Murphy's Law: The Interface Sucks


March 29, 2007: Anyone who has played video or PC games knows how important interface (the way the game looks and operates) is. The U.S. Air Force recently rediscovered this when they tried to introduce a new software system for keeping track of military and civilian aircraft over North America. For a long time, the military had a radar system (NORAD) for tracking military aircraft, and the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) had a separate one for tracking commercial aircraft. After September 11, 2001, it was decided to integrate the FAA data into the military (NORAD) system. This was done rather quickly (the programmers improvised) to produce the NORAD Contingency Suite, which everyone liked. It worked, and was easy to understand.

But a more expensive, and extensive, system, called Battle Control System-Fixed (BSC-F), which has more features and is custom made for combining military and civilian radar information, has recently been made available. The troops do not like it. The developers of BSC-F reply that their system uses new interface features in order to deliver more information. No, the users say, the BSC-F interface just sucks. Discussions are under way to deal with the situation. This may, or may, not resolve the argument over whether or not the BSC-F interface sucks.


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