Comparing apples with oranges

Tips & Hints

Why computers are not home appliances

21 September, 2002

Choice magazine’s survey about computer reliability compared computers with home appliances such as microwaves, clothes dryers and TVs. Computers did not do well. Choice concluded "computers are far more unreliable than most people would accept from a washing machine or vacuum cleaner."

Computers are not toasters.

Toasters toast, computers do lots of things. There are fifty houses on our street and all of them have toasters, and all of them use toasters to toast. On the other hand there are probably forty computers and every single one of them is used differently to the others.

Computers can be used to surf the net, scan documents, answer faxes, type letters, run accounting packages, maintain databases, instant message with your penpal in Brazil, login to the school or business network and much, much more. Try cooking a lamb chop in your toaster or using a vacuum cleaner to suck up the leaves from your garden. Then you’ll find out about reliability.

Computers are not cars

It is fairer to compare computers to cars. There are costs to running a computer just like there is to a car and, unlike toasters and vacuum cleaners, they both need regular maintenance. But there are differences as well.

Most of us do not run our cars for more than a few hours a day. On the other hand, most computers are left running for hours a day. If you ran a car for eight hours a day, seven days a week your maintenance costs will be higher.

We also tend to stress-test computers. The kids, and some employees, download warez, run file sharing programs and tend to generally tend to push computers to their limit. Much of this is like taking a Barina for a bash down the Gunbarrel Highway. With the much same results.

Reliable computers

Getting a reliable computer means starting by buying a good quality computer. Do not buy on cost and shop around. Just going to the computer superstore and buying the first thing you see is a recipe for disaster.

When you buy it, accept that you have bought a piece of technology that needs regular maintenance and may break down. We accept when we buy a car or a house that we will have to spend money to maintain it. Accept that you’ll have to spend money on your computer.

To improve your computer’s reliability and reduce cost be careful with what you do with it. Check software before you install it, get upgrades done professionally and keep your virus checker up to date. Learn how to carry out basic maintenance.

When you buy new hardware, check it will run with your computer. Do a search on the Internet and read other people's experiences with it. Shop around and ask about the hardware and the alternatives.

In their current form, personal computers will never be as easy to use or as reliable as a toaster or microwave. While they are designed to do more than one thing there will always be some complexity. But you never know, one day they may be as simple to program as a video recorder.

PC Rescue Pty Ltd
Suite 236, 4 Young Street Neutral Bay NSW 2089
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ŠTechnology Publishing Australia, 2011