Kevin is sitting on a park bench. A cup of black coffee sits in one hand, and he tosses some bread out with the other, slowly watching the birds eat. If you were walking by you would have an odd feeling that Kevin has spent a lot of time there. Then you notice that there is space for another, with a subtle dip in the wood.
Then Brandon comes along, e-cigarette hanging in his mouth, and he joins Kevin. They sit there for some time before talking.
Reload The World
Kevin kicks things off. He talks about a time in the past, a time where bugs were easily hidden by the fact that an entire sandbox runtime was rebooted constantly. If that reloading didn’t quite work, the user knew to do an even bigger reboot. This was the time of the Web, where each click was a reload, and (Shift) Reload made sure things could come back. It was a world that felt janky and wrong. Why reload and repaint everything when so much of the page actually stayed the same? But it did hide sins that would only be discovered on long running sessions. A slow but somewhat reliable experience occurred. It was simpler times.
One Screen Size Fits All
Then Brandon breaks in. He remembers a time when the entire platform had but one phone, with one screen size density. You could whip together absolute positioning and it all kinda worked out. You needed to handle the “status bar is now on top as you are in a call” type exceptions, but the core components kinda took care of all that anyway. It was simpler times.
A Messy, Better World
Fast forward to today and we have a slew of devices withe various inputs and form factors. There is competition in the marketplace and user growth continues to explode.
The constraints are very different, and we have been able to learn from each other. The Web has gone mobile native, and the native app mobile platforms became more adaptive and diverse.
When you are in the thick of things it is easy to remember the past, and to remember it through rose lens glasses. You forget your complaints of that time. The early hacky SDKs and tools. The capabilities you didn’t have.
It reminds me of when people talk about the magic of the 1950s. As much as I dislike aspects of current society, we have progressed since them in many many ways. We just have to keep pushing.
ps. A few years later, Calvin came to the same bench, sat down with Kevin and Brandon, and started to tell a tale of a simpler time for VR when the devices had constrained limitations… rinse and repeat!