Obsolescence, dusty keyboards and shining screens
Now, I’m not overly proud of this picture… it’s of the keyboard of our home computer, and it would appear to be a bit… errmm, dusty…
It’s probably very fair to say that since we moved in to our new place at the beginning of February, neither Helen nor I have been near the computer that sits in the spare room.
Indeed, I only noticed it because I had to go and print out some tickets to go to the Brighton Sealife Centre (print out!?! It’s 2010, codes & mobile ticketing, please…).
But it did get me thinking, about two things that are, quite possibly, on their way out.
Firstly, the ‘home PC’.…
Or at least, the description that will be familiar in many homes; a desktop computer that sits in a home office, or squeezed in the corner of the guest room, or wherever there’s room (or is close enough to a phone socket to plug a modem into)…
Like millions of other folks we’ve now got enough mobile/laptop shenanigans going on that to have a separate machine in a different, isolated part of the house is actually now just taking up space… desktops have been outsold by laptops consistently since 2006.
The desktop PC was designed not for convenience, of course, but for necessity. To get as much computing power in as possible (and make sure that you could power it, cool it down etc), you had to have a big bloody box sitting under a desk somewhere.
Nowadays, though, you can fit all the necessary power into a laptop that you can take wherever you wanted to be in the first place… which was unlikely to be the spare room.
Which means we’re seeing the rise of things like social television (which this article from the BBC will tell you all about if you’re unfamiliar with it).
Magical computery power is starting to change the dynamics of the home in lots of interesting ways, which will no doubt have more of an effect on the sectors people previously didn’t imagine t’internet would affect that much originally.
So, bye bye ‘home PCs’.
Secondly, I started thinking about keyboards.
The keyboard has been around for ages. Have a read of the fascinating history of the typewriter on wikipedia…
…the earliest is arguably the ‘Typowriter’ (patented in 1829 by William Austin Burt), but by far my favourite is Giuseppe Ravizza’s “Cembalo scrivano o macchina da scrivere a tasti”, which translates as “scribe harpsicord, or machine for writing with keys”
So approaching 200 years old is not bad going for a technology that by and large hasn’t really changed. People talk about touchscreen computers (iPad et al), and claim that they’re not great devices for ‘creation’, just ‘consumption’.
What they really mean is that they aren’t great for ‘creation of stuff I now use a keyboard for’.
My generation (I’m 32 now) were introduced to a keyboard as a route to playing, creating or working, but in ‘isolation’; what you played or did via keyboard you did on your own.
A generation underneath probably see the keyboard as a route to communication first (email, IM, social networks etc), then playing, working and creating together.
Whoever we are, we’re all still rooted in that keyboard tradition… so many of us have been trained to use it already, it’s going to be a hard habit for society to shift.
But a generation that grows up in a world of touchscreens…
…well, surely they’ll work out a way to get from this…
Just watching the wee fella with touchscreen devices is a joy… he’s only 7 months old, yet he gets the very simple concept that if you touch it, it does something.
He’s really, really surprised that ALL screens don’t work this way, of course. And tried to see if the fish tanks at Brighton Sealife centre reacted to frantic touch-motioning.
Which, admittedly, they did. Poor turtles.
Anyway, I reckon that keyboards might just be on their way out, but not for a good 10+ years or so.
Or are we confident that like the wheel, the basic keyboard model is here to stay forever?]]>