It's bad. Ugly appearance, poor system design, negative functionality. It's bad for users, bad for operating system designers, bad for the PC itself. The single greatest obstacle to the evolution of the Personal Computer is that On/Off switch blatantly protruding from the front or side of every PC manufactured today. Ugly, dysfunctional, an impediment to progress, a relic of the past, wrong, it has to go.
Let's consider what the On/Off switch is used for. Some people turn their PC off to save on the electricity bill. The internal electronics of the machine pull about the same current as a 100-watt light bulb. With CL&P charging about a dime a kilowatt-hour that's a quarter a day. The thermal and electrical shock to the electronic components from the on/off voltage surge jeopardizes a thousand dollars of hardware. Will leaving it on wear out the computer before it becomes obsolete? That one doesn't even deserve an answer. The only even remotely useful purpose the On/Off switch serves is as the method of last resort when the user manages to hopelessly hang up the operating system.
So it should not be there, not even hidden on the back panel, not even as an emergency cut-off switch. There are far better protection measures than depending on the user to see smoke coming out.
So what's all this ranting and raving about a triviality like the On/Off switch? Triviality NOT! Let's see what would happen if a PC did not have any such component.
First of all the PC would no longer clutter up the living area of the house. It would become a utility, like the heating or hot water system, always functioning. It moves down into the basement (where it belongs) alongside the furnace and the sump pump. It necessarily has cables and USB-type connection devices in the various rooms of the house where conventional computer applications go on. The home office has only a flat screen and either keyboard or voice input. The kitchen has an electronic bulletin board. The family room has the HDTV screen and home theater sound system. Printers are wherever convenient. The hallways have the security and outside monitor screens. The basement computer processes it all.
Now what we have known as a personal computer takes a giant leap. It becomes primarily a controller rather than just a calculation machine and since it is always on, it can continuously monitor the household functions that provide heating/cooling, security, lighting, and maintenance schedules. Even more meaningful, continuous monitoring means the family schedules, activities, and whereabouts are always available and current. Assigned Internet agents can flash important news and announcements at any time to electronic bulletin boards in the kitchen or other rooms of the house and relay the information to family members where ever they might be. Information processing is both ubiquitous and integrated into all the family activities.
Since the machine is always on, it can be accessed at any time from remote service bureaus. Now we have a completely new environment. System maintenance and diagnostics are done from the remote service bureau and eliminates all hands-on fooling around with the operating system and data storage by system-challenged users. Data is stored at the service bureau, encrypted, backed up, and safer than it ever was at 29 Wistful Vista. Software applications finally get sensible. The apps reside at the service bureau and are downloaded to the home system when called for. No more accumulation of unused, obsolete, unwanted garbage. For the software house, direct dealing with responsible professional service bureaus reduces support staffs and software piracy. For users, lower cost and competitive support sources.
What has happened is that the Personal Computer has evolved to the HomeComputer. Cool. Bill Gates' dream.
Now we have unlimited control potential in every house that has a PC. This turns loose the entrepreneurs. Suppliers of everything that is used in the house, which is just about everything, have opportunities limited only by their imaginations. And then we would have the wild, ingenious, and profit-making binge that characterized early PC development, only on an already existing, vastly larger platform that boggles the imagination.
But aren't we overlooking one small technical detail like reliability? Would you trust your life, fortune, and sacred honor to the grandson of Windows? No way, San Jose.
Does Virtual_Jack have an answer to that one?
Of course he does, for that, and any other technical trivia. We need the reliability of the strategic military systems, the high-finance money transfers, the operating room monitors. In other words we need what already exists, but not presently for PC's.
It would require a bundle of money to develop such capabilities, but a billion dollars in research and development spread over one hundred million PCs is a measly ten bucks a machine. Doable. Now the next question. Would people pay for all this external service that they now do themselves? As the functionality expands, people will accept it the way they do cable TV costs and cellular phone costs. Gradually, all the information costs currently coming in from cable, phone, and other companies will converge just as the services will.
Now we have a new era in PC's. And just think, we could have all this if it weren't for that lousy little On/Off switch.