HCI

Well it’s the morning after the night before. The bunting is wilting in the breeze of another hot late spring day.

Yes, last night along with 10’s of others dotted up and down the country, I was up till the wee hours watching the local election results roll in at the pace of an advancing glacier. All the politicking of the last couple of days has got me thinking about the slogans and the promises that politicians use and make to get them elected.

One of the most famous political slogans of all time is one attributed to US President Herbert Hoover, “A chicken in every pot!” This was used to show how everyone would be prosperous under President Hoover.

This is quite ironic as it was under Hoover’s watchful eye that the stock market bubble burst and the US, and therefore much of the Industrialised would sink into what became known as the Great Depression. Not a great time for selling luxury cars, though the chicken market might have held up better than most.

Since then there have been plenty of other slogans and sound-bites that haven’t quite proved to be as accurate as those saying them would have hoped. George Bush the first famously said, “Read my lips, no new taxes,” before raising taxes a couple of years later.

Other on this side of the pond political parties find themselves guilty of unintended hypocrisy, one of the most famous examples was the Tory slogan prior to the 1979 election, ‘Labour isn’t working,’ accompanying a picture of a seemingly endless dole queue. The Conservatives of course went on to win that election, and dole queues expanded to their greatest length since the end of the depression.

In these cynical days a politician’s promise is seen as along the same lines of ‘the cheque is in the post,’ or ‘of course I’ll respect you in the morning,’ as something that’s there to be heard, but not believed. One promise that was most interesting when it was announced was the Home Computer Initiative, or HCI.

HCI was a government programme launched in 1999 to encourage employers to lend computers to employees for home use.

The idea was that the employer would get tax breaks whilst the employee would increase his or her level of computer literacy, helping Britain transform into a shiny new knowledge economy of the future. The programme only really gained momentum after 2003, probably since it was started by Gordon Brown and it took people 4 years to understand what he was going on about.

You might be wondering why your present employer has been encouraging you to take home a laptop or the mainframe recently, well the tax breaks actually stopped very recently, and with none of the hoo haa that greeted their arrival.

It transpired that many people were actually shock horror just using the computers for games, or were in fact getting games consoles.

If not they were the sort of people who’d get lap tops or home PCs anyway with or without tax breaks. This came as a nasty shock to many, especially the companies that had built a business on supplying the hardware.

Perhaps the problem of computer literacy has been overstated; in one article I read recently it transpired that one NHS hospital’s network fell over due to the large amount of personal files such as MP3s, videos that had been stored on it.

Well the staff must have some sort of skill to manage this feat, well done Britain, though of course with HCI they might have been able to keep all their files at home. To read more, click here. Back soon with technical badinage.