Class, Internet, and the Industrial System

glevy at acnet.pratt.edu glevy at acnet.pratt.edu
Fri Jul 28 14:24:45 MDT 1995


Louis:

I'm sorry.  You wrote "articles" in your previous post and I understood
that to mean non-electronically published copy.  My mistake.  I guess we
are writing "articles" each time we send a message to the list.  What a
thought!  I wonder if administrators and faculty would be impressed with
my recent Net articles? (a question of note for those of us in academia
for whom publishing is considered as one factor in the evaluation,
re-appointment, and promotional processes).

As for your post evoking the memory of Che Guevara, I did not say or
imply that computer programmers were bureaucrats (as the snip from my
post clearly indicates).

While we're on this subject, I have some interesting (and contradictory)
examples to cite concerning the computer industry and computer sales.

Last month I saw a advertisement in "Staples" (a office supply chain) for
a Pentium 100 computer, large color monitor, 1.2 gig. HD, 8 MB RAM, 4x
CD-ROM, multimedia, and 14.4 baud modem system with bundled software for
$1995.  A  very dramatic drop in computer hardware prices has taken place
in the  last six months.  In many cases, one can buy a system for at
least $500  less than that system would have cost at the beginning of
this year.  The  system I described above was estimated in March to be
available *by the  end of 1995* at the above price.  So ... computer prices
are declining more rapidly than projected by most industry analysts.

On the other hand ... there are many sectors of the economy which
continue to use obsolete computer hardware and software.  A few
examples:

1) In the banking industry *many* bank branches continue to use old 386sx
computers.  Go into your bank and check it out.  Ask someone why they
don't have newer systems.  You will hear some interesting explanations
(and , most probably, some funny stories).

2) In colleges, secretaries and support staff frequently use 286 computers!
(budget cuts in both private and public colleges have affected capital
budgeting decisions).  In the public schools (K-12), the situation is
often even more extreme with Apple IIc's and Macintosh Plus's in high supply.

3) Most surprisingly, the Department of Defense even employs many
obsolete computer systems at super-secret military research facilities! I
can't tell you the name of the plant which employs mostly computer
designers and scientists since I don't want to get "Deep Throat" in
trouble with that person's employer (and the FBI).  Anyway, different
departments use different computers -- some use 386sx's and others use
old Macintoshes.  Some people in the same department use different
operating systems -- such as DOS, Windows, and IBM Warp.  Each person
uses whatever software programs they prefer -- for instance, some use MS
Word and others WordPerfect for word processors.  They also use whatever
other graphics, CAD, math, and scientific programs they desire.  There is
*no* group software or communications program that allows for
inner-department or intra-department exchanges.  If they want to send a
message to the next room they write a e-mail message and send it via the
Internet.  Well ... I found the above rather interesting.  So, I asked
"Deep Throat" what was going on.  DT said that that particular facility
wasn't getting the funding for new computers and software systems and
that mgt. didn't even attempt to have uniform software programs because
the programmers and scientists couldn't agree on what programs to use.
Another reason cited was the cost of re-training the workers in how to
use the different programs -- a cost that the DOD didn't wish to
undertake.  Crazy, isn't it? (we're better off anyway as their
inefficiencies slow the development of weapons of mass destruction).

What do all of the examples above have in common?  They all concern ways
in which the diffusion (generalized adoption) of new computer
technologies are impacted by a large number of uncertain and
unpredictable variables.

Jerry



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