Everyday Computing, Features

The Speed Is Not Enough

By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant
By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant

IT was surprising to watch the televised obituaries a few days ago, partly because there seemed no pause between one deceased person’s information before the next obituary started. While it was useful to have the obituaries shown in quick succession, it seemed too quick, even jarring to the senses. Definitely disrespectful to the dearly departed! Although the local TV station could be forgiven for shaving the time between successive obituaries, it raises the issue of appropriate speed. Specifically, when is speed not enough, and other factors should affect the display of information.

Since we usually invest in computer systems to gain more speed and increase productivity, it is understandable to think of raw performance when using machinery that can perform several million operations each second. Your most recently acquired computing device probably boasted of its performance in terms of speed of operation. After all, this is a useful measure of performance that we can readily understand, and we expect the results of our action to be promptly shown. For example, if a calculator takes longer than 0.1 second to return the result, you might notice the delay.

There are occasions when the computer programmer will deliberately slow down a computer system, perhaps because of the psychological impact on the person using the system. If playing a game of chess against the computer, and you need some time to think before each move, you would likely find it unnerving if the computer instantly responded after your moves. You might even appreciate a deliberate delay, and the appearance of the machine thinking of its next move in response to your masterful play!

Our typical computing tasks benefit from speed increases, such as when:
* Processing batches of data;
* Downloading information;
* Sending messages to a friend.

It is not often that a computer scientist would design a process to be deliberately slowed down, but it is usually to provide a better user experience. In any case, you should be guided by careful analysis, followed by good judgement.

To share your views, contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via The VOICE.

About the Author
Dr.Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia. His expertise includes systems analysis, design, and business intelligence.

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