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Editor's Note: The Future of Computing is the Yugo

Aug 15, 2008, 23:02 (14 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

Well here we are in the 21st century, and my burning question of the day is: Why are computers so dratted slow? I remember all the way back to the 286 CPU. You didn't get any kind of graphical interface with that, and it had a tiny amber or green screen. Dual 5.25" diskettes, no hard drive, etc. blah blah, you know the specs- uphill both ways in the snow. My first "real" PC was a 386 with 4- count 'em, 4 whole megabytes of RAM. I worked mostly in MS-DOS because Windows 3.1 was almost as useful as a sack of bent nails.

I know that performance really has increased a lot, and applications are more complex and powerful than ever, but it doesn't always feel like it. I have nice modern systems with gighertz CPUs and boatloads of RAM and big fast hard drives. If these machines were people they would win athletic events. And yet my CPU redlines when I hit certain Web sites. I know that modern script-insane crappily-coded sites are notorious for bogging down Web browsers- but why does it bog down my whole system? Sometimes I can't even switch to a different application until the dratted thing calms down.

So I try different browsers- sometimes Konqueror works well, sometimes Firefox, sometimes different versions of Firefox, and sometimes Dillo is the hero of the day.

Now that I think about it, Web surfing is my #1 source of both happiness and irritation. I love having a whole world of information at my fingertips, and talking to people all over the world. Uh oh, I just had another horrifying thought- if television and modern marketing are homogenizing influences, eradicating cultural identity and reducing everyone to Velveeta, Levi's, and Britney, what will the Internet do?

But let's not get distracted from the main point, which is a lot of Web sites are slow, buggy wastes of time, and it seems the bigger the company the worse their site is. They don't seem to be getting better, and the current fad is moving all computing to the Web browser. Isn't this just like standardizing transportation on the Yugo?

I'm probably being too pessimistic. After all, we take telephones for granted; I'll wager the early years were pretty bumpy, and people went around grumbling about bad service and gummy connections and by gosh, carrier pigeons were still the most reliable message transport. Still, you're not going to catch me messing with Google Docs or any of these other newfangled buzzworded contraptions until a couple of generations of early adopters have suffered sufficiently. If the Internet gets any more polluted, unsafe, and slow, I just may revert to yellow tablets and pens. Or pigeons.