IT has been stuck with a design concept for so long that people find it difficult to think outside the box. That box is the desktop personal computer that once upon a time freed us from the constraints of terminal computing but like so many revolutionary forces eventually ends up constraining a new generation. We have had different box formats (full height, half height, micro, wide, slim), different colours (beige for so long now black and of course some Apple white and transparency), flat screens and various attachments but basically the box has been with us for 25 years . There is of course a reason for the longevity of this design – functionality – it has done the job extremely well with the technology available and the culture in which it operated.
However, all this is about to change – we could regard the desktop computer as a transition device from mainframe terminal to true personal computing.
Technology, culture and society have developed in the last 5 years so that and new devices, designs and ways of using IT will be accepted. The latest mobiles have it all - Internet, GPS, video conferencing, media (audio, video players and recorders), txt, radio, computing and voice – phone is only a tiny part of these devices. Memory is not a problem for mobiles and when compute power, power longevity and human interfaces are improved then they will be contenders to take on the desktop. One scenario for mobiles is that they will act as your personal communications hub in your personal area network interfacing with various devices and other networks. Use your mobile as it is or interface it with a keyboard and screen for a more traditional environment – your mobile will be your personal computer. Tomorrow’s workforce will be used to mobile IT and may come to expect it – regarding our dear old desktop as just that. Environmental factors may make the daily commute to the workplace unacceptable – work from anywhere. In a typical office for example you have to ask yourself why the desk is necessary if you don’t need to shuffle paper or put a desktop PC on it and why the workplace is necessary if you have multiple types of communication available with your
What does this mean for colleges?
We need to prepare to accommodate staff and student personal computing devices in what we do. Staff will be able to use their own computers to do admin and to teach. Students will be able to use their own personal computers in their learning. Increasingly what we do will be done off-site – the college building will act as a hub of a wider activity.
This won’t happen overnight – this is the next 5 to 10year period and there are significant factors to work through (technical, security, management, financial, privacy – you name it) but bit by bit the social and cultural pressure will force change. Whether this change is a problem or an opportunity for a college will depend on the answer to the question:
WHAT DOES A COLLEGE DO?