Wednesday 28 December 2011

wizards, magick, and innocence: microsoft office 2010

Back in November I wrote about the oddness inherent in the delegation of important Microsoft Word tasks to "wizards". Shortly thereafter, I upgraded my still-robust copy of Office '97 to Office 2010.

This was a bad day for talking paperclips, but a great day for smugness, as it enabled me to send .docx files to friends and colleagues with impunity, flush with delight at the fact that many recipients would be unable to open them.
But my joy was short-lived. Needing to write to the Lord Mayor about extremely serious business, and lacking an administrative assistant to set out the particulars of the letter for me, I set out in search of the mythical "letter wizard" to conjure up my correspondence. Given that Office 2010 required around sixty times the disk space of Office '97, I naturally assumed there would be an even greater range of wizards for me to to choose from than before. Perhaps there would now be good and evil wizards—one of whom would be perfect for writing a letter to your grandmother, the other of whom would be great for forging your grandmother's will.

Strangely, this flourishing community of wizards was nowhere to be found. Perhaps I was not yet worthy of their presence? Did I need to complete a tutorial in magick and memos before they would appear? Baffled, I hit "F1". I typed "wizard" into the help box. What I saw destroyed the last vestiges of my lost imagination:
What happened to the wizards?

After the Microsoft Office 2003 release, the wizards, such as memo wizard and resume wizard in Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010 and chart wizard in Microsoft Excel 2007 and 2010 were replaced with templates that are available on the Microsoft website.
Oh dear. They've killed them all.

Immediately I was reminded of that poignant yet heart-wrenching scene in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, where Jedi across the galaxy are in one fell swoop betrayed, murdered and annihilated by the dark lord Palpatine. The same fate had befallen the race of Microsoft wizards. As I was when I first watched that film, I was close to tears (but, let me reassure you, Star Wars III has not and will not make it to the vaunted list of Films Which Have Made Me Cry—those being Shrek, Shrek 2, and Beethoven).

As the wizard is replaced by the downloadable template, so is the bank teller replaced by the ATM, the corner store by the vending machine, the train conductor by the ticket barrier, and the supermarket cashier by the self-checkout station. With each of these changes we lose a little of our humanity—save for the self-checkout station, in which you can discreetly place your finger under the scales to score a 5-cent bunch of bananas. Here I am sure you will agree that the potassium gained more than replenishes any humanity lost.

Vale, the age of wizards. Here's to 1997.

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