Appliance computing

Noted as a sign of the times:

Goodbye hotkeys, macro programs, end-user customization, and all the detritus of operating systems that were full of holes to crawl into and dumpsters wherein to dive. The new, clean way of computing is on its way. It may be a lot less fun but it’s gonna sell a hell of a lot of Macs.

“Nanny Computing” and the future of OS X

We’re moving – at least in part – to a model of computing where devices are closed, more appliance-like (Android maybe being the exception to this at the mass-market level). This has been a long time coming, but the iPhone and iPad have shown that this model is very attractive in the marketplace. Now we’re seeing it on the desktop too. How long before all computing devices are sealed units, all software is bought in vendor-controlled app stores, no tinkering allowed?

And if we do move to that model, where will the tinkerers, hackers and innovators go? To the ‘open web’, which seems to be being slowly displaced by an app-centric view of the network? Or to new prototyping platforms like Raspberry Pi, which at the moment have no mainstream appeal, and may never have?

I’m not sure yet if this is a one-way road, much less if it’s a net positive or negative, but it sure does feel a long way from earlier ages of computing, when innovators could get their first taste of software writing games for the ZX Spectrum, or developing web apps on the LAMP stack.

Update, 24 May 2012: in a timely coincidence, I see that Nesta have just released a report entitled: The Legacy of the BBC Micro Effecting Change in the UK’s Cultures of Computing (PDF) which tackles exactly this issue:

Concerns about the opacity of modern computers, how the user doesn’t need to know programming (or be creative) in order to make them do things, has gone hand-in-hand with increased nostalgia for the BBC Computer Literacy Project (CLP). Many claim that this 1980s project illustrates a time when Britain had the right kind of enthusiasm for computing, and got the transparency of the machine right. The CLP backed a new microcomputer – the BBC Micro – and developed a broad portfolio of activities aimed at making computer programming and powerful computing tools accessible to everyone.