Technology, consumption and the future : the experience of home computing
This study of the home computer boom is of relevance to wider discussions of consumption, innovation and popular attitudes towards science and technology. Based primarily on empirical work with computer users, it also explores the various media, commercial, academic and political discourses which contributed to the boom. The home computer boom was an event which amounted to more than the sum of individual decisions to purchase and use micros. It is testimony to the influence of visions of a world shaped by technology in the public imagination. Contact with the home computer was mediated by powerful beliefs about the future significance of information technology both inside and, most importantly, outside the home. Many buyers had only vague notions of the nature and capabilities of their micro and how it would fit into their lives - these were issues to be resolved after purchase. Obtaining a machine was just the first stage in 'computer careers' which were often marked by shifting commitments to computing. Any simple ends-orientated view of micro use is inadequate. Much computing, even with advanced and, supposedly, practical hardware and software, has a strong exploratory element. The example of home computing shows how, rather than being an absolute which determines demand, the usefulness of goods is constructed and negotiated in specific social contexts. An issue which preoccupied many was 'finding a use' for the computer. They can be seen investigating and debating the value of various applications. This is not simply resolved at a individual or household level. It is part of a process of innovation - yet to be fully resolved - which takes place across the spheres of production and consumption.