The Enabler

An engineer works to make computers usable by all

5 min read

In fifth grade, while Rob Sinclair was tutoring children with learning disabilities, he discovered a lesson that would shape his career. ”I started to understand that there were people who learned in different ways,” he says, ”that people with different abilities had completely different requirements.”Sinclair soon realized that disabilities could really set people back in today’s world, where technology infuses our daily lives. For those who have difficulty using a mouse, seeing, or hearing, even such straightforward computer tasks as checking a bank balance or sending e-mail can be challenging. But he found that technology can also help those people, transforming their lives—if it is applied carefully and thoughtfully.

As director of the accessible technology group at Microsoft, Sinclair is now in a position to improve millions of people’s lives. Since becoming director in 2005, he has been spearheading the company’s efforts to make computer software and devices more usable for people with physical or learning disabilities. Under his leadership, Microsoft has packed the Windows Vista operating system—which is scheduled to be released this month—with beneficial new features, including enhanced screen magnification, voice control, and dictation, plus improved compatibility with third-party assistive technology products.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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