Computers used to be slow*.
Now they’re unresponsive.
Computer boffins have a word for it: latency. This is the delay between doing something (clicking the Submit button) and getting a response (‘Thanks for your order’).
Latency can interrupt your flow of thought. Did I click the button? Is that link broken or did I just not click it properly?
Latency can wreck your day. You press the Submit button twice (because it didn’t seem to work the first time) and your comment is posted twice, or you wind up with two sets of tickets to the same event. This can cause real problems for computer engineers: people press Submit buttons again and again and again, each time sending a new request to the website computer, thereby creating a lot more load than anticipated.
Mobile devices are worse, even at the top end: browsing the Web on a Blackberry or Nokia N95 can be soul destroying.
People often complain that their computer is ‘getting slow’. What they mean is that latency is getting worse. Usually this is either because they got viruses from dodgy websites, or they installed one or more virus checkers and ticked lots of options. An excess of anti-virus software can feel a lot like a virus.
This is where software like Firefox 3 and Google Chrome is getting it right. You click on a New Tab icon and a new browser tab appears. Press the Close icon (the X at the top right of the window) and the application window closes. No delay! Not like some browsers…
Best of all will be the ‘instant on’ operating systems like Splashtop, which start up in seconds and have browser software built in.
The death of latency will make the world a happier place.