What Skeuomorphism Means to Me (it doesn’t)


I figured it was a good time to do some serious looking at this new OS X Mavericks and other stuff that Apple’s up to, because it’s all just come out and has finally got its visibility set to “yes”, and I’m in pretty urgent need of some click-bait. I’m bad enough at writing stuff people want to read that I still call it “click-bait”. I’m not sure anyone ever called it that, but I’m sure the people in the industry have a proper and more precise term for it, something like “isomorphic differentiable topological class structures”, because that’s the sort of phrase you never go looking for until you’re desperate for whatever the person using it was selling. My last attempt at click-baiting involved rubbing peanut butter on a USB hub, and that worked pretty well, right up until the thing was robbed by chipmunk, who made off with $2.38 in loose change. Off to looking.

The biggest change, looks like, is the ongoing battle with skeuomorphism, which is when the stuff on the screen looks like real stuff that the computer was replacing, especially with useless things like pretend shadows or raggedy edges to suggest the end of a page or windows that have shutters and curtains around them. The word, you can tell just from looking at it, was made up by people who hate it, and they’ve got good reason.

Every year thousands of computer screens are damaged by stuff getting stuck between an application’s icon and its shadow — especially when the stuff is conductive, like pencil shavings or blocks of gold coin being hidden underneath behind the Address Book icon — or by people reaching into the screen because they think the little round iTunes icon is a cinnamon roll frosted blue to celebrate Frosted Blue Day. But just because skeuomorphism has an ugly name doesn’t mean it’s going away; many terms for things started out meaning to be derisive and insulting — “Quaker”, “sailor”, “Big Bang”, “radish”, “squorplex”, “table”, “blue”, and “Whig” the most obvious — and they’re all still with us, except for “radish”.

Meanwhile over in the hardware side of things it looks like MacBook Pro line is doing away with the Ethernet port, which will be a great convenience for everybody who’s lost their Ethernet cables (they’re in the old Amazon.com box that’s been hiding further under the bed every time you’ve moved since 1998). And now they’ve increased the number of Thunderbolt ports, which is great for all the people with Thunderbolt stuff that needs portage.

— CUT TO: Bedroom. Executive in charge of Apple Peripherals and Stuff is sleeping. A couple seconds pass. She suddenly sits bolt-upright and cries out “Thunderbolt peripherals! We need someone to make a second one!” She flops back into bed, and the dog, some mostly white thing with Holstein-esque spots, trots over to bedside. She bolts upright again. “Also a first!” And she drops back to a sound, uninterrupted sleep. The dog makes some indistinct moof-ing noise, and hides her Ethernet cable farther. — RETURN TO:

I understand there’s some new updates for iTunes coming, given its current disaster of a user interface. Apparently they’re just giving up on improving iTunes 11 and are just hoping it doesn’t grow up to be a serial port killer or anything. The latest round of development betas have just been shoving 1990s sitcoms at it in the hopes it’ll feast on the commercial outro music cues and not go looking for our actual music. But the results on that are mixed; apparently it’s decided now to just try doing everything it can think of, in no particular order, and trust the user to wait around until it does what you wanted, or at least something you can live with. There’s not presently any way of telling it to carry on doing whatever it is you could just barely suffer through, but it doesn’t have any intentions of listening to you anyway, which is fair enough. You could try prying the icon up off of the desktop, except now there’s no shadow there’s no way to get your fingernails underneath it.

In all, I have to give the new OS and product line a rating of between 22 and 34, with decimal points to be revised when the new upgrades on those are announced.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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