Scallywag

Make happy those who are near, and those who are far will come.

~ Chinese Proverb ~

Why Are Computers So Much Trouble?

August 12th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 15 secs

How come computers fail so much?

All right, you bought it. Against your better judgment, but it was a good deal and your son declared you needed one. So there it sits amidst a tangle of wires. Your computer.  Yet, despite being told how easy it would be to use, that’s not how things turned out. Instead, this blinking thing has become a niggling hassle.

It goes of course. Well, sort of. The printer plays up all the time, even after hours trying to get it to go. Then there’s that funny window that keeps popping up at the beginning. Can’t get rid of that. You don’t want to admit it, but you live in fear of the darn thing breaking.

So how did it ever come to this? Why do we rely on this technology so much if it’s so unreliable?  The answer lies in the architecture, their power, and companies’ rush to make a profit.

Early personal computers were not much more than curiosities to amuse electronics hobbyists. With blinking lights and little else, they lacked much of the software and attachments to make them practical. Then, by degrees, advances introduced a raft of operating systems and computer programs to get useful things done. Then came computer mice and the graphical interface to reduce the nerd factor of text-only input.

Subsequently, the little boxes with simple blinking lights have become increasingly complex, to handle more practical applications. With greater complications, computers became increasingly likely to keep breaking down.

Printers, famous for their frustration-inducing failure to operate, continue to be a nuisance. That’s because printers are actually computers in themselves, and their complexity makes them less likely to communicate correctly with different PCs.

Aside from the increasing intricacy of hardware and programming, there’s also another fly into the ointment. The eagerness of computer companies to turn a profit means a lot of hardware, and particularly programs and operating systems, have not been ready on release. It’s a bit like buying a car with three wheels. Everything looks fine until you go round to the back and discover there’s a rear wheel missing. The car will still go, you are told. But be prepared for the odd crash. Companies then assure us that there’s a fix in the wind, with a solution expected in the next scheduled upgrade.

All this means we’re paying to be guinea pigs. Effectively, we have been buying beta stage software and gear for years, thinking it was finished. Thankfully, however, things are improving. The basics are tending to work better than ever. Operating systems have now been reworked so much they’re more or less reliable. Slowly, gradually, the bumps are being ironed out, so you should no longer expect constant crashes. But you still ought to expect the odd problem as a matter of course.

So, after a few decades, personal computers are getting better. Generally, you can now use computers without having to constantly hold your tongue in the right spot to get things done. But, don’t expect them to work quite reliably yet. With the odd glitch here and there, personal computers are still like the proverbial girl with the curl: “When she was good, she was very, very good. But when she was bad, she was horrid.”


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