The PC ain’t dead. Not by a long shot.

I recently read (yet another) article citing the imminent death of the PC. This author, however, takes the premise even further. Not only is the PC a proverbial dinosaur, but tablets are on the way out as well. It would appear that sometime next Thursday only phones will be left.  To make matters worse, the author confuses the terms laptops and desktops as if they were the same or, the more likely intent, the desktop has already limped off to be converted to doorstops, aquariums and exotic art.

Hold your horses, Skippy.  I’m writing this on my desktop, not on my cell phone.  While recognizing current technology trends is useful, there is always a danger of extrapolating too far. This latest attempt to bury the still breathing is a classic case of extrapolating too far on too little data.

A desktop is still king of the hill for situations where horsepower and storage are critical, surpassing laptops, tablets and phones.  For example, my laptop has half the storage of my desktop, a slower chip and supports only one graphic card. Why not buy a bigger laptop? Because it costs a lot more than the humble desktop for the same features.

Also, don’t forget ergonomics.  I’ll wait while you look up this seemingly forgotten term. Here’s what Merriam-Webster offers as a definition: an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely.  Failure to adhere to proper ergonomic design leads to a host of problems, starting with that badge of nerdom honor—carpal tunnel syndrome.  Perching your laptop at odd heights and angles may be acceptable in a pinch when flying cattle class on Delta, but extended usage thus transforms us all into ogres with T-Rex wrists shuffling along with our heads perpetually bent down.

Touch screens are supposed to be the technology of the future for all our computing needs.  I assume we’re all also going to grow orangutan arms in the next few months.  As I type these words, my computer screen is about an arm and a half away from my eyes.  If I had to be constantly pecking and swiping I’d have to sit uncomfortably close to the screen, warping my eyes to match my wrists.

My tablet is even further crippled compared to my desktop, lagging in all measurable metrics other than size, only good for email and games.  The onscreen keyboard is pretty much a joke for any touch typists.  Look up that term as well. We have regressed from ten fingers to two for communicating with our new masters.

My phone is at the bottom of the technology scale, not the top.  Its best role is for communication (calls and text) and quick, short-term information retrieval via searches and apps.  No matter how cool it is socially, it still has a microscopic screen and keyboard.  The technology response to this obvious problem is to make the phones larger, leading to the bastardization known as a phablet.  I saw a woman talking on one in an airport and burst out laughing.  Look in a mirror, technology chasers.  You look ridiculous, something like a reversed SNL skit on small phones.  Remember when small was cool?  Now we’re expected to carry pillow-sized monsters about with us.

It is dangerous to over-extrapolate current trends.  If you haven’t noticed, we’re not driving flying cars, don’t have atomic-powered watches, don’t work a 4-hour work week and don’t vacation on the moon.  And no one has written a novel on a phone.  (Yes, I’ll wait while you try to remember what a novel is…  Novel idea, huh?)  Truth is, there is a place for everything, and this will be true for a long time to come.

If you want to produce something—write a novel, do an in-depth data analysis, do detailed large-scale simulations—you need at least a laptop. For highest computing power, multiple graphics cards and extended storage at low cost the venerable desktop is still your best choice.

If you want to consume information, maybe dabble a bit at low-level production, a tablet may be useful. If your universe is bounded by texts, tweets and games, a phone is ok.

What we have now is a continuum of platforms, with the producers clustered at one end and the consumers clustered at the other.  It is doubtful that any one platform will successfully replace the others anytime soon.  Your individual needs, producer vs consumer, determine which technology is best for you.

Excuse me, now.  I’ve got to jet over to the spaceport.  My flight for Luna City leaves soon.

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