Drawing the Line at Home Computers

TWO married friends of mine - educated, seemingly rational people - asked me to help them choose a home personal computer, or PC. This wasn't the first time I'd assisted in this joyless task. As the senior editor for a national computer publication, I've played digital midwife countless times.

But like so many of my baby-boomer friends with spare money in their pocket (not enough to buy a house mind you; like most boomers, all they can afford is electronic do-dads), they didn't really know why they wanted a PC. They only knew they had to have one.

This ugly little trend got started several years ago when Time magazine named the personal computer the ``man of the year.'' Since then, the PC has become a fashion statement, a statement of economic class, like designer jeans and BMWs. In fact, not having a PC at home raises suspicions that your entire personal portfolio can be managed on the back of an ordinary envelope.

But unless you're part of America's home work force - let's say you run a breeder nuclear reactor in your garage - don't take the PC plunge. Married women who barely see their husbands should take particular note. If you thought football was bad, remember this: The home PC knows no season. And like the '57 Chevy that husbands of old lavished money and attention on, the PC is always up on blocks, needing yet another memory board or that bigger hard disk.

Consider some of the other side effects:

Say goodbye to carefree weekends retiling the bathroom or changing the kitty box. When you have a PC at home, office work migrates to the suburbs with you. Remember - a box of floppy disks can hold the equivalent of 2,500 pages (six briefcases worth) of mind-dulling reports.

Say hello to ``enhanced'' productivity. With ``multitasking'' software, you can do the equivalent of driving a car, writing a letter, and carrying on a conversation, all at once. What a breakthrough!

Discover the laws of physics when you and your careerist mate try to work on the same PC at the same time. If you and your honey never fought before, now's the chance.

My advice? Let the PC revolution pass your home by. Woody Allen is reported as saying that work was the most important thing in life, perhaps the only thing. Don't you believe it. Take that walk in the park. Go to a baseball game. Learn your kids' names. And leave the PC in the office, where God and IBM intended.

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