Cheap Thrills

Most people with a job that involves computers inevitably have a second, unpaid gig as first-line technical support for their family, and I am no exception. So it was that today I found myself investigating why my mum’s laptop, an Acer Aspire, had recently begun to run very slowly.

Eventually I tracked the problem down to two pieces of software, “Virgin Media Security”, a free anti-virus product they provide free to their broadband customers, and “Western Digital Smartware”, which is supplied with their portable hard-drives to help with backups. Both were chewing up CPU cycles and got uninstalled post-haste, after which things improved considerably. Anti-virus duties were passed over to Microsoft Security Essentials.

Anyway, while working on the laptop, I created an admin user for myself, and upon logging in for the first time, was met with the following as the default desktop background:


Just take a look at that for a second. Let it really sink in. I don’t I could find a better pictorial representation of the dearth of imagination and inspiration that characterises the PC market. Imagine, a person has just bought a new Acer laptop. They take it out of its box, unwrap it, switch it on, and log in to windows for the first time. And that is what they see. Their computer shows a glamour photo of another computer. The same computer, more or less.

The mundanity and commoditisation of the PC market, versus Apple’s domination of the high-end, is a problem that goes far beyond OEM desktop backgrounds, but as a visual metaphor, this seems to exemplify it rather well. There’s a vague intention to differentiate products via customisation and branding, but via cheapness and a staggering lack of vision, the only result is this absurd banality and a plethora of pre-installed crapware.

If only. That would demonstrate a degree of creative-thinking and humour obviously quite absent here.






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