My Turn

The All-Purpose Home Computer Is Alive and Well

Jesse Mathewson - 2002.04.17

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

We received the following letter in response to Adam Robert Guha's A New Age in Personal Computing. It is published with the author's permission.


I think you're looking at this the wrong way. The all-purpose home computer is not dead. This is obvious in Apple's digital hub strategy. The plan in this strategy is to be able to use the Mac for everything including CD burning, MP3s, Web surfing, movie editing, word processing, and so on - just like you could use the 1996 Performa for word processing, interactive encyclopedias, AOL, and surfing (to a lesser extent). In fact, nowadays the Mac is even more of an all-purpose computer than before, because it does not do only what the family needs it to do, but it's perfect for the business user, the artist, and the developer, too!

I think the reason why families nowadays have two or more computers is because most parents will no longer tolerate waiting for Junior to finish playing Quake so Dad can do his income tax, or waiting for the daughter to finish listening to iTunes so Mom can organize her itinerary. This was always a problem, and now that the base level Mac starts at $799 (in 2002 dollars), instead of ~$1,599 in 1996 dollars (for the Performa), every middle-class family can afford to have at least two Macs in the house. In addition, I believe that if you survey these families with two or more Macs, many of them still have their Performa 6300, or a clone of the same era, and a good portion of these people still use them.

To put it simply, Adam, I don't think that the increasing number of computers per family is due to the death of the all-purpose computer. Indeed, all Macs nowadays can perform just about any function, including many things that nobody believed a computer could do in 1996. This trend is more indicative of the fact that all members of the family demand computer time, and the decreasing cost of Macs and PCs over the last six years allows families to meet this demand.

It is my prediction that six years from now, the all-purpose digital hub will be thriving, and it will equal or exceed the number of televisions per capita in the middle-class home. These computers will also do things that nobody today can imagine computers will do.

Jesse Mathewson used to be the webmaster for Apple's Orchard, which has been looking for a new webmaster since November 2000.

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