Robert Dempster
Welcome to my PMB blog, the fourty seventh!
The Desktop Personal Computer,
the Paperless Office, and
Don't touch me on my PC

Proudly South African South African flag

I started my working life as a Physical Science teacher at Glenwood High School in 1971. In 1976 I moved to Technikon Natal where I lectured Physics and Mathematics to Electrical Engineering students. Despite having done a computing course at the University of Natal in 1968, I only really became fascinated the subject during the late nineteen seventies. By 1981 I was lecturing Computer Science at the University fo Durban-Westville. In 1984 I moved to the University of Natal and it was at about this time that I became bound to a desk with a Personal Computer (PC). The PC now occupied a position were books and a pen/pencil and paper had been the predominating features.

That is exactly where I am now, in front of a desk with a 21 inch iMac in the position were books and a pen/pencil and paper had been the predominating features. Back then I used Emacs, a text editor designed to optimize the text editing performance of the touch typist, so much so that it still makes the use of a mouse mostly superfluous. You also never have to, or are even tempted to, touch the screen.

For me this remains the most productive platform for computing that requires the production of material in which text predominates. I would even venture to suggest that this is true for the production of material in which images and video predominate. I was once tempted by a laptop computer. It simply did not cut it on a desktop and so it was not there for very long. I do still have one, but only use it when I leave my desktop to travel.

When tablets arrived on the scene I was not tempted initially. Eventually I did acquire an iPad. All that did was convince me that that tablets are great for browsing the web and viewing images and videos while reclining in an armchair, or anywhere else where a desk is not handy. They obviously are also useful as customised tools much the same as earlier hand held computers where and still are.

Tablets are of course also computing devices designed to be used with swiping gestures, a mode of interaction that is also well suited to armchair use. Not altogether an act unrelated to waving and gesticulating with the TV remote. During the short spell I did try and use my tablet, I soon became irritated by the smudges and finger prints that appeared on its screen. I do not touch my iMac's screen other than to clean it occasionally. During the years I spent helping students in my office with programming problems, I would also make it clear that there was no need to touch my screen in order to point out something displayed on the screen. Was that unreasonable, I think not.

Having gone on about not touching computer and tablet screens, I am quite happy to touch my smartphone's screen and I enjoy and appreciate the tablet-like functionality that it offers. Perhaps that it is because I have been maintaining for years that the cellphone is the future of popular computing. The manner in which it has revolutionised the manner in which Africans communicate is spectacular. When Africa have manages to provide ubiquitous smartphone access to the Internet, the true extent of that revolution will have been realised. In this respect much progress has already been made and the process is only going to speed up.

This communication revolution would not have been possibly without the computing revolution that we have already experienced, and as exciting as it has already been, I believe the best is yet to come. In the mean time, please don't touch me on my PC. With apologies to Touch me on my studio, an eNews incident reported here on YouTube.

By now you must be wondering when I am going to touch on the subject of the paperless office. Well I am not. I did initially intend to do so as I wanted to use this blog to feature an entertaining video clip, but I digressed. So if you are prepared to accept my apologies, here is the clip: Paper has a great future

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