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Post-PC nonsense

Since the 1990s and perhaps before that, people have been predicting the demise of the PC. Now, I continually hear about the post-PC era, which seems odd to me given that the PC has become so essential to civilisation. The commoditisation of the PC explains why Dell, IBM, HP, and others have stopped centring their businesses on the PC.

If something becomes a commodity, it doesn't mean that it is going to disappear anytime soon. Rather, it means it has become ubiquitous. Do pundits understand this at all? Apparently not. To them, the PC is dead. They are very similar to the bicycle nuts who seriously think the car is dead, and the vegans who think that bacon is dead. They have a skewed perspective. Unfortunately, it gets printed and distributed to the public as some sort of reality.

So many people believe this and I've always failed to understand why. There is no real age bias among them, and no single sociology. One thing that unites them is wishful thinking. They seriously wish that the PC was dead and would go away. Over a decade ago, I recall reading a column by Steve Forbes, who seemed to think that at the time, the PC was dead and would be an appliance that was easy to use. Hooray, he said in an editorial. I think he may have epitomised the wishful thinking aspect of all this.

This idea of the PC as an appliance is perhaps at the root of this phenomenon. I have been hearing this for 30 years or more.

The PC, simply put, is too hard for many people to utilise fully. I've been working with these devices since the 1970s and still get confused by some software. The Adobe suite is a great example. The likes of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are complex and often frustrating. Because of their power, though, you just have to put up with the fact that these are complicated programs that require time and training.

Nobody wants to study anything, however. Everybody wants an appliance like an egg beater. I've used a lot of appliances in the kitchen and none require much thought. This sort of immediate ease-of-use has appeal but, generally speaking, only exists because each product has one lone function.

The general purpose computer replaced a slew of single-use devices from the comptometer to the dedicated Wang word processor to the card sorter. That was the idea.

It is sheer folly to brush the PC aside in a daze of wishful thinking and extol the virtues of the tablet, for example, as the future of data processing. Yes, they are selling well. So what? It's still ramping. Look at PC sales. They have been growing since day one and are up again.

So, I have a Nexus 7 and people ask me what I think of it. I think it's great for playing Angry Birds and watching movies. I'd rather use the Dell XPS 14 ultrabook for anything beyond that. Yes, you can search the web on a tablet or even on a smartphone, for that matter, and that's great but that doesn't all of a sudden mean the post-PC era is upon us.

Let me put this more bluntly: If you cannot bring yourself to power user status because you are essentially too dumb to fathom the device and it scares you, then fine. There are a lot of people who do not know the simple difference between RAM and a hard disk. They do not know that AMD and Intel are competitors, and that software that runs on the x86 instruction set will not work on an ARM chip out of the box. Schools do not teach this and books for beginners are embarrassing to read.

We have actually regressed as a society when it comes to computer literacy, and I would say half of the people writing about computers today do not know what they are talking about. You can spot them pretty easily unless you are also a dummy. And I mean no offence to the dummies out there. Books have been written for you specifically.

But please, enough of the post-PC bull-crap. It's annoying.