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The PC is alive and well at 30.

The days of the personal computer are numbered, a leading IBM designer has claimed. Dr Mark Dean, who worked on the original IBM PC, the 5150, wrote in a blog post commemorating its 30th anniversary, that “they’re going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs”

OK, right, whatever. In a peculiar way I am reminded of the words of a DEC executive (might even have been the CEO) in the late ’70s who opined that he could see no reason anyone would ever want a computer in their own home. You see the point is that whilst the DEC guy is generally made a laughing-stock of over that comment he certainly had a point in terms of what computers were like then. Especially considering the DEC’s product line-up at the time.

Anyway, I think Dr Dean chooses some bad examples. Everything he cites is obsolete (apart from incandescent bulbs) but that is just because they were such storming successes that in a sort of Darwinian sense their kids now rule the roost. To take the example of vinyl records. The key point here is being able to buy a recording of sound and listen to it at your leisure. The rest: cassettes, CDs, iPods are frankly details. The typewriter might also be dead as Dillinger but it and QWERTY live on. Indeed I have to concentrate very hard to write a birthday card. I can type ’till the cows come home but writing feels unnatural to me now.

Dr Dean argued that PCs had created the environment for a new generation of devices, ranging across different form factors and uses.

This led, he claimed, to an environment in which technology allowed new ideas to flourish, without individual items being a barrier to creativity.

Oh dear Dr Dean! It remains the case that the PC in the sense of a box, a screen a keyboard and a mouse and whatever else you plug into it is the form-factor which allows the most creativity. Laptops come close, tablets considerably behind and smartphones bring up the rear. I know there is an app for every goddamn thing these days but really it is not the same. OK your iPhone can convert Thai Baht to Pounds Sterling so you know exactly how much the ladyboy wants in order to “love you long time” but that hardly strikes me as a 2001 obelisk moment.

He wrote that “PCs are being replaced at the center of computing not by another type of device—though there’s plenty of excitement about smart phones and tablets—but by new ideas about the role that computing can play in progress. These days, it’s becoming clear that innovation flourishes best not on devices but in the social spaces between them, where people and ideas meet and interact. It is there that computing can have the most powerful impact on economy, society and people’s lives.”

That is utterly meaningless. Yes tablets and smartphones are kinda fun. But that is it really. All such devices are just computers wearing fewer clothes. Tablets in particular seem neither something nor nothing. They are not “pocketable” unless you’re a poacher and then if you are after the baron’s pheasants do you really need access to Facebook at the same time? “b4gged a f1ne br4ce LOLz’s”. Smartphones are perhaps more useful for the simple reason that their small size does make a difference. But they are not a replacement for a proper computer. Indeed when the history of the cell phone gets to be definitively written it will probably have to conclude that it’s greatest influence was not in creating yet another boring teen sub-culture (involving poor spelling) in the developed world but in enabling much of the developing world to have phones for the first time. And for those folks it ain’t the apps that are the thing. It’s stuff like getting a doctor round when junior is sick or knowing exactly which local market is short of the very type of fish you just caught. Text and voice basically. Oh, and easier, much easier wire-transfers of money. The largest and (for obvious reasons) best-targeted aid program on the planet is folks wiring money to their rellies back home.

“While PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they’re no longer at the leading edge of computing,” he said.

This is an entirely consumerist approach. Obviously, to mooch the web or send the odd email or recline on the sofa with a cheeky Merlot and review your pictures no you don’t need all the bells and whistles of a “proper PC” but if you actually want to do something useful (that includes proper gaming) then you do need a proper keyboard and a 15″+ screen. To put it bluntly nobody programs those apps on an iPhone. Nobody sits down to write a great (or even dreadful) novel on a tablet. I am reminded of a previous (about a month back) Telegraph article about “tech that won’t last”. This included “physical storage” of data. The answer was The Cloud of course. Thing is whilst at the consumer level The Cloud is invisible at the The Cloud level it’s a hell of a lot of blades stacked in a room with ferocious air-con and some pale Gollumesque figure tending it for a bucket of fish-heads a week if he is lucky.

And if hard disk storage is cheap for the cloud it is cheap for me and you.

So I ask myself. Do I want a tablet? Yes, it would be sort of handy for some things but is it worth buying Steve Jobs a new black polo-neck sweater for? Not really. My camera has a 3″ screen which is OK(ish) for reviewing but my 32″ TV has a number of HDMI ports so if I want to relax on the sofa with a cheeky Merlot and my pictures then I can. Indeed for about six quid I can buy a remote control for the camera so I got me a personal slide show. What about mooching the net? Laptop does that. And it does it better than a tablet because it has a keyboard. Note the default “keyboard” on the iPad doesn’t have numbers which is OK if you don’t have to type numbers. But I do. I frequently wind-up typing product codes and these involve numbers.

IBM launched the 5150 on 12 August 1981, and it quickly established the look and feel of PCs in general. Dr Dean owns a third of the patents for it, and claimed he did not expect to outlive the idea. Now, however, he says that even his own main device is a tablet computer.

In a blog also marking the PC’s 30th anniversary, Frank Shaw of Microsoft claimed that the spread of new devices associated with computing was the start of the “PC-plus era”, rather than a sign of decline of traditional computing.

Now, I’ll buy what Frank Shaw says. It’s economics really. In the developed world the market for home computers is well penetrated. Basically everyone who wants one has one (or more). The only way to expand the business is niche marketing. Despite what I said about tablets they are handy for certain things. As indeed are smartphones, Kindles and all manner of assorted electronica. Now if this changes anything (and it will up to a point) it does point to The Cloud in a sense because it means there is an obvious demand for being able to have all your stuff where you can get at it by whatever means suit the circumstances. This does not mean the death of the PC. Only a perverse soul would write a play or hack-out CSS on a tablet when they have a “proper” computer (and they will have one for work type tasks). Having said all of that one really needs to look at the market for hard disks. What will half a terrabyte cost you these days? Very little. Short of BT et al planting a heck of a lot of glass in the near future the drive in the same room is always going to be faster. I could be wrong. Round about the same time MP3 came out so did DVD Audio and that died a death. DVD-A was CD plus ultra. It was extremely good quality but (a) you needed to drop several grand at Richer Sounds to appreciate the difference from CD and (b) it was less portable and convenient than MP3. MP3 won. So I could be wrong and that really depends upon speed of networks versus size of files.

I guess I’m saying The Cloud (in some form) has a bright future but the “thin-client” (and that is what tablets are) model doesn’t. Oracle tried this in the mid ’90s. The model was a laptop as a dumb terminal. It got nowhere. The simple truth is that it is more convenient to actually own the kit and have it in the same room. A possible analogy is with books. The argument that The Cloud (or similar) makes PCs obsolete is like saying lending libraries made book ownership obsolete. I live three minutes walk from a library and yet have hundreds of books in my house. And it is worse even than that. That library is provided the council. It doesn’t cost me “anything” to use. My point is sticking it all up in The Cloud has to meet some basic tests of economics and usability. These seem to me to be unlikely to be met any time soon. It is in the near to mid-term always going to be easier (for many purposes) to have your stuff a few centimetres from your CPU than on a blade in a data haven in Ulan Bator.

Or put it another way. I use webmail. That’s My Own Cloud. Yes, I can get it anywhere. My pictures, my programs, my videos – all the heffalumping big files are on stuff that live in my house though. The Cloud only works for little things like emails. And that because the pace of progress inevitably out-strips the pace of communication. If you know what I mean.

I guess what I am saying is that for The Cloud to take off means data storage must become even cheaper but that means of course data storage without the middleman will also be similarly cheaper. Until the economic/usability test is passed bulk data will always be best kept at home.

And moreover the “proper PC” is the full deal. Everything else sacrifices x,y or z for it’s USP. Of course there is a gap in the market for ‘net devices that do less more conveniently but they neither replace the PC or lower it to the second echelon of use.

Long live the PC. (And screw Apple).

26 Comments

  1. john in cheshire says:

    “Long live the PC. (And screw Apple)” – hear, hear. If my memory serves me well, it was around that time that I first saw a portable computer; called, I think, the Osborne. It was the size of a medium-sized suitcase. Things have evolved a lot in the past 30 years,but they are still recognisable as descending from the originals.

  2. Roue le Jour says:

    OK, first off, saying you worked on the original PC will get you laughed at, not taken seriously, in nerd circles, because the only original thing about it was the magic label “IBM” on the front. Otherwise it’s just an Apple ][ scaled up to 16 bits.

    Basically, the man is just talking out of his bottom. PCs aren't leading edge? Well neither are a lot of things, fridges, lawnmowers, bicycles, etc. that just means we've got them about right and there aren't that many improvements to be made, not that their on the way out. Mobile devices are 'hot' because there are still a lot of improvements to make, battery life being not the least of them.

    I expect all coppers will carry a tablet in ten years time, that will fetch up pictures of scrotes, their record, known associates etc. and then do all the 'paperwork' while the little shit is standing in front of them and then text their parent[s] with the good news. But any computer that doesn’t need to be carried about will still be a PC.

  3. knirirr says:

    To put it bluntly nobody programs those apps on an iPhone.

    True, and don’t expect that this is likely to change soon. But, this is still an interesting idea.

  4. NickM says:

    Roue,
    If only you were right. Yes, tech has reduced the number of back-office keyboard monkeys doing data entry in businesses. But the cops are the state. The state can’t increase unemployment even if it means employing Hansom Cab light fitters. Why do you think they still have NI as well as income tax here? Because scrapping NI would mean turfing 13,000 folk in Newcastle on the dole. I know, I temped there. And would it not be wonderful if they all sauntered down the road and got jobs at the mines or ship-yards. Ain’t gonna happen. Not now anyway. Not for decades past…

    Your point on “carried about” is noted. Whilst we still tend to work in offices (including home offices) portability is not a big deal.

  5. Captain Fatty says:

    “What about mooching the net? Laptop does that. And it does it better than a tablet because it has a keyboard. Note the default “keyboard” on the iPad doesn’t have numbers which is OK if you don’t have to type numbers.”

    Of course the default keyboard has numbers; just look for the extra numbers key – have a look at an ipad, or any tablet for that matter. And why is having a physical keyboard better for surfing the net than a virtual keyboard? A good network card and fast connection to the wan seems to me to be a shade more important…

    “The Cloud only works for little things like emails”
    Utter bollocks. I have photos, videos, large datasets of all sorts dotted all over the cloud, accessible from anywhere from the cloud. Jesus.

    Usually posts are very good at this blog but what a load of bollocks this one was.

    Cheers,
    Captain Fatty

  6. Tosh says:

    “Long live the PC. (And screw Apple).”

    Lolz. if Apple didn’t have innovation, we would still be stuck with PCs going blue screen when they had finished showing you all that ‘important’ code as it cranked up.

    In fact, anyone who has worked with PCs will soon understand how clunky they are. Microsoft and friends were not about innovation, though it was forced on them.

    So, sorry to piss on your pathetic bonfire, but more likely screw PCs and the narrow thinking that comes with them. You may not like tablets or smartphones, but machines that look and behave like ‘fifties refrigerators (apart from the heat output, natch) were not for everyone.

    Nor was an operating system that didn’t actually like the user. Still, there was always the abominable ‘task manager’ to use when it gets stuck.

    The iPad and devices like that are about information. True it is not for those saddos anxious to play “death wish beat ‘em up 4″ or preparing yet more spread sheets. Apple, for all their faults, actually believed in creativity and with it the provision of information. Microsoft’s knee jerk was office work and graphs.

    I have taught young people about computers, but their school experience was merely doing more charts and more number-crunching because, er, that’s what PCs do so well.

    You pay your money and you take your choice, of course, and long may choice exist. But I am with Captain Fatty here. The post by Nick M can safely be filed under the utter twaddle label.

  7. John Galt says:

    For most men (i.e. a minority of the population, but probably a majority of Internet users) it comes down to one thing.

    PORN.

    There is no way that I am going to publish my porn collection on the Internet. I don’t want my wife seeing it, never mind Steve ‘Psychic Screaming” Jobs.

  8. Sam Duncan says:

    There’s a bit in Neal Stephenson’s In the Beginning Was the Command Line where he talks about the Hole Hawg. It’s a drill. A serious drill: a heavy-duty electric motor with a bit on one end, and not a lot else. It stops for nothing; if it hits a snag, it either ploughs through it or starts turning you around. Stephenson says that once you’ve used one, even the beefiest and most expensive plastic-cased consumer-grade Black & Decker seems like a toy.

    He was comparing the Hawg to *nix and the consumer drills to Windows and “classic” MacOS (and he has a point, frankly), but the same comparison can be made with desktop PCs and all these other computing appliances. They’re all nice enough for what they are, but for doing actual stuff quickly, comfortably, and efficiently, you can’t beat a multi-GHz PC with local storage, a decent sized display, and a mains power supply. You just can’t.

    As for the cloud, the idea is sound enough, but I’d rather have all my data here on my own server where I can keep an eye on it (and I’m responsible if it gets nicked) than out there being looked after by God knows who. The “personal cloud” is going to be quite a big deal, I think. Give it a couple of security breaches at cloud providers…

  9. Philip Scott Thomas says:

    they’re going the way of the vacuum tube

    Really? And here’s me listening to tonight’s Proms concert on the Third Programme on a Fada 790, built in 1949 in Brooklyn. The sound is warm, rich and brilliant. How terribly obsolete of me.

  10. Simon Williams says:

    Philip,

    Not to mention all the guitarists all over the world playing through valve amps, and the hobbyists everywhere building hi-fi valve amps to play their turntables through. I design and make a lot of transformers for that market.

    Simon, typing on his iPad .

  11. Ian B says:

    Good post Nick. I am baffled by people who think it makes sense to have a processor in Biggleswade connected to memory in New York. I guess they just don’t do much more than browse the web and type a few short messages. Anyone using Photoshop at all seriously knows that memory bandwidth is everything :)

    I tried that Google Docs thing a while ago, just to see. Ghastly and awful, unbelievably primitive. Made Windows Write look slick by comparison. It really is astonishing to me that people seem to believe that the browser, with its clunky mess of HTML, javascript and CSS can be an app-space. They’re trying to create an operating system running inside a window running inside an operating system, and programmed in an interpreted scripting language(!). It’s like, somebody trying to create apps in the Duke Nukem 3D BUILD engine. I daresay you could if you modified and modified it, turning wall surfaces into writing surfaces and texturing the writing onto them, but you know, that’s just not what it’s for.

  12. NickM says:

    Ian,, Sam,
    Thanks for chipping in. I almost mentioned the graphics thing. Another way of looking at it is once you plug a decent size Wacom graphics tablet into a machine it is no longer portable as such. Portability is like STOVL on a fighter jet. Nicwe to have but you pay a hell of a price in terms of range, G-holding (in the case of the F-35B), payload etc. And 9/10 it isn’t needed. Look if I’m going to write a play I’ll do it at home with a roof over my head, mains ‘tricity and not on the Clapham omnibus.

    Captain Fatty,
    You are wrong for the reasons I mentioned above. I guess unlike me you never deal with bloody enormous Corel Photopaint files.

    Tubes,
    Mea culpa! I ought to have mentioned they weren’t obsolete but I didn’t because I thought it would weaken my point about light bulbs. I mean that really fecking gets me. I can’t buy a 100W plus bulb because Gaia will drown a cute ickle polar bear. I mean it is actually against the law in much the same way selling a BREN gun to a psycho is. Oh do just fuck off! It astonishes me how frigging seriously these folks are taken now. I once had a Green flatmate and he was ribbed mercilessly* but now his fractured take on going back to the stone-age is received wisdom. Philip and Simon. I knew enough lads at school who thought they were going to be the next Guns and Roses to appreciate valves. Did you know though that the Pentagon and the MiG-25 also have valves because they put-up with EMP better than transistors? Philip, your 1949 radio – respect!

    *He had shoulder-length brown bobbed hairand was a small and skinny character. He once flitted from shower to his room with only a towel around his particulars. My other flatmate, Sid, said, “Oi, it’s Moglai!” Laugh? I almost lost control of vital bodily functions.

  13. Simon Williams says:

    I knew about the MiG-25 having valves in the avionics. I used to see some of the weird ex-Sov stuff that Spadeadam had to play with, including some inductors with 25KV voltage ratings and power supplies for honking great transmitter valves. Even rewound a few when they managed to burn them out. Pain up the chuff, but interesting all the same.

  14. NickM says:

    Tosh, are you taking zee piss?

    “Lolz. if Apple didn’t have innovation, we would still be stuck with PCs going blue screen when they had finished showing you all that ‘important’ code as it cranked up.”

    It is important.

    “So, sorry to piss on your pathetic bonfire, but more likely screw PCs and the narrow thinking that comes with them. You may not like tablets or smartphones, but machines that look and behave like ‘fifties refrigerators (apart from the heat output, natch) were not for everyone.”

    No, only for people who want to get things done and don’t care to pay twice the price for a Jobs well done. And as to fridges. Do you know any thermodynamics? At all?

    “The iPad and devices like that are about information. True it is not for those saddos anxious to play “death wish beat ‘em up 4″ or preparing yet more spread sheets. Apple, for all their faults, actually believed in creativity and with it the provision of information. Microsoft’s knee jerk was office work and graphs.”

    Well, seeing as I am a gamer and IT professional and a physics graduate then fuck off. “Office work and graphs” make the world go round. Quite what mystical “information” Apple bestows upon you is beyond me. And if you think gaming is for “saddos” then I suggest you take a long hard look at your life which seems from my end to be unable to communicate with fellow members of your own species without buying Steve Jobs a new polo-neck.

    “I have taught young people about computers, but their school experience was merely doing more charts and more number-crunching because, er, that’s what PCs do so well.”

    Yes, they do, don’t they you plank? Anyway, you taught them what? How to finger-paint on an iPad? I very much doubt you taught ‘em “the Northbridge is connected to the…” or the Runge-Kutta method to fourth order. No, that’s mere “number crunching” and not touchy-feely Mac stuff (what do you think underpins that anyway? Where do you think the engine room is?). Think about that the next time you get on an Airbus or Boeing. “Oh, it’s about information!” No it isn’t. It’s about getting the sums spot on so you and me don’t die horribly with our mortal remains spread across 3/4 of Luxembourg and being eaten by goats. Not about poncing about with an over-priced laptop without a keyboard. Sheesh!

    And I didn’t mention it but I will now. Those Apple ads piss me off. “If you haven’t got an iPhone…” and the way they make out the iPad invented the web. They sneer at us. I hate them. And what is it with those new(ish) Apple keyboards designed to be looked at rather than typed on. Arseholes.

    And no I am not Bill Gate’s cabana boy. I use XP but I miss Amiga and SGI. SGI of course required the use of a command line so I is evil. Oh, and I also used it for fluid dynamics simulations rather than your beloved “information”. If you reckon being “poked” on Facebook is “more creative” than modelling the deflagration to detonation transition of Type Ia supernovae then get thee to an Apple Store! I am sure there is an app for what ails thee. Possibly chronic wanking. Or it might even be more Freudian than that – “doing Jobbie”.

    Just fuck off.

  15. Captain Fatty says:

    Hi NickM,

    Apologies for the intemperate language yesterday.
    No, I don’t deal with bloody enormous Corel Photopaint files. I piss about with bloody enormous fits files of solar observation data from various spacecraft. Automatic image and spectra analysis and calibration with housekeeping tracking and trends. And the ‘puter of choice at work is the mac, because of it’s fantastic capabilities, built of course on top of unix. The windows boxen just don’t cut it. Choice of ‘puter at home too, because it comes with everything I need programming wise. The things Apple have done with the objective-c frameworks is remarkable; it enables me to write programs to solve complex issues remarkably easily, programs which I would find much more of a pain in virtually any other language. And I’ve tried. Java, c++, c#, etc, all fall short of providing a really decent bedrock for programming, imho.
    Just one more thing, as Jobsie is fond of saying. The post, among other things, compares a new technology, tablets, with technology that has a 30 year history, which is a bit like comparing oranges with apples. Give the tablets and the cloud 30 years of evolution and then lets come back and see how it compares to todays efforts.

    Cheers,
    Captain Fatty

  16. Ian B says:

    Fatty, those are all good points. But it’s this question of where the horsepower is. Computers are like motor cars. You don’t specify the engine for the average speed it goes at, you spec it for the maximum speed you need. I remember back in the 90s, larry Ellisson was pushing thin clients- “NetPC” or something- and said that the desktop PC was already too powerful (166MHz Pentium! Teh awesome!) and most of its cycles were wasted. Yes, and the average speed of your motor car is 4mph, or something like that, but it actually goes faster when you’re driving it.

    There is inherent latency on networks. Even if you’ve got a superspeed connection, it still takes time to get data around the world, and dealing with several hundred megabytes when you’re in London and it’s in “the cloud” in Tokyo is never going to be sensible. So, you need the local horsepower anyway.

    I think there’s a certain Proggie versus Libertarain thing here. The innovation of the PC (and that means PCs in general, from the Apple ][ onwards) was to put power in the hands of the individual; it took the data out of the datacentre and put it on your desk. It’s your data, not theirs. You’re not asking to use their machine, you own your own machine. What you do on it is your business. There’s no AUP. It’s important philsophically.

    Cloudies tend to be noticably progressive. They love Google, because it does no evil, except when it does, and they love Apple because it’s done that neat trick of being a huge corporation but pretending to be the Little Guy. Fair enough. But these kinds of people cleave to a progressive mindset of centralism. They draw their weenie little cloud and in it are a few “nice” corporations and that’s their model of the world, with everything controlled by somebody else. It’s the computing equivalent of big goverment. Somebody big in the middle and little people having their world ordered by those big people, and when Big Jobs says, “you shouldn’t want this” or Big Google say, “you shouldn’t want that” you agree with them because they know more than you and you’re just so grateful to be allowed to share the experience.

    Personal computers are libertarian; thin clients are collectivist.

  17. NickM says:

    I guarantee you Captain that I shall still be using a keyboard when I am old and grey. And what Ian said.

  18. Tim Newman says:

    Microsoft’s knee jerk was office work and graphs.

    Turned out kinda well for them though, didn’t it?

  19. Pogo says:

    I find it slightly amusing that “The Cloud” is toted as the latest innovation – as I see it it’s nothing more than a reinvention of the time-shared mainframe… Except, of course, that it uses nice graphical PC etc displays rather than the ASR33 Teletypes we used in the late 1960s.. ;-)

  20. Sam Duncan says:

    “if Apple didn’t have innovation, we would still be stuck with PCs going blue screen when they had finished showing you all that ‘important’ code as it cranked up.”

    Bollocks. Two links. The former scared Apple shitless in 1985 (but Commodore couldn’t sell ice cream in the Sahara), the latter was a serious contender to be licenced as the replacement for Classic MacOS in the late ’90s, only it wasn’t invented by the Lord High Steve. Both had serious traction in their day among the sort of people who now treat every MacWorld like Moses coming down the mountain. So they should know better.

    People who present the entire history of computing as a battle between Microsoft and Apple piss me off. They were pissing me off in the ’80s when everyone on this side of the Atlantic was switching from Commodores, Speccies, and BBCs to Amigas, Ataris and Amstrads (and in Japan from MSX to Fujitsu FMs and those mad Sharp 68k things… ooooh, I wanted one of those), and they’re still pissing me off today when there’s so much interesting and useful stuff going on that it would take all day to list. Learn some history, dammit.

    Ian: The cloud is public transport, PCs are cars. This is not the age of the train.

    Exactly, Pogo. That was the age of the train: the IT equivalent of the Victorian age.

  21. NickM says:

    “The age of the train”? I recall those ads with Jimmy Saville. If I never got that Ron Paul was a crazy uncle then Jimmy Saville is to blame. He was fucking mental. And Sam you have reminded me of something.

  22. john in cheshire says:

    Lotus Freelance was miles better than Powerpoint.

  23. wh00ps says:

    I muck about with Renoise when the mood takes me, and I use a combination of dropbox and Ubuntu One to move samples and .xrns files between the laptop and the main computer (which is not in the front room).
    I also sync my photo’s folder so I only need to plug my phone in once, to the laptop, and my pictures get saved on the main computer too.
    the point being, I run Ubuntu on the laptop off a usb hard drive, and frequently needs re-installing.I always ALWAYS find it b easier to plug the hard drive to the main computer rather than allow the sync to run it’s course.
    of course, should ever BOTH computers go wrong, all my holiday snaps and half-written music exist somewhere….

  24. Roue le Jour says:

    I love that “cloud is public transport”. That’s the kind of insight I come here for.

    My observation is every innovation in computing is spoiled by being oversold. Somebody comes up with a useful technology, say pads and the cloud, and instead of pointing out this is a complement to what we already have that allows us to do more, which is the objective truth, it becomes some barmy religious crusade, this is the future and you’re all dinosaurs. To give another example, I recall going through all this when C++ was introduced. Useful, yes. Universal? No. Because not all problems can be considered as a collection of interacting objects.

    To go back to the beginning, public transport is useful for a lot of people, but it isn’t the best solution for everyone.

  25. Philip Scott Thomas says:

    wh00ps

    I use a combination of dropbox and…

    Yes, Dropbox is a brilliant solution to the sneaker-net. I regularly use it to transfer document between the office and home. Before I discovered Dropbox I used a 4Gb memory stick; but Dropbox makes even that obsolete. It is, in a sense, a ‘cloud’ solution, but, unlike Google Docs, it is a solution that is actually useful.

  26. Sam Duncan says:

    Pretty much my point, RlJ. Like public transport, cloud computing isn’t a bad idea, it’s just not The Solution To All Our Problems. And, like public transport, it brings its own inconveniences as it solves others.

    I think the lesson here is more or less what we Feline Enumerators are all about: there is no Universal Solution for everyone, in anything. Some people don’t get along with PCs, and a thin client tablet “appliance” may well be great for them. I’d rather gnaw my own arm off than put up with a Fisher-Price mobile OS as my only computer for the rest of my life. Neither of us is wrong.

    The PC no longer being the only game in town doesn’t mean it’s dead.

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