PCs

Confusing, frustrating, user-unfriendly: Why the PC sowed the seeds of its own demise

The PC is a relic of the bygone age...

As tablets and smartphones elbow the PC out of the way, silicon.com's chief reporter Nick Heath argues that the arrogant, unfriendly PC has been the architect of its own demise.

If the PC is dying, as one of its inventors recently asserted, it really only has itself to blame.

The Little Britain catchphrase "Computer says no" resonated with a nation of frustrated computer owners for a reason - it was recognition that too often it is the PC that calls the shots, not its user.

Its demise has been a long time coming - and it's the result of the refusal of hardware and software designers to make a PC that caters to the needs of users.

Typically, using a Wintel PC demands users be versed in the ways of system drivers and video codecs - or run the risk of butting into an inscrutable error message that brings the machine to a crashing halt.

stressed man with laptop

Using the PC has remained a painful experience for too longPhoto: Shutterstock

That the PC remains stuck in a singularly user-unfriendly rut was bought home to me when my netbook conked out recently.

Having bought a shiny new Windows 7 laptop, I blithely assumed that the process of copying my old files over from my previous machine to my new one would be a straightforward task.

Wrong.

On starting the copying process I was greeted with a disconcerting message telling me that I didn't own the files. I did, yet still the products of my digital labours had been snatched away from me and were now orphaned and inaccessible to all.

A protracted Google hunt identified plenty of solutions to this ownership problem, not one of which could be described as intuitive to the average PC user.

Workarounds ranged from installing Linux as a virtual machine and recovering the files outside of Windows to changing the object ownership of each file - worlds apart from the "Open a word document" level of expertise that I gleaned from my Clait certificate.

For me, the solution lay buried several layers deep within a Windows menu, and required multiple boxes to be ticked and unticked and labels to be changed.

I don't consider myself a complete novice when it comes to tech, but I still found myself...

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

4 comments
Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

is already well known for being user unfriendly and for ignore the industry standards. Try some of the other operating systems out there and look at where they came from. Every problem you've cited is something developed in Windows since Microsoft turned their back on Industry Standards while creating Win 95, and they are ones that a very easy to deal with in most Unix / Linux installations. Yes, the PC is changing and coming up with many new sub-varieties, but it is still there and will continue to be there in some form or another for generations to come.

RussellXPD
RussellXPD

The PC bashers are at it again. You are wrong. For the PC to fail it needs to fail across many different layers at the same time. The layer I have in mind here is the large number of silver surfers, retired people, in western European countries. These people are financially secure enough to own their own desktops. Unlike their younger working contemporaries they do not need to take their smartphones, tablets and handhelds around the country because they're mainly in one place. Their PC is their base and they have much less need of mobile devices. There are millions of these people! Reasonably financially secure, they appreciate the stability that an immobile computer can offer. Even if the commercial sector wished to make these machines obsolete, I believe that our friends in the open source sector will have many ways of keeping PCs alive well into the 21st century. Who, these days, has got a radio? And what about the death of the novel? I'm quite sure Nick Heath, if he had been inclined, could have written a contrary article completely agreeing with me.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The article is year old. Usually we try to avoid digging up the dead around here, but in this case id does ironically point out the inaccuracy of yet another premature obituary.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

and anyway, I didn't see it then, so I just had to comment now.