The (In)Difference Engine

P. Atkinson, ‘The (In)Difference Engine:
explaining the disappearance of diversity
in the design of the personal computer’
Journal of Design History 13(1): 2000: 59-72.

indiff1c

indiff2c

indiff3c

Abstract

At the time of writing there is a clear perception of all office computers as being more or less identical. Discussion with users entails repetitive rhetoric as they describe a landscape of boring beige boxes. The office PC is indeed a ‘clone’ – an identical, characterless copy of a bland original.

Through the exploration of an archive of computer manufacturer’s catalogues, this article shows how previous, innovative forms of the computer, informed by cultural references as diverse as science fiction, accepted gender roles and the discourse of status as displayed through objects, have been systematically replaced by the adoption of a ‘universal’ design informed only by the nondescript, self-referential world of office equipment.

The acceptance of this lack of innovation in the design of such a truly global, mass-produced, multi-purpose technological artefact has had an enormous effect on the conception, perception and consumption of the computer, and possibly of information technology itself. The very anonymity of the PC has created an attitude of indifference at odds with its potential.

A full text version of this article can be downloaded from here:

Advertisements

0 Responses to “The (In)Difference Engine”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5 other followers

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: