Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Perpetually Perplexing

Computer specifications have never been easy to decipher. All to often users are confused by the overwhelming numbers and terms that assault them every time they seek to make a purchase.
The average buyer is often forced to ask questions, such as: what's the difference between a dual core processor and a Core 2 Duo? What're the advantages of a 64 bit processor? What should I look at, the clock speed of the processor or the number of cores?

Faced with these perplexing complexities of modern life, there is a very real danger that those who would otherwise adopt computers for use in their businesses will be scared by the confusing mess that the computer jargon provides. While it can little be doubted that access to computers and the internet is a great help for small and medium sized enterprises, the sheer number of choices itself is a significant obstacle to adoption. There are quite literally so many choices that the setting of a specific, orderly standard like Microsoft tried to do with its "Windows Experience Index" is difficult. There are too many factors to consider, from the processor type to its clock speed, the amount of memory, the speed of the memory, the speed of the graphics card, the graphics card's VRAM, and so on.

And while it can be argued that most businesses don't need top-of-the-line computers, and that they can technically access the internet using an old 486 with Windows 3.11, my response is that sooner or later, even that will not be enough. Today's top-of-the-line system is tomorrow's entry level system. Also, while it's true that you can technically access the 'net off a 486, it's still fallacious to assume that such access would be considered as adequate. Bare-bones access is not necessarily adequate. It's like saying we can run an Air Force composed of Cold War era fighters because even an old fighter can damage a modern fighter. The feat is technically possible, but not feasible.

A standard really must be established that is easy to understand and decipher. The MPC (Multimedia PC) Standards set in the nineties had the right idea, that by placing computers into "levels" one could easily decipher the relative strength and capability of a PC. It's a shame it never caught on, partly because the open architecture of the PC meant that each and every manufacturer had its own standards. No one wanted to conform to a uniform standard since that would make one PC of the same standardized level indistinguishable from another, killing off brand distinctions. But in my humble belief it's going to make computers more accessible, and ultimately increase sales.

In the end, the use of computers should not have to be restricted by the perplexity of the jargon. The solution, for me, is to make the jargon a non-issue. It's not going to be easy, but I'm not convinced it's impossible.

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