The Dumb Terminal

One of Nicholas Carr’s predictions concerns the future where the cloud computing idea that I outline in Chapter 7 leads to a world where most users will communicate with the Internet using a computer just associated with a browser – this can lead to issues about central control that authors such as Jonathan Zittrain discuss. In this way I would class him with other dystopians-albeit an accidental dystopian-that I describe in Chapter 8. A difference is that Carr flies in from a commercial viewpoint.

It is worth saying that when I refer to a computer as a ‘dumb terminal’ in my book what I refer to is a computer with minimal or no file storage and a small operating system where access to the outside world is solely via some web browsing program. The term ‘dumb’ refers to the fact that there is very little processor intelligence required outside that of running a browser. Here’s Carr on this topic:

‘But once utility services mature, the idea of getting rid of your PC will become more and more attractive. At that point, each of us will have access to virtually unlimited online storage as well as a rich array of software services … Having our files and software locked into our PC’s hard drive will be an unnecessary nuisance. Companies like Google and Yahoo will likely be eager to supply us with all-purpose utility services … for free. We may find, twenty or so years from now, that the personal computer has become a museum piece, a reminder of a curious time when all of us were forced to be amateur computer technicians.’

Here is another aspect of Carr’s Big Switch vision; this time being pessimism about job prospects.


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