Your Computer Should be Like A Toaster


I have worked with hundreds if not thousands of people over the last 4 decades, helping them make the most of their computer systems.  The people I have worked with had a wide range of knowledge and expertise when it came to their computers.  Throughout this time, I have had to adapt my support to their level of understanding because, after all my job has always been to help them make the most of their systems.

Looking back to the late 70’s and into the 80’s, one word describes small computers: complicated.  If you were brave enough to try to do useful work with one of these, you had to deal with lots of different pieces.  The main computer itself looked like something out of a 60’s sci-fi film.  A popular system was the Imsai 8080.  It had lots of lights and switches and was damned impressive.  Then you had to have some way of talking to it, so you had to attach a terminal.  If you wanted to print something, that was separate. Oh yes, storage.  If you wanted to actually save anything, you used a tape cassette.  There were no hard drives.  And by the way, none of these pieces knew how to work with each other so you had to program them yourself.  It was the Jurassic Park of computers.

Then Apple came out with their second system and IBM had their PC, each with the single goal of bringing computers to the average Joe.  Each new generation of computers continued this and it is still going on.

Here’s my point: a computer should be like a toaster.

When you want to toast bread, you go to the store, pick out a toaster from the shelf, take it out of the box and plug it in.  You’re done.  You can start toasting right away.  If it stops working, you toss it and get a new one.  This is the goal for all computers.  It’s taken us about 35 years and we are getting close.  But we’ve taken an interesting turn.

Smartphones and tablets are fast becoming the central computing device for an awful lot of people.  When you buy one, it is pretty easy to set up.  Not quite at the “toaster” level, but not far from that.  Desktops and laptops are still important, so we’ve got a way to go yet.  And with the advent of cloud computing – where all of the information is stored somewhere out there in the Internet – setting up and using a system just gets easier.

I predict that within the next 4 or 5 years, most users will have some form of toaster-like system that is almost disposable. When something goes wrong with the system, you simply replace it and continue.  Google’s Chromebooks are a step in that direction except that Google has decided that only they can manage the content and applications.

So when you look at your toaster today, think of it as a model for your business computer.  Now if I can just find out where to put the bread…..

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