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Improve System

August 24, 1986

In John Lawrence's Aug. 10 column ("Computers Are Running Us, Not Vice Versa"), he complains that computers are making life too complicated, using the example of a harried Sears cashier who has to press 41 correct keystrokes for a single transaction.

Perhaps I should update the tired maxim "Computers don't make mistakes, people do" to make it read: "Idiots write stupid programs."

It appears that the transaction system at Sears was either designed by committee or by a careless technician with little insight into the daily routine of the cashiers. Any two-bit hacker could improve the system by adding assumptions (defaults), multiple choice questions and a smarter error correction system.

The end result of artificial intelligence programming, which Lawrence seems to fear, is better programs. By giving the computer some understanding of what it's doing, as well as the ability to deal with ambiguities, we can eliminate some of those unnecessary keystrokes.

JAMES BUMGARDNER

Toluca Lake

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