Your Ad Here

{short description of image}
- | main | the lounge | archive | about us | feedback | -

The Frankenstein Complex
Who's afraid of the big bad PC?

by David Howell

Think of all the people outside of the information industry you know, and ask yourself if any of them have a PC. If some have, great! But of those that don't, ask yourself why?

New technology has always frightened those that don't understand it. Today, fear is perhaps a too stronger term to use. We have all grown up with new technology over the last few decades. We can all remember a time when VCR's, the personal computer of course, satellite TV, and mobile phones didn't exist. Today, however, we are making a paradigm shift into another environment. The Internet may be the reality at the moment, but digital technology will touch us all, not just those with an inherent interest in this technology.

So why do the vast majority of individuals, and families not own PC's? Why aren't they online? This must have something to do with their perceived worth of this technology. If you're not connected to the Internet, you can still do your grocery shopping, so you can eat. You can still go to your local branch of your bank and do your banking, so you can pay your mortgage and have a roof over your head; and there are still vast shopping complexes where you can buy all the other goods that you need to survive.

We can't wait until all these things disappear before we have wholesale take-up of information technology in the home, if indeed the industry gurus are right, and retailing moves to the Internet wholesale, as well as banking etc. By then it will be too late. Those that don't have anything more sophisticated than a Nicam digital TV don't feel that they need a PC or an Internet connection. They are neophytes, awaiting this new technology that is for the geeks out there, to offer them something that they need. The fact that there is more than likely already plenty of material available must point to another reason.

The economics of technology has always played a large part in the mass uptake of any new technology. Not until the CD player fell to around the £200 mark did the industry kick-start and rapidly move into high gear. The Sony Playstation has over the past eighteen months enjoyed high sales when it broke the £150.00 barrier here in the UK. In contrast the Sony MiniDisc is still a luxury item for the technologically literate. At over £300 for the Walkman version, again the price point it too high.

So, what does it cost to get 'wired'? In the UK for a decently specified PC, you need at least £1,000. This will buy you enough computing power that should future proof your machine for a least a couple of years. At the moment, a lot of PC's are being sold that are Internet ready. The modems are 28.8 but this is OK for now. So for that amount of cash, you can have a full Internet connection, and more besides.

The price point is still very high, and would rule out a large section of the population from owing one. Technology needs to be affordable, but this isn't what is meant here by the Frankenstein Complex. In this context, the Frankenstein Complex looks at why so many of the population who have the means to acquire the required hardware for an Internet connection, don't connect.

Economic reasons aside, it has to do with easy access and content. In the entertainment fields where so much new technology seems to begin life, you have to offer easy of use with an intrinsic unique selling point. Connecting to the Internet isn't a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. AOL attempts bravely with their CD's to give you an easy route to their services, but PC's are still very had to learn, no mater what the likes of Windows 98 would have us believe. The general populous still cannot program a VCR. This isn't any criticism of their intelligence, but a criticism of the designers. Why isn't programming a VCR child's play by now?

Once you have connected, you are faced with an avalanche of information that you need to navigate. Neophytes may quickly become disillusioned with the whole experience as they are used to other forms of information management that offer instant retrieval. Television of course is the model. The NC computer the Holy Grail that many are chasing. With this device the Internet becomes another easy accessible information source. Easy? Not quite.

In the UK we are bracing ourselves for digital TV. All the major players will have their services available by the end of this year. Sky offering something like 200 new channels overall. Terrestrial TV will also be there, as well as the cable operators. The choice will be bewildering. This information source, however, is very different from the Internet experience the NC computer hopes to deliver. The home page isn't just another digital TV channel. At least it isn't with the current infrastructure that it adheres to.

A mixture of all media would seen to be the future for us all. TV however, doesn't have the inbuilt Frankenstein Complex that anything that resembles a PC does. The NC computer it is hoped will look nothing like a PC. You will operate it via a remote control. All very familiar devices in the home. Familiarity would seem to be the key. The Internet and the associated hardware that you need to access it, are simply to foreign to the majority of the population.

Our children of course are a very different mater, if they have been lucky enough to have been exposed to this technology at school. They all have an innate ability with this technology, that will spill over into adult life and provide them with immunity from the Frankenstein Complex, their parents may suffer from.

Overall, the Frankenstein Complex must just be an old guys ailment. The children that are growing up today must not fear new technology, but embrace it with open arms. It can offer them more than simply entertainment.

b i o
Dave Howell works from his cramped office in a small town 10 miles north of Birmingham in the UK. Freelance writing has taken up the majority of his free time for the last two years.

Currently writing for the Daily Telegraph, and pursuing a variety of publishers for a number of books he is planning; he is also hard at work completing a database of cyberculture books that will form the catalogue of an online bookshop that will go live in the new year.

The writer of this article welcomes your comments: