Friday Ephemera
Elsewhere (174)

Not So

New York Times, December 8, 1985:  

For the most part, the portable computer is a dream machine for the few… On the whole, people don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so.

In 1985, the New York Times claimed a weekday circulation of just over one million copies. Specifically, 1,013,211 on March 31. In 2015, when most Americans have computers in their pockets (and even use them at the beach and on trains), print sales of the New York Times have fallen to around half that figure, and the paper is chiefly read via the kind of devices once dismissed as implausible. Rather than “whiling away the hours reading the sports or business section,” the majority of readers are now “flybys,” their stays lasting for an average of four minutes, generally to read something linked via email and social media. And browsing one article isn’t quite the same thing as reading a newspaper.  

Via Kevin D Williamson



Well, I guess we can add them to the list...

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." -- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." -- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." -- Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"It will be years -- not in my time -- before a woman will become Prime Minister." -- Margaret Thatcher, 1974.

"With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market." -- Business Week, August 2, 1968.

"There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will." -- Albert Einstein, 1932.

Even smart and knowledgeable find it easy to get the future wrong. Do we really expect more from the doofie at the NYT? - Quotes taken from:


And browsing one article isn’t quite the same thing as reading a newspaper.

In their circulation figures they still *count* a four minute 'flyby' as 'reading the paper' though.


In their circulation figures they still *count* a four minute ‘flyby’ as ‘reading the paper’ though.

In much the same way that people who follow certain links from this blog and snort at what they find will be counted as avid Guardian enthusiasts.


And which I suppose leads us to the phenomenon of “clickbait,” in which said paper commissions and publishes articles that are wildly inaccurate and logical ridiculous, and none of the editors seem to care. Presumably because a really terrible piece of writing may be just as likely to be shared on social media, if not more so. That the readers being attracted may be overwhelmingly scornful - of both the article and the paper - doesn’t seem to matter either. Which, from a journalistic point of view, seems awfully close to nihilism.

[ Added: ]

Still, I suppose that for the Guardian clickbait is an ideal business model. In that it’s indistinguishable from what they’ve been publishing earnestly for decades.

Ted S., Catskill Mtns., NY, USA


Of course, Margaret Thatcher wasn't a real woman because she didn't have the proper views.



Ted S

To be fair, Margaret Thatcher was more manly then Barack Obama and a great many of our current crop of male leaders. So is Carly Fiorina, who will be the target of tired "man in drag" hipster wit if she even comes close to the nomination. All the desperately cool kids will be doing it to prove they're part of the in crowd.


One of my favourite tea leaf/crystal ball readings is this one from the Independent:


"In their circulation figures they still *count* a four minute 'flyby' as 'reading the paper' though."

Related: 100 website 'hits' can equal 1 webpage viewed that has 99 images on it (possibly even 1px X px transparent GIFs).

David Gillies

Also note that the almost complete replacement of paper by pixels and the associated unprecedented drop in search and retrieval costs means that confident but inane predictions like this do not linger on some microfiche in a basement but are there ready to be hauled back into the light and mocked. Knowledge of this, however, does not seem to dim the confidence or the inanity (q.v. Yglesias, Matt).

Spiny Norman

Matty Yiggles always seems oblivious to what could have brought on the mockery he regularly receives.


Matty Yiggles always seems oblivious to what could have brought on the mockery he regularly receives.

And so richly deserves.


And let's not forget the eco-doomsters with their infallible prognostications from Malthus (1798) to neo-Malthusian Paul Ehrlich (1968) to 'The Limits of Growth' (1972) our very own climate catastrophists.


Fortunes can change on a dime. We forget the most highly capitalized corporation in history teetered - within a few more disappointing quarters - from bankruptcy in the late 90's, until Steve Jobs introduced the iMac, which was Apple Corporation's Battle of Midway moment.

Around then, it was hip, counterculture and cool to own a Mac, David to Microsoft's Goliath. Public school systems single handedly kept the AAPL brand alive by buying truckloads of them at a time and scattering them in classrooms like snowflakes. My daughter's very first computer printout(awwwww!) from kindergarten class in 1990 came from a Mac or Mac II, can't remember. As she grew older and the school's computers upgraded through time, she graduated never touching a machine from another manufacturer - Apple all the way. This was the typical experience of virtually every child her age born in the mid 80's, at least in our geographic area.

Its been years, of course, since Apple depended on the noblesse oblige of public education to keep them afloat, but one wonders if the long-game strategy of putting a generation of Millenials behind Apple keyboards contributed to the corporation's explosion as they in turn became young buyers in the open market. After all, brand loyalty works in beer and cigarettes, why not CPU's? Or, am I reading too much into it?


After all, brand loyalty works in beer and cigarettes, why not CPU's? Or, am I reading too much into it?

Mebbe . . or not . . . I've never understood the attraction of badly concocted sake(1), and of course tobacco is basically pointlessly lethal, which is why it's more popular with hipsters than adults.

On a very definite other hand, there is the utter and ongoing efficacy of relying upon Unix for all systems from email and web and whatnot servers through basic desktop based email and online chat.

Soooo . . . you report that a kindergarten class in 1990 had some variety of Mac, and therefore had pain free graphics capability, when the PCs were still launching from a command line---Windows 3 doesn't turn up until 1990, as I note these bits from Wiki---, and my memory is of booting up the system, and then starting up Windows after the command line was up and running . . . the bit about going directly to the GUI doesn't start until . . . um . . . sometime after, with lots of really bad publicity from ME, and then XP still doesn't appear until 2001 . . .

And at that point it was all over anyway, because as of 2000, Apple has moved everything from being merely the competition for Windows, to being Unix on a desktop, with the Mac interface sitting on top, all with the arrival of OS X.

Now me, I've never been able to afford Macs, so I've never run 'em. But then again, I don't need to. I sort of basically limped along on XP for rather a bit, and then finally and many years belatedly went about following Apple to the real computing platform by migrating all I do over to PCBSD, which is the UNIX clone variant of FreeBSD, with the graphic interface already installed and configured.

Now, in turn with my assorted animated film making research, in the last few years I have set up a secondary system with Windows 7, so that the Unreal Engine and related software could be tinkered with. But even UE is shifting over to Unix.

And finally, with the latest releases of FreeBSD---and thus PCBSD---and the not the best news I read of the potential really bad configuration(s) of Windows 10, I expect that I will prolly just go ahead and put PCBSD on the second system too . . . and then run a copy of VirtualBox and drop Windows 10 into that, leaving W10 to misbehave all it wants, it'll not be going anywhere . . . .

(1) Oh, right, that footnote. So, why does Budweiser keep having those commercials with those huge horses clopping along? The answer is the basic volume needed for brewing all that bad sake. After all, to do that brewing, what is needed is rice, barley, hops, water, and one of those big horses. The ingredients are loaded in through the front end of the horse, there is a bit of time, and then the bad sake and the processed ingredients are delivered out the other end of the horse.

I expect that all that bit about hipsters and their craft beers all manage to get by with a couple of goats instead of needing one of those huge horses, but clearly the process is the same.

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