SmoothSpan Blog

For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

Tim Bray’s Schtick: He Likes 3270 Green Screens as UI

Posted by Bob Warfield on May 6, 2010

So I’m reading Bray’s blog as usual, and I come across his argument against Flash that I see occasionally–namely, that all Flash UI sucks.

Why?  Here are his words:

What’s not to like, then? Well, the user experience, which in my experience is fourth-rate for anything but games; No “Back” button, feaugh. And of the course the fact that it remains essentially proprietary.

So, I use a Flash-blocker every day, and I am not a friend of Flash inside Google, but none of my arguments have anything to do with being part of the Web, or not.

The closest thing to an explanation is that there is no “back” button.  Hmmm, is that really the issue?  Needing to understand more, I did a search for “Tim Bray RIA”.   Sure enough, I find this article which says:

One of his points is that Rich Internet Applications aren’t worth the hype. He says that web applications are generally better than desktop applications, because they enforce simplicity and support a back button, and that users prefer them.

WTF?  Really?  All this for a frickin’ back button?

When you get down to it, Web UI sans AJAX, Flash, or some other RIA (Rich Internet Application) engine is just like the 3270 green screens of old.  It’s fill in the form and press the “Enter” button (BTW, that’s why it’s called the “Enter” button).  Yeah sure its simple.  Darned right, it doesn’t get much simpler.  And for many things, it’s just exactly the right thing.  But heck, if its the only way to do everything we’re really selling the web short.  It’s the old when you have a hammer everything is a nail.  I just can’t get my head around the idea that “web applications are generally better than desktop applications” if for no other reason than there’s so many types of user interaction that just don’t make sense for a 3270 Green Screen.

Maybe its a Learning Style thing, I dunno, but it’s not for me.  Give me a simple UI where simple makes sense and a Rich UI where that makes sense, which is a lot more places than just games.

7 Responses to “Tim Bray’s Schtick: He Likes 3270 Green Screens as UI”

  1. schlafly said

    Do you have readers who even know what a 3270 green screen is? As I recall, those were dumb terminals from before the invention of the scrolling operation. You could interactively type stuff in to some mainframe, until the screen filled up with junk. Then you were stuck. The text would not just scroll upwards to make room for more text. You had to know to type some obscure function key to clear the screen, in order to make room for more text.

    The Apple iphone/ipad is like a dumb terminal in that there is no local removable storage, and no way to run a program except those that you can download from some Cupertino mainframe.

  2. […] I think the web page UI is fine for certain things, but it isn’t much better than the old 3270 green screens, which were also fine for some things.  The problem isn’t that apps need to be more like web […]

  3. […] Personally, I think the web page UI is fine for certain things, but it isn’t much better than the old 3270 green screens, which were also fine for some things.  The problem isn’t that apps need to be more like web […]

  4. […] for client development?  Unless you’re a tremendous fan of 3270 green screen UI, and I know some are even in this day and age, you need the equivalent of the LAMP stack to efficiently product great […]

  5. […] Posted by smoothspan on September 10, 2010 Some say the online world is headed for apps because people prefer apps.  Some say they hate apps and prefer everything to be as browser-like as possible, even if that means a return to 3270 green-screen UI. […]

  6. […] Some say the online world is headed for apps because people prefer apps.  Some say they hate apps and prefer everything to be as browser-like as possible, even if that means a return to 3270 green-screen UI. […]

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