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Physical Fallacy

Back in the dark ages of the industry, when software engineering was still data processing, analysts and programmers learned the hard way that simply automating the old manual procedures led to bad systems, clumsy emulations instead of clever enhancements. Today we have “object-oriented” interfaces, and what has happened to the old Rolodex™? It has moved from the top of your desk to your so-called desktop! The implementers of these mindless models of manual systems miss the fact that the original Rolodex™ was itself a technological breakthrough, substantially departing from the clumsier technology of loose index cards, which, in turn, were a significant advancement over bound ledger books. A Rolodex™ or DayTimer™ or DayRunner™ that can be empowering when you can hold it in your hand becomes merely awkward and annoying when it is simulated on the screen.

The problem is that object technology is handicapped by some naïve mythology. Object technology guru Ivar Jacobson has noted that naïve object models lead to software that is not robust in the face of changing requirements and varied uses. Naïve object models are based on simplistically searching the application environment for “real-world” entities, then loading all behavior onto object classes based on these entities. The practice of attaching all behavior to buttons and icons based on real-world entities is equally naïve and leads to less robust interfaces.


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