I saw my first black computer in a shop window in Richmond about twenty years ago and suddenly realised the potential for offering people attractive computers. That was when you could buy a PC in any shade of beige you liked. The fact that manufacturers could put such an exciting devise into such a dull box suddenly seemed quite stupid in light of these beautiful black boxes. I saw the need for attractive cases in a variety of forms and colors and expected the next revolution in PC sales was just around the corner.
Obviously there was a big market for attractive computers, one that wasn’t being exploited. Twenty years on and black was the new beige. The market had seen an opportunity and ruthlessly exploited it by offering…a single color. Not even a color really, since black isn’t a color. And now everything was black; cases, monitors, keyboards, mice…everything. Black keyboards are a poor choice, being hard to see in low light. As someone who has been asked to source a white keyboard for people with elderly eyes (or just an ounce of commonsense) I can tell you that nearly everything is universally black. Viva la difference.
If you didn’t want a black rectangle in your room the choices were limited to hyper-macho game cases or futuristic ugly towers. The fact that women might buy computers seemed to have totally escaped every manufacturer on the planet…except Apple. I know women who bought an Apple purely based on its aesthetic. And why not? Faced with a choice of criminally ugly utilitarian black boxes women bought the only other computer on the market that was halfway attractive.
Years later and Dell now sells a few PCs in different colors and…well it’s just Dell really. Everything else is black. The idea that people want something exciting for their PC escapes most manufacturers, who are still selling the steak and not the sizzle. With PCs at a stage where most are capable of doing all the usual tasks with apparent ease (and I’m typing this on a little Eee-PC, one of today’s lowliest processors) it’s about time manufacturers started looking at the place computers have in our house (ie, it’s not always the office or study) and the way they fit into that space. People don’t buy industrial fridges and appliances and they shouldn’t have to buy industrial PCs.
We move on and the industry now has something they can understand…a new technology. And they’re embracing it with all the gusto with which they took on black. And suddenly touch screens are the new black. It’s getting the point where you can’t even buy a top-end phone with a keyboard (except for Nokia’s N97, read my review). Viva la difference.