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October 2013The monthly newsletter by Felgall Pty Ltd

My Word

Computing Appliances

Thirteen years ago when I first started creating my web site, many of the devices that people now use to access the internet didn't exist. The following year I could write an article about the people selling computers that suggested that they really ought to know a fair bit about how computers work so as to be able to help people buy the right one.

Things are much different today and most people can buy the devices they use for their computing from salesmen who know no more about how those devices function than they do about any of the other electrical and electronic devices they sell. The reason for this is that the uses that most people make of their computing devices are mostly the same and also when it comes to computing devices that are not computers there is a far more limited range available to choose from anyway.

With smart phones and tablets there is a very limited choice available - not necessarily in which brand you buy but in what functionality is provided. For the most part the choice with smart phones is between IOS and android and therefore which of two places you go to download the apps you want the phone to be able to use. With tablets you may also have a third choice (Windows 8) but the end result isn't much different. There will seldom be a need to choose between the alternatives based on what they can run because for most people the apps they want are available on all platforms anyway. Which you choose will be determined in the same way you choose between the alternatives when you buy other appliances.

Even with desktop and laptop computers things are now far more standardised than they were when I wrote that earlier article. Then there was still a much greater choice of operating system for your computer than there is now. While the market for IBM's OS/2 had effectively been killed off by Microsoft's launch of Windows 95, there were still two completely different operating systems to choose between - their original DOS based one which at the time was going by names such as Windows 90 and Windows ME and their OS/2 based one that at the time was going by names such as Windows 2000 and Windows XP. It was at about the time that I wrote that article that Microsoft made their third attempt to get people to switch to the better of their two operating systems and unlike with the earlier two attempts this time were successful. That almost all desktop and laptop computers now all ran basically the same operating system removed the need for the salesmen to know anything about operating systems so as to advise buyers as to which was the more appropriate choice for their needs.

The actual applications that most people run on their computer is now fairly clearly defined as well. An office suite (usually Microsoft Office) provides most of the programs that people expect to be able to run locally and a web browser provides them with all they need for all their remote access. Stores that stock computers that have those applications installed can sell their computers as appliances that will meet the needs of most people without the salesman needing to know anything about computers.

There are still a small group of people whose use of their computer goes beyond that of most computer users. Even with this group the main difference in their requirements is that they have one or two additional specialist programs they need to be able to run. Given the power of modern computers these people can buy just about any computer and by installing their additional programs will have a computer that does everything they need.

Those people who actually have specialist needs where just any computer will not necessarily do what they want there are specialist computer shops where the salesmen still do know a lot about computers. Most of the people who have these specialist needs are going to have a pretty good idea of just what they need to buy anyway (or they can easily find out from the internet) so the specialist knowledge that those in the store mainly need to be able to deal with these situations is the ability to read the specifications for the computers they sell to see if they have what these customers are asking for.

Thirty and even twenty years ago it was very obvious that computers varied dramatically in what they could do and what they could run and those selling computers needed to know a lot about them in order to be able to sell the right one based on what the customer needed. Ten years ago I could ask the question about whether this was still the case. Now there is no reason to ask the question as for almost everyone computers and other computing devices are no different from any of the other appliances you buy. Whichever one you choose will be easily able to do everything you want it to do.

On Site

With thirteen years worth of articles now on the site some areas of the site have lots of articles. There are still plenty of holes though although it is getting more difficult for me to see where they all are. You can help out by letting me know when you spot a hole in the coverage so I can write an article to plug the hole.

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