State of software in 2018

February 13, 2018 by Lukas Nemec

It is now year 2018.

Last year has seen some large strides in our technological prowess. All the big companies are now making AI personal asistants, smartphones in our pockets are more powerful than ever, you can shoot videos in 4k resolution with 60 frames per second, you can use software to make your photos much better instead of having actual optics. It is surely great time to be alive.

Or is it?

When I was shopping yesterday, I was thinking when will this progress hit my local supermarket? The machine and software they use looks like some MS-DOS age arcade with credit card interface glued onto it. They still use barcodes to scan items, and type them manually when it fails to read. It is very strange this is still the case when so much progress has been made.

Surely these advances in computer science can be seen somewhere? Maybe medicine? I went to my doctor with some medical issues just before the end of 2017. I had to go visit few specialists (nothing serious). They all had new fancy machines and software, so I was thinking, finally here we can see all the awesomeness of modern technology. I was sorely dissapointed at the end of each visit when the doctor gave me piece of paper with the result and said to take it to the next doctor. Why do they bother replacing typing machines with computers anyway? They are not able to send messages between departments and hand you a paper. Seriosuly. In 2018. Oh, and when they have connection issues, the program freezes until connection is restored. I’m not kidding you.

I know this may sound just like a collection of stories that happened to me, but bear with me.

When you do taxes in my country, you have to fill out some crazy paperwork. You also have to go to local post office to get some more paperwork to be added to the tax paperwork. Since the lady at the counter didn’t bother to turn her screen away from me, I just could not resist. It looked to me like Windows XP running (again) MS-DOS era arcade. I think it was Windows 7 with XP looks enabled running their default program. To print this paperwork, the lady had to navigate several MS-DOS bossfights to get the program to open a web browser which asked for login. After that, she clicked on a link, which in turn opened a download file popup, where she had selected Open with: webbrowser. This opened another web browser where she had to login again, where was displayed my paperwork. She clicked print and was done. This all took about 10 minutes. 3 steps. Find the right menu option (this took about 3 minutes), have it open a browser to login to, download file to open another browser to login to and download a file. This would take about 30s using sanely designed software. I was just looking with disbelief at her monitor, wondering how much medication she has to take for this kind of work.

If a sane person were to design this, they would automate everything. Why do I have to run around the authorities within allotted period to fill in paperwork? Why isn’t this done automatically? We have cron for fu*k sake! Since 1977 (at least)! Oh I bet they have tons of programs telling them when you missed a deadline to fine you, but surely not to help you!

This all leads me to wonder, if we are making all these awesome strides in advancing our technology, where is it? Sure Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple all use it. But who else? All the cool startups that get bought for millions one day, never to be heard of again? Why not hospitals? Why not your supermarket (yes amazon’s new shop with face recognition is cool)? Why not state officials?

Is it because all the money is being spent on marketing? Better sales? What Google, Youtube and all of the personal assistants basically do? Horde all data about you to sell them later?

Is it because (at least in my country) state and hospitals and almost everything else is so corrupt, that any software made by them is garbage?

Is it because people creating the software requirements know nothing (John Snow, haha)?

Why is it so difficult to use all the awesome new technologies, AI, cloud, what have you to better common person’s life. Why are we even using computers if not? To have facebook? To chat with friends? To look at advertisements?

This saddens me greatly. When I look at the state of software today, I’m starting to think we created much better software in the past. What has changed?

Sorry, this turned into more of a rant than I hoped it would.