Functional Simplicity, Structural Complexity"Functional Simplicity, Structural Complexity" is a phrase in Masamune Shirow's manga Appleseed, and describes the basic principle of Olympus, a new utopic city state for mankind in the story. It translates as something which is extremely complex, but with an interface designed to serve the user, who has no knowledge of the system itself, to the full. And lately I got a small taste of it, with my very own Zaurus SLC-3100.
I've been playing with my Sharp Zaurus SLC-3100 hanheld PC (with Linux and a hard disk, it's not a PDA - it's a PC) for over a year already, but only now I have begun to migrate my address books to it and upgrading the software.
I have several friends in Japan, with whom I exchange not just electronic mail. Japanese address system, especially the one in Tokyo, uses postal code, then prefecture, then city, then area, then block and apartment number, then the individual's name. Actually, it makes sense and they are very easy to locate on a paper map.
Anyway, when I entered the postal code, the address book software automatically filled the rest. Meaning, the postal code contains prefecture, city and area information, and my address book can decode that. Sweet! As it happens, I tried and it can encode it, too! I was missing one postal code, but not anymore!
Another pleasant surprise was when I upgraded my map software (GPS support, maps of Japan only, but with the upgrade I can make my own maps and add photos to map placemarks), I noticed that they added a connection to "Norikae Annai", another software that, when given two stations anywhere in Japan, tells train/plane/bus routes between them, prices and travel times, when and where to switch trains, waiting times etc. with several route choices. And now, clicking on the station name opens up the map software to show where the station is located, and GPS tells you where you are. So cool! So simple. How come nobody in west made such a traveller's toy before? Next, I want connection with the map software and address book! No special reason, just because it's possible, I guess.
These are all small things, but it's quite obvious that the planning from the user point of view has been quite extensive. A great programmer can make a great software, but if the user also is not a "great programmer", there will be friction between ways of thinking. But Japanese industry sure can make a happy and returning customer!