Too stupid to own a computer

If you're in the support game, you know only too well that most end users really are too stupid to own a computer. The reality is that these people are not stupid at all, a lot of them being much smarter (and richer) than we techie types.

But they are stupid when it comes to computers. The only reason for this is that the inexorable march of marketing and mass production has made PCs affordable well in advance of their suitability for widespread deployment. This didn't happen with most of our earlier technology advances. The first motor cars required you to be a half-decent mechanic if you expected to take a trip and arrive at your destination.

Cars were expensive as well, so you needed to be pretty well-off to own one, if you weren't mechanically minded. That is, you could afford to hire a driver who could get out and get under when required. Henry Ford changed all that by mass-producing the things and making them so simple that they worked most of the time and didn't require a degree in mechanical engineering to keep them going. Everybody bought one.

However, PCs have arrived at the "everybody bought one" point in history well in advance of the "no need for a degree in computer science" to keep them going.

I have lost count of the number of end users who have demanded to know why Office 97 doesn't do some particular task, which it could never do, yet they were convinced that it could and that I should know how to "make it so". I'm sure you are also sick of the endless support calls that are resolved as "finger trouble".

The only exception to this rule seems to be the people who managed to buy an Apple Macintosh. Yes, after all the years of hype and propaganda, it seems Apple was telling the truth after all. After I have set up a network for a Macintosh-using client, I virtually never hear from them again. So much so that I called one and asked them just how bad my service was, having heard nothing from them a month after the install. The answer was, there wasn't any need to call me. Things were working just fine.

Which is why I think the US government should be taking Apple to court -- not Microsoft. The charge? Totally inadequate marketing and pricing practices, thereby allowing a superior, almost user-friendly system to languish, enabling Microsoft to become a monopoly.

The verdict? Guilty as charged, Your Honour.

Yates@idg.com.au is where you'll find me

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