The best of Public Access Vol. 4: Mac Powerbooks, Microsoft Bob and more

The past week on Public Access has seen y'all looking both forward and back in tech history. Englishman and US resident Jess James explained how he would change the course of history (and the outcome of the US revolutionary war) with a big screen TV and some Monty Python. Meanwhile, Miné Salkin wrote of being smitten with the Macintosh PowerBook 100 as a child, and Joe Duncan explained the difficulties of selling the Tandy Video Information System in the early '90s. Lachlan Harris bridged the old and new, making the case that Microsoft's Bob software (from 1995) never actually left us and the DNA of that helping friendly program remains a part of Windows 10. And, Oded Lilos told us why speech recognition and voice assistants -- despite the sizable part they'll play in our computing future -- won't be replacing keyboards anytime soon.

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This week, we want you to tell us about the painful (and/or funny) technological moments in your life and the lives of those closest to you. Whether you're an early adopter or late bloomer, everyone has had gadgets misbehave. So, we want you to tell us the story of your most frustrating tech experience. And, when you're not solving your own gadget problems, I'm betting you've had to do the same for your friends and family. When duty called, did you regret answering? All great art comes from pain, and it's time to share yours with the world.


"That said I have to tell you that I would have been much more likely to take the view of Washington and his rebellious cohorts were I there at the time, so despite my ancestry I think I might lean towards making every effort to further the revolution rather than hinder it."

Read the rest of Rewriting history: friend or foe? by Jess James

"Sparks flew from my pudgy little fingers as I navigated through the rudimentary operating system, baffled at how files within folders could be stored into other folders and into infinity. There was no mouse, only a difficult-to-use trackpad that included a little rubber tip in the middle, which my mom's friend affectionately referred to as "the nipple.""

Read the rest of Love and PCs: The Retro Mac that Blew My Mind by Miné Salkin

"Tandy (parent company of Radio Shack), looking to boost sales with an "innovative" new product, immediately jumped into the multimedia market with their Video Information System (VIS). It ended up being one of the biggest flops in the company's history."

Read the rest of Tech Throwback: The Tandy Video Information System by Joe Duncan

"Microsoft Bob was an ultimate love letter to skeuomorphism, an attempt to make the computer easy to understand for the layman. The cartoony graphics and inspiration for comic sans has been panned into oblivion. Even Steve Ballmer has admitted that development needed to stop."

Read the rest of Microsoft is re-releasing Bob and you love it by Lachlan Harris

"Now, there are those who may argue that keyboards are going to become as antiquated as the horse and buggy, and that may well indeed occur in the future. But from where I sit today, keyboards are going to become increasingly more important and useful, and as they do, they will delay a reality that sees everyone walking around talking to themselves. And that, at the very least, is something to get on (key) board with."

Read the rest of Does Siri Proactive Spell the End of Keyboards? by Oded Lilos


Digital therapy: it's time to vent about your most frustrating tech moments
We've all been there: a gadget simply won't work they way we want it to due to user error, design flaw, or a simple bug. As any first-year psych student will tell you, however, it's cathartic to talk about your problems. So, tell us the story of your greatest gadget frustration(s), and let the healing begin.

Relative tech support
Most of us have, at some time or another, been enlisted to play tech support for a loved one. Whether it's setting up a new phone, hooking up a home theater, or learning how to use Facebook, we want to know how you got your family member through their tech ordeal.