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Obsolete Social Technology


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obsolete-social-technology-kevin-d-williamsonNational Review/The Corner:

Kevin D. Williamson

August 10, 2015

 

For some reason, this 1985 New York Times column on why laptop computers will never catch on has been bumping around the Internet, and I’ve had a load of fun with it on Twitter. Excerpt:

 

 

The limitations come from what people actually do with computers, as opposed to what the marketers expect them to do. On the whole, people don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so.

 

The proponents of portables stoutly maintain that the stumbling block to a computer in every attache case is price. Right now, a laptop computer costs considerably more than the equivalent desktop version.

 

Yes, there are a lot of people who would like to be able to work on a computer at home. But would they really want to carry one back from the office with them? It would be much simpler to take home a few floppy disks tucked into an attache case. For the majority of consumers, a second computer for the home office is usually an inexpensive clone of the one at work. Not only is such an alternative more convenient, but it is more cost effective as well. In fact, one ends up with better technology.

 

 

Exploring the greatest hits of the Times technology columnist in question, Erik Sandberg-Diment, has become something of a hobby for some people. As Christopher Mims of the Wall Street Journal wrote: “Everything Erik Sandberg-Diment ever published about tech is amazing. It’s like he invented the contrarian hot take.”

 

It’s amusing stuff, but there is a more serious point to be made than “this clown is a clownier clown than the average clown at the Clown Times.” (And never mind the tech, this newspaper guy was about as wrong as it was possible to be about newspapers.) As a number of people have suggested to me, what Sandberg-Diment wrote was perfectly defensible, given the features, weight, and price of laptops at the time.

 

(Snip)

 


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