%(sane)Software inefficiency can always outpace Moore’s Law.% — Jaron Lanier, quoted in Scott Rosenberg’s “column today.”:http://www.salon.com/tech/col/rose/2004/03/19/programmers_at_work/print.html This is one reason why I don’t tend to buy software, and,when I do buy it, it never runs faster than the thing it replaces. I really, seriously, have never had a program that looks up names and addresses as fast and fusslessly as a DOS TSR I used back in 1990, when collating the _Best of the Independent_ book on a Compaq laptop with a gigantic 20 MB hard disk.
But the OCR program I use occasionally, TextBridge Pro 98 (the fruit of an ancient blag when writing for the _Mail_) has been getting slower and crankier with every improvement on the computer that runs it. So yesterday I tried a Russian program, Abbyy Finereader. Given the choice I would always buy a Russian program over an American one, because it’s more likely to have been written to run well than to sell well. I didn’t really want it to do anything more than output its results to the clipboard, something Textbridge refuses to do. Finereader will do that; but it also recognises at about three times the speed and twice the accuracy. So I’ll buy it.
I wonder if more software could be sold if it did the old job quicker, better, and with less fuss, rather than thinking up new jobs. I don’t suppose, though, that there’ll ever be a large enough sample of such programs to test the theory.