I’m a child of the ’80s. My first computer had a Pentium 3 and ran Windows ME. One thing that essentially didn’t exist at the time was a “notification.” When I was using the computer, it could never interrupt me. When switching playlists in Winamp, I never had to wait for the network connection or be prompted to upgrade. This expectation is baked into how I use computers.

OS behaviors started to change in the early 2000’s. Applications would start stealing focus. I’d be mid-sentence writing something and all of a sudden typing into an “Okay” prompt for some update. Little did I know this trend would continue to get worse into the present. When I occasionally sneak a glance at someone else’s smartphone and see a blur of notifications I am slightly uncomfortable.

When I think about why, it boils down to one thing:

  • I tell the computer what to do, and it should do it.


  • Computers should never tell me what to do unless asked.

Nearly all my frustration in tech nowadays comes from “the computer will not do what I ask it to do, or it is doing something I have asked it not to do.” When I set the default browser, and the OS reverts it for some inscrutable reason, I find that frustrating. The computer is not abiding by the agreement. It should do what I tell it to do.

If you’re also frustrated by this, you have every right to be. Computers should not be telling you what to do.

That’s a human job.