Monday, March 26, 2007

To Each His Own

This will save the mainstream media. Reuters reports that a third of American households have no plans to access the Internet. "Park Associates, a Dallas-based technology market research firm, said 29 percent of U.S. households, or 31 million homes, do not have Internet access and do not intend to subscribe to an Internet service over the next 12 months." The top reasons given were "I'm not sure how to use the Internet" followed by "I do all my e-commerce shopping and YouTube-watching at work".


Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

So at least a 1/3 of the population are dumber than a pile of rocks...cheery stuff you have been running lately Wretchard. hehe.

No-Fault Citizenship...its not my fault

3/26/2007 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

Oh, I think the percentage is way up from that.

As I mentioned here last year, most Americans use their computers and the internet for the simpler things like porn, recipes, tv and movie schedules and the like.

Blogs...? Oh, that is what you can get your car stuck in. Or "didn't they make a movie about the creature from the blog?"

Oh, I forgot one other popular use for the internet.

Downloading music and movies.

Papa Ray
West Texas

3/26/2007 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

How much free money to spend do you suppose anyone has who doesn't know how to use the internet?

And if they *are* uneducated and poor, how much power does that mean they have, and how much attention will anyone pay to them ... including the media.

3/26/2007 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger 49erDweet said...

I'm not as confident of Park Associates conclusions as Reuters, apparently. I think its probably more like "whistling in the dark" for the news firm - trying to drum up customers, et al.

In the last 10 years or so I've been associated with a middle class adult charitable group numbering in excess of 250 households - a group I believe to be slightly above normal in spendable household income than average - which has gone from less than 10% computer access enabled to far over 85%. Quite a growth spurt, and if accurate reflective of no more than a remaining 15% pile of 'rocks', pierre and w.

3/26/2007 11:58:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

I tend to think a lot of those who will never get an Internet subscription consciously are the elderly. Some time ago I went shopping for a washing machine for my parents and learned pretty quickly that you get a washing machine with dials and switches, not these things with a digital control panel or it confuses the heck out of them.

I get approached by elderly people who have no idea how to adjust the time on digital watches given to them as gifts. You know, the kind where you press two or more buttons at once to activate a function and then, by trial and error, scroll through the options by holding one of them down. You should see the look of everlasting gratitude on their faces when it finally gets set to the hour. And then there is the question of the 24 hour "military time" display which it sometimes switches to ... but that's another tory.

3/27/2007 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger James said...


I've noted the same thing with the elderly, and really began noticing it around the 1980s with Japanese consumer electronics: the trend then (a little less so now, but still continuing) was to load products with all sorts of buttons. This, of course, resulted in very small buttons and very small print. These devices were often times completely unusuable for many elderly folks simply due to their loss of visual acuity and fine motor movement. If they're an old time who was a manual laborer and they developed calloused fingertips... forget it.

Things are considerably better in many areas now. The success of the iPod is, I believe, in large part attributable to a "less is more" user-interface consisting of large, easy to manipulate control surfaces. I've noticed that many consumer electronics are lacking the vast numbers of tiny buttons and verbiage compared to some years ago.

3/27/2007 01:03:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

My brother was dead set against the net because of all the evil things that were going to force themselves onto his computer. His additional position as a rural route postal steward required that he be connected to the net and now he is savvy enough to forego the imagined fears. The learning curve to the operational level isn't that slow, as he now knows.

3/27/2007 01:06:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Ladies and Gentlemen: Think about this a bit and you will agree with me.

If any other appliance in my house had the same reliability as an PC with an Internet connection I would dropkick it into the street and laugh maniacally as the cars smashed it to flinders.

We have a LONG way to go to bring this technology to the point where it has as least as good reliability as a badly designed flush toilet - to say nothing of ease of use.

3/27/2007 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger NooYawkah said...

If I read correctly, there's a good number of people who aren't going to subscribe to an internet service simply because they can use the 'net for free at work. That's not exactly avoiding the internet.

For the rest, new user interface technology, like this may help some who are techno-phobic to change their mind.

3/27/2007 07:34:00 AM  
Blogger Elmondohummus said...

RWE's got a point. I work in support, and I personally see on a daily basis just how many ways this technology can break or confuse people.

We don't realize that in this "modern" time that we're actually in the Model T days of computing and networking. Computers and connectivity technology has so much further to go before it has the simple reliability of the average toaster.

3/27/2007 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

My suspicion is that a large portion of the 'no plans to access the net in the next 12 months' crowd are elderly.

I recall trying to explain computers, and the internet, to my grandmother when she was 93. The look on her face suggested that she thought I was making black magic incantations. And she was in no way and unintelligent person. Many elderly lead very sheltered lives, not even watching much (if any) television. It's no surprise then that they're not only computer illiterate, they have no idea why they would want to become computer literate! After all, they've gotten along fine without computers their whole lives already!

3/27/2007 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

How long before one of the Democratic Presidential contenders declares, "We have a crisis in
America! Millions of Americans have no Internet access. I have a plan!"

3/27/2007 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger Cobb said...

I think the answer is actually very simple. There is nothing on the internet these people want to see. There is no compelling reason for them to interact with it.

Believe it or not there are still people who believe that relationships with people can only begin face to face. But that's not the only aspect, it's really about what people perceive to be real experience.

For the life of me I can't see sitting at say a tennis match next to a friend as sharing a 'real' experience. See?

3/27/2007 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

I gave up home internet access when I moved to my new house in Chicago last year. The reason is simple: the ubiquity of free wireless broadband. I can access the internet from the library, my local coffee shop, my favorite lunch spot, the local Burger King, etc.

This is a trend that will only increase in the future. Okay, downloading porn is best done at home, but aside from that...

The other trend to watch is online data storage. You can access your data from anywhere on any computer. Google offers free E-mail and a free wordproccesor/spreadsheet. It may be that the whole concept of a desktop "home computer" will be obsolete in five years.

3/27/2007 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Evanston said...

Like NooYawkah said, a lot of these people get the Internet at work. From the Reuters article:
- "I'm not sure how to use the Internet" = 17 percent of participants who do not subscribe.
- "I do all my e-commerce shopping and YouTube-watching at work" was cited by 14 percent of Internet-access refuseniks.
- Three percent said the Internet doesn't reach their homes.
From my family I know that 1 spouse tends to do more, if not all, Internet browsing at work, so I believe many of these "refuseniks" are also housewives.

3/27/2007 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger Db2m said...

The reason a lot of folks don't do the internet is because they don't have time, what with having to stand in line at the seven eleven to pay their state taxes, er, buy lottery tickets.

3/27/2007 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger dick stanley said...

I wonder how many of the refuseniks are over 50? The MSM is surviving right now on people 40 and over, while watching the young ignore them in favor of the Internet, or, at most, TV news.

3/27/2007 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger doolz said...

"didn't they make a movie about the creature from the blog?"

It was "Creature from the Blog Lagoon".

3/28/2007 01:04:00 AM  
Blogger MikeZ said...

Perhaps they might consider doing the next survey somewhere other than rural Arkansas.

Wretchard: "I get approached by elderly people who have no idea how to adjust the time on digital watches given to them as gifts." How many 30-somethings still have VCRs with blinking "12:00" displays? Or have TV/cable systems they need 5 or 6 remotes to control?

Yashmak: Your grandmother who was 93 was born not long after 1900. No airplane had flown yet - there weren't any, and only a few balloons could carry people. If you wanted a car (and not many did), you could have one that was black. If you wanted to go cross-country, you booked a room on a train with a sleeping car, and set aside a couple of days for the trip. When you got a phone call, you listened for the number of rings to see if it was for you or your neighbor.

By the time we get to 93 (and there's a fair chance of that), we'll be the Old Timers, stuck in the Old Ways of big ol' computers that have to sit on your desk and have great big screens and only hold a few hundred gigabytes on their disk. Or even the big ol' computers that take up a whole pants pocket. Or that aren't hard-wired to your brain cells.

3/28/2007 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger the mad fiddler said...

I am a computer graphics professional, having started with a fortran course back in 1969, writing a crummy program on punched cards that I passed through a window to a lab-coated technician so that a day later I could play against the computer on an IBM selectric terminal.

I have never programmed a single VCR to stop blinking; I cover the damned light emitting diode with black tape. I stopped wearing watches at least fifteen years ago, because I am surrounded by appliances and gadgets, speaking, blinking, flashing, tapping, beeping, and otherwise finding annoying ways to remind me of the passage of time's hurtling arrow.

When I was on faculty in University of Cincinnati's School of Art in the early 1990's the industrial design students made me awaken to a keener appreciation of good design compared to simple crass trendiness. Working with a lot of extremely clever engineers in Silicon Valley in the games industry later, I came to appreciate even more why some elaboration of functions in electronic products and software is desireable, and why other stuff is just rubbish.

Old bit of wisdom: "An artisan uses 10 percent of his tools to do 90 percent of his work." It's even more true now. This the truth that justifies including thousands of functions in Photoshop, Illustrator, Maya, Quark, Excel, TurboTax, whatnot. Different people will use different tools, and only occasionally need to venture afield from their familiar tasks.

In the fullness of time, maybe we will be able to get toast or our tax returne depending on whether we insert a slice of bread or a W-2 form into the slot.

But it's pretty darned certain that the alleged Mainstream Media long ago ceased to deliver the essential information we need to make decisions in our lives.

But if you need to change your car's crankcase oil in your garage, The NYT may protect the concrete from the drips.

3/29/2007 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

An old highschool buddy has recently retired from a successful career as the CEO of a medium sized business near Chicago. He does not know how to attach a file to an e-mail, so he snail-mails bundles of manually Xeroxed right-leaning newspaper articles to his left-leaning former highschool pals, to 'educate' them. His old buddies, who are now wrapping up their own careers as teachers, computer programmers and data network administrators, just smile and shake their heads.

3/30/2007 08:43:00 AM  

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