Here’s the knell sounding: the model-T days of computing are coming to a close. In the first three decades of the last century, when Ford produced its Model T and Model A cars, engines were simple enough that almost anyone could be a mechanic.
The Tin Lizzie could be modified and souped up very easily—with a screwdriver. Similarly, since the 1970s anyone with a screwdriver and a little gumption could re-engineer a computer. Do it on an Apple and you void your warranty—but it can be done.
I had a computer from 1991 to about 2001 whose innards I gradually changed until it really wasn’t functionally the original 16MHz 386 at all. I could also write programs for it. In a sense, that computer is—I still have it in a corner of my office—my Ford A (I had an XT—my Ford T—before it).
Now, with the iPad and iPhone, you can’t fiddle with the innards—and with this Google-Verizon deal, it’s all over.
The future computer will be like the robot-made new Chryslers: you really can’t dabble in the internal computer systems or their firmware or practically anything else, besides replacing a windshield wiper—unless you’re a “certified” something (cybermechanic?).
Now Google has agreed that wireless phones need not have “net neutrality” so that Verizon, say, could block Yahoos’s search engine on phones, if the company so chose.
I understand the logic and the economics. When the average consumer stops being able to build his or her own computing environment and everything about it becomes proprietary, the corporations can give us whatever they want at whatever price they choose on whatever terms they like.
The new consumer ‘puter—just push a button and it’s done—will be efficient and very, very profitable thanks to built-in obsolescence. All information will be back in the hands of corporations.
Welcome to the new cyberspace—you won’t be able to tell it apart from network television.
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