The Home Computer

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regularassmilk

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Does anyone feel so surprised that the home PC came and went so fast? Obviously the internet is a larger part of modern life than ever, but when I was in elementary school--only 20 years ago--we were all prepping for the computerized world. We've got there, but have left the home PC behind.

In my purview, it's gone back to being what it was before the mid-1990s: the territory of adult professionals and hobbyists. I'm not saying it's a sad thing, or a bad thing, or anything--just that it feels like a shock to imagine that I have witnessed the birth and death of the PC in the average person's home in my short life.

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regularassmilk

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Tangentially related, I used to work for a staffing company, mostly putting young people to work in manufacturing, and I was absolutely shocked to discover that probably 95% of my candidates from 18-35 had virtually no computer literacy. All we were having them do was fill out their onboarding paperwork in a a room near the lobby, and they would have a hell of a time doing any of it.

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nutter

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...Give me convenience or give me death...

I suppose it is kinda odd, but all the things the PC was used for aside from hobbyists and professionals can be done on a phone.

Internet, e-mail, social media, news, weather, whatever...if you can do those things on a phone or watch, why not?

The running story of the 21st century, at least as far as entertaining ourselves goes, is that convenience wins.

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regularassmilk

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@nutter: I guess I feel that somehow the phone is a condensed version of the internet. It's the internet with very clear borders. The walled garden nature of phones, even Android devices, makes it so easy to interact with big media and that much harder to interact with small media. The weirdo internet is gone.

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Gundato

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I mean, PCs have been dying for decades now. You're not allowed to be a tech blog unless you run at least two articles on how the PC is imminently going to disappear.

That aside, saying that home computers are dead is like saying that the telephone is dead because we no longer need to walk out into the street and queue up at a phone booth to call a 900 number. First there was a phone in every house. Then in every room. And now in every pocket (when I'm at work, I have one in each). And while yes, we use it differently than Alexander Graham Bell would have envisioned, it is still a phone

Same with the home computer. Kids are still looking up facts in digital encyclopedias and communicating with a global community and doing their homework and all that jazz. Now they are just also sexting each other and getting recruited by nazis. Err, and there are probably some good parts. OH, they can look at cute kitty cat pictures and pirate good anime rather than just whatever that skeevy guy down the street likes.

But I think, in your reply, you do hit on things being different and less weird. But I also don't think it is. Yeah, we got to have the joy of usenet and BBSes and the like. But conceptually that is no different than kids keying in on new and scary forms of social media that you or I don't even know about. While likely "old" and "out of date", reddit replaced usenet. Discord replaced IRC. Frigging gmail replaced AIM (now I know I am old because nobody under 30 uses hangouts).

Maybe the barrier to entry is lower. Or maybe it just emphasizes different skills. But the internet is still weird and scary as all fuck and you still access it via a home computer. It just might be scary and in your pocket instead of your living room.

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MonkeyKing1969

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Yeah, we went from 10% of American household having a computer in the early 1990s, to 90% of American house hold to owning multiple computers.

Does it matter what form the computers in our lives have? If it comes down to feeling a loss for a computer that stays in the home, well just remember a smart TV has more processing power, memory that a 1990s computer; Moreover, if you shove a USB drive into that smart TV it will have between 10 or 250 times as much storage that is 5000% faster!.

The home PC is just ina weird state right now. They will come back, they will come back by the inevitable surety that even home will have a server likely tucked into the electrical panel.

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AlexW00d

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I don't know a single person that does not have a PC in their home in some fashion. Even my elderly grandparents have one. I know it's fashionable to write about how PCs are dead, and has been for years and years, but it's still really wrong.

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avantegardener

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#8  Edited By avantegardener

Interesting take, we’re talking about a transition of a static area for ‘PC business’ to portable information on hand as required for general public. The notable issue is there are more developers working now than ever, so I don’t think the apparent death of the home computer has affected people exposure to learning how code or interest and understanding of digital technology.

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MonkeyKing1969

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Sure, there are fewer homes with desktop computers, but that does not mean there are no computers in our home. In fact, I think we live in an age where we have TOO MANY computers. Think about it in teh 1990s even a affluent home had one computer in it, but today a working class home has six unconnected computers. At night we have a few laptops, a handful of tablets, a smattering of smartphones, a game console or two, a few smart TVs, a kitchen appliances with a CPUs in them. But they don't work in concert. They don't leverage each other power!!!

The forgotten bit about PS3 was that was supposed to be part of "Sony's" vision. The PS3's "Cell" was supposed to become ubiquitous. The dream was that all the 'computing;' devices in the home could combine to leverage all of their processing power to do things. And, that will in all likelihood come to pass. In the future we will have these devices, but we will likely distribute their power better. In the future ist might be that instead of teh oven, referegator, tv, and sound system in a home having their own processor they will "request" processing from the computers in our home or in our pockets.

Some might say, "Uh who cares how does this matter?" Well, what sounds more efficient for electricity in an average home having 20 increasingly sophisticated computers that don't talk, or 6 computers that do? Okay, other than saving electricty what does having all teh computing power working do for us?

Well, imagine we put a turkey in the oven. An oven that ditches the expense of its 'dinky cpu' for sensors is an oven where no matter what you put in the oven they oven knows how to cook. Such an oven will stop not based on time; but on temprature of the food, humidity in the oven, light spectrum bouncing off the surface of the food, and spectra analysis of the fat/volitile chemical being burned in the roasting pan, etc. The sensor described need A LOT of computing power, but why put that in the oven? Your robot vacuum doesn't need a big cpu to know if the carpet is clean, but it sure could use distributed computing power that it can feed it's own sensory inputs into to see your home, analyze dust content in teh air and sense when dirt is below thresholds that require cleaning the floors. Likewise, your smoke detector doesn't need a cpu, but it could use help determining what if a steak cooking in the kitchen or grandma set herself on fire, right? In that case of a steak that arms need not ring as loudly; but if grandma is on fire it tell you "nanna is ablaze, again'.

That future of the "home pc" is very thrilling. There will be a level of home automation and home sensing that will actually be helpful, but ist will be done efficiently with less computers that share more effort but only when needed.





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CupOfDoom

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I've yet to meet a person without a desktop or laptop in their home. Even the artsy-social types who have the bare minimum tech knowledge have macbooks. Not to say there aren't people who don't have a pc in their home but, at least in America, the percentage of people who live in a household with at least one desktop or laptop has to be above 80%.

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Stephen_Von_Cloud

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I agree with some others that the laptop really replaced the desktop.

I also think yeah, at the time the desktop was what you could imagine as the height of things but things quickly changed from that. At a time without networks, and a time after of wired ones, the need to stay in place is big. But it just isn't the case with how tech has gone.

I think the computer literacy part is a different question. I will say with how easy many things are to use, you can use all your essential functions while knowing very little ultimately. I have seen it myself. I also have always had the reputation of being a computer guy and IT wiz among people I know. While yeah, I do know a thing or two, mostly I just know how to search for help and trouble shoot and most people just can't do that for whatever reason. I can follow instructions and put together a PC from that but would hardly say I know that much about it all.

All this being said, I have a desktop and quite like to use it myself so that's cool too. And it is for sure interesting to think about as you say. There's no denying with the acceleration of technology change is extremely rapid compared to much of our past and it is crazy to think about. Right now we are in the midst of it and its really hard to know the extent of it.

One thing that is nice from when I was a kid is that it at least isn't as expensive to get into gaming on computers or on a console playing usually the same stuff. I was lucky to be upper middle class and have access to a Power Mac and PC after and the games to play on them. Being a poor adult I am glad for that but also do wish things could get even cheaper.

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bakoomerang

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Yeah I'm not sure if I'm just old (37?!) and out of touch, or you're making an arbitrary distinction between a PC and a laptop, but I can't think of anyone I know that doesn't have at least one or the other in their home.

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ShaggE

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Yeah, I don't feel like the home PC is dead at all (never mind that I'm saying this on one, haha). The hype about home PCs is dead, of course, and the marketplace has changed dramatically, but looking at vendor sales over the past 20 years... yeah, PCs are doing just fine. They're just not the new hotness anymore. Smartphones and modern all-in-one style consoles are great and all, but they still can't replace a proper desktop or laptop. Once something comes along that truly can, then we might see PCs dwindle.

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catsanddogs

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I'd add that the PC is alive and well in work environments. To the extent that anyone wants or needs to work from home, a tablet or smartphone probably isn't going to cut it for anything more complicated than responding to e-mails.

(I also second the comment about not really differentiating between desktops/laptops when I hear the term "home PC")

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#15 rorie  Staff

I'm mildly bummed that everyone uses laptops now but I don't think I'll be getting rid of my PC anytime soon. It's still (on the upper end of quality) the best way to play games and there's just something nice about having a big-ass tower next to your desk.