I just stumbled across a great article from the November 1984 edition of Creative Computing magazine where Tim Hartnell claims “those who market personal computers have been conning us for years.”
There are two main approaches they use. The first one runs like this: “Buy a computer or your child will be hopelessly left behind at school and will be handicapped for life.” I reject these claims absolutely because (a) they attempt to arouse parental guilt and feelings of inadequacy; and (b) because they are just plain lies. This direction can hardly, to my mind, be one in which the answer to “what do you need a personal computer for?” can be found.
The second main way to sell personal computers seems to be the “use the computer as a Gee Whiz Aid around the house.” Balance your checkbook on it, store recipes on it, catalog your books.
It’s a hoot.
But I particularly like his final point, ‘cos it follows on from my comment about appropriate tools.
We are still at the horse and buggy stage of computing. At present, computers are pretty dumb and in need of constant direction… I believe that fairly soon (within six years) computers will be much like present day telephones.
You don’t need an instruction book or a four-week course to use the telephone. You see someone do it or you have 12 seconds of instruction and you can use a phone for life.
This will happen with computers. And when it does, when you can just get one, talk to it and get it to talk back to you and do what you want it to do without hassle or misunderstanding, the personal computer will really have arrived.
6 years, eh? [smirks] What’s actually happened, of course, is that the telephone has become like the computer. My Nokia N80 has a 128-page user’s guide and needs software updates!
[Photo: Olivetti M24 personal computer, 1994. Hat-tip to Frontier Electronics.]