The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones loves technology. It would be odd if he didn't: he's one of the Beeb's tech writers. So I wasn't surprised to see his post Read the manual? Never! on the BBC's technology blog, dot.life.
Rory's point is that products should be so simple and intuitive to use that a manual is unnecessary:
"The whole point of modern devices - from cars, to mobile phones, to wireless routers - is that they are designed for idiots like me who don't even know how to lift the bonnet, and wouldn't know how to proceed if they could. We want to take things out of the box, turn them on and see them leap into action without having to read anything."
If only! You've only got to look at the thousands of questions about tech products posted on forums and other websites to realise how unrealistic this is. I've spent much of the last week on Google finding out how to use my first Apple Mac computer - despite Apple's fame at making intuitive products and its excellent video tutorials. (Even the unexpectedly complicated task of moving emails from a PC to a Mac required far too many searches!) Modern consumer electronic products are incredibly complicated, with a plethora of menus and options. Consumers need some guidance, unlike long ago when the GPO trimphone was the last word in innovation.
The final proof that Rory is wrong is the boom in 'missing manuals' and 'dummies' guides. There wouldn't be a market for them if products were as intuitive as Rory (and I) would like.
PS: I wrote this post about the complexity of modern products and the need for manuals on Ertblog in October 2006...