September 28, 2011 | 1 Comment
Lately I’ve been having a rather interesting dilemma. I’ve been thinking about if we were to update a few of our oldest Windows machines, what would I get? We’ve had these top-of-the-line all-the-bells-and-whistles Dells for many years now. I can only hope that many others look on them as I do- as valiant machines who have served countless students in their pursuit of digital scholarship.
In other words, they were equipped for the future. But today, I think there’s a palatable uncertainty about the future. The last year has been awash with tech writers claiming that the desktop will eventually be replaced by tablets. Others remain skeptical and perceive Tablets to be “toys.”
So where are we to go from here? It seems that the future of the actual physical computer in the next ten years is much more uncertain than it was ten years ago. How can we ensure that the road the lab takes is smart and “future-proof?”
Gestures and Touching
One way to see the current success of Tablets and smartphones is that the thing that they do best is deliver on the promise of the touch screen interface.
If Tablets are going to take off and replace “one out of every 3 PCs*”perhaps the best way to future-proof is to look at touch-screen interfaces. Nearly every major computer manufacturer has launched a chic touch-screen/gesture-based monitor/computer combo in the last year. Perhaps these interfaces will combine all of the power people doing advanced work have come to expect, while using a familiar interface. Webpages can be designed to work on tablets; applications can be tested in something akin to the medium the wide public will use them in.
But not Exactly Future Proof.
But these beautiful, usable, self-contained units aren’t exactly future-proof either. The primary reason I think we were able to enlist the services of our current Dells for so long is that we can crack them open and upgrade them (readers of my blog already know where I stand on this).I don’t know if some of these computers have anything original in them other than the motherboard. We’ve upgraded the RAM, added additional hard drives, installed really nice graphics cards, audio cards with all of the outputs and inputs necessary. I think in order to make the most of the machine, it needs to be upgradeable.
So where does that Leave Us?
I suppose the point of this blog entry wasn’t to say that the lab should go one way, or go the other. I think we should continue to support in earnest the upgradeable and flexible desktop machine capable of meeting the demands of the innovative future, but that does not mean that we should do so at the expense of touch-screen, self-contained, personal computers. Balance is going to be the key: in accommodating the needs, development requirements and trends of the present and supporting the long term uncertain future in the best way we know how. and of course, embracing the fact that we just may be wrong.
*PC stands for “personal computer.” Please don’t confuse this use of the term with Apple’s highly successful rebranding of the term.