesco, for reasons best known to themselves, has half-heartedly approached this market and made a hash of it. It reminds me of something British Telecom tried a few years ago. In 1987, I think. They offered access to their Yellow Pages directories via a modem. This service was intended to be open to 8bit computer users. I contacted the number but was asked for a password. After a lot of effort and 'phoning around I eventually spoke to a department of BT who were supposed to be dealing with this system.

They told me that there were different passwords for each region on the UK. They gave me the password to access the Portsmouth Yellow Pages but refused to give me any for any other region. They said that I would have to write in asking for these and explain my reasons for wanting them! A short while later, the service closed. Reason: "Lack of use"!!!

Computer technology is so simple, yet some people seem determined to make it as complicated as possible, presumably to perpetuate the myth that they are somehow intellectually superior to the rest of us because they can understand it.

Gus Donnachaidh, EUG #30