Is the Computer the New TV?

If you are reading this, I am fairly certain that I know at least two things about you. First, you are likely sitting at a computer terminal that has Internet access. Second, you are neither of my parents nor my brother.

I believe you are at a computer because this site is a web publisher and even when people want to share my articles, I suspect that they are e-mailed or posted on Facebook instead of printed and mailed to Cousin Ernie in Hoboken. I believe you are neither of my parents nor my brother because, despite my protests, neither my parents’ home nor my brother’s house have computers.

I’ve tried over the years to induce my parents to buy a computer. In the early 80’s, when my friends were using early generation Macintosh computers to do their research papers and reports for school, I was still using a typewriter. My parents thought that was fine. I tried to explain all of the benefits of getting a computer, but they never listened.

In the 1990’s I sent both my parents and my brother computers in the hope that they would find the Internet too interesting to ignore. My parents never plugged in their computer and my brother used his for less than a week. Even now, more than a year after I started writing, and half a year after my moment in the sun on ABC News Now, my parents and brother have never read my writings or seen my video clip. For that matter, they have never sent an e-mail, are completely unfamiliar with Facebook, have never shopped at Amazon, have never done any of the multitude of things that the rest of us do on a regular basis with our computers.

Even more importantly, my parents and my brother are content with their lives completely devoid of computers. My mother still sends me a letter about once each month. Even though she can call me on the phone, she still believes that a written letter allows greater self-expression and is more enjoyable to read. My parents still do all of their shopping in brick and mortar stores and, if the stores near their home do not have an item available, they patiently order it. If they need to prepare a formal response to business correspondence, they still have a typewriter. Their camera is not digital and its film is developed at Walgreens. They do not play solitaire for countless hours at their desks. In short, they live almost exactly as I remember my house in 1979. My brother’s home is the same and could have been used as the set for That ’70’s Show.

Last week, I wrote an article about my desire to do away with my television. I was pleasantly surprised by most of the responses. It seems that many of my readers are not TV addicts either. After I saw everyone’s responses, I realized that for many of us, our computers have replaced our televisions. I then tried to extend my thoughts about the TV to thoughts of justifying getting rid of my computer to save money. I just could not and cannot wrap my mind around that idea. I mean… We need our computers, right?

But for my parents completely contented lives without a computer, I would never even have considered it possible to live a computer-free life. It’s not like my parents or my brother live in the woods of Northern Canada. Dad is a retired dentist. Mom is a full time busy-body housewife. My brother is only 41 years old. If they can do it, why can’t I?

Of course, a big part of the reason that I could never give up my computer is that at the moment, I am doing a lot of writing for web-based publications. I need my computer to do that. Also, I enjoy the convenience and money saving opportunities that I can find by shopping at on-line retailers. Moreover, I am connected to almost everyone I know by web-based communications. Indeed, I have communicated all of the publishers for whom I write solely by e-mail. For that matter, when I schedule interviews for the “day jobs” that I am pursuing, I take care of all of the logistics via e-mail.

Computers are expensive machines to buy. The Internet is an expensive monthly cost. I don’t deny that. Nevertheless, I can’t see any of us doing without them. Accordingly, I suspect that our computers would be among the last costs that we would ever give up.
As for my parents, I hope that someday I can persuade them to get a computer. Failing that, I will work on my brother. I am not optimistic, however, because they each live within four miles of a library with Internet access and none of them is willing to go on-line. They are true modern primitives.

What do you think? Could you ever give up your computer and Internet connection? How do you control your costs of going on-line and maintaining your computer? Why do you feel that a personal computer and Internet access is essential for your household? Do you even think that?

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17 Responses to Is the Computer the New TV?

  1. Broken Arrow says:

    I’ve been living for years now without a TV, subsisting only on the computer with internet access. And I must say, I find this far better than any television.

    The old method involves me finding the times to the shows I want to watch, and then making sure I set aside my time to be available then.

    The new method admittedly involves me finding the shows I want to watch first, but once it’s found and is accessible, I can watch it at my leisure.

    The difference is immense. I watch what I want, when it works best for me! And computers don’t stop with just TV shows.

    On top of that, a computer can be highly interactive, whereas a TV, you just kind of sit there.

    My parents have computers, but they rarely use it themselves. They’re still getting the hang of email. Certainly, a life without computers is possible, but I for one can not see myself in that world.

  2. Annie Jones says:

    Could I EVER give up my computer and internet access. Sure. Although I wouldn’t enjoy it at first, I’d adapt.

    I often think I spend too much time on the computer as it is. When the computer isn’t working or internet service is temporarily out, I find I’m much more active and get more done. There have been times when I’ve intentionally “grounded” myself from computer just so I could get some projects done.

    Would giving up the computer and internet save money? Yes. Our costs are minimal – just internet access, a yearly upgrade of virus protection and the electricity to run the thing, but that still amounts to $500 a year for us. However, I can easily make that much or more by using the comptuer to sell things on eBay or craigslist, so the cost is really a wash for us.

    Do I think the computer is ESSENTIAL for our home. No. It is a very nice convenience, but our household would not come to a dead stop (not even close) if we didn’t have it.

  3. Yes, I think it is the new TV. It’s better than a TV. But TV has it’s place too, like when we’re lying in bed.

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  4. Yes. Computer is the new TV (not the monitor but the cable i.e.,

    content provider).

    I covered similar topic at Why I (you) don

  5. Ann says:

    LOL I was afraid of that! My electricity hiccupped just as I was about to post my comment and I lost the whole danged thing! 🙂

    The computer is now essential to me. Finally got my website ( ) up earlier this year and it makes commerce a lot easier!

    The computer is also priceless when I’m researching something that I want to sculpt both for pictures and information. (Did you know that one of octopus’ favorite meals is lobster? 🙂 ) Plus, I have no cartillage in my knees and can’t comfortably do mall walks when I’m looking for gifts, so it’s great for style and price comparisons and purchasing things to be delivered right to my door.

    If it weren’t for the computer, I probably wouldn’t know whether my brother was dead or alive! The guy works the kind of hours I used to when I was in corporate and I don’t think he could live without his blackberry and computer connection. He’s really one of the few people I’ve encountered who actually shows more of his caring side in his occasional emails than he does the rest of the time. LOL

    All that being said, I do like to occasionally get completely away from electronics. I only carry a cell phone for emergency calls out when I travel and, otherwise, it’s never turned on. When I travel, I also don’t take a computer with me. With the website, that may have to change a tad, if I travel for longer than a couple of days, but I’m avoiding that for as long as possible! 🙂

  6. kenyantykoon says:

    i dont think i will ever give up the internet connection and laptop. one of the major reason apart from all the fresh news i get before everybody else is my internet business and all the fun things online. the only reason that can make my buy a tv is for video games but then i can use my laptop for that. the tv companies must be cursing the computer companies. as for the cost of the internet, it doesnt cost me anything because i use the connection at the library and they dont seem to mind me sitting there for hours on end, i dont even think that they notice me.

  7. Princessperky says:

    You can have my computer when you pry it from my…well I am not that attached, but still it is pretty important to me…

    Typing skills are almost more important than writing, children who do not know how to get around basic programs are at a disadvantage in the work world.

    So I will be keeping my computer for that and many other reasons, which I would love to list, but I have to check on FB, someone might have commented on my status update: ‘still here at the computer’ 🙂

  8. Monkey Mama says:

    I’ve never thought as a computer as expensive. But I grew up in Silicon Valley and there were always hand-me-downs galore. Everyone is moving on to the newer/faster thing every 5 minutes. Most of our peripherals we have had since we were like age 16 (they don’t need up be upgraded generally – just the box does). We tend to keep our computers “forever” and hand them down to the kids when we upgrade. We have a computer hierarchy in our house. When it’s time to get a new one, everyone else gets a hand-me-down.

    Plus, you can always use one at a library, etc.

    (I am thinking back to message board days of yore when people would complain they were “poor” and the immediate response was always, “If you are so poor, why do you have a computer?” Which always struck me as odd. Who said they were even using their own computer?).

    Is internet essential? Yes! I am 33 and the internet age exploded when I graduated college. But I am old enough to remember “life before internet.” It continually amazes me the time saved and ease that the internet brings to our lives. I personally view it as more of a necessity than a luxury. I could live without if I had to. But the cost is really nothing considering all the benefits.

    I defended the TV quite a bit in that post, but I think the internet is FAR more useful.

  9. Sometimes I use my tv to look to a movie with a lot of friends, but I never look at the programs on tv because there are not very much intelligent and new programs.

    Besides, a lot of programs you can see at the internet at the moment you want.

  10. Matthew says:

    I work in an IT related field and as a result I perform my own maintenance. I find it amazing people can afford to own a computer with the number of things that can go wrong and how dangerous the internet is becoming. Granted, I see many people using computers that are 5-8 years old so their initial cost is mitigated. In retrospect and in all honesty, I think I would like to be able to give up my computer. Maybe after I retire in several more decades.

  11. persephone says:

    I rarely use my computer other than as a word processor. I only just got an e-mail account about a month ago and I have not really given my e-mail address to many people. I need a word processor as a convenience when I write but I would not miss my computer too much otherwise.

  12. spicoli says:

    My computer is far more important than my TV. My computer is a compact media hub. I have a TV but it is not connected to cable or satellite. I merely use it as a monitor for my DVDs.

  13. For people like your parents or your brother, you might want to start with simpler, embedded devices like an iPhone or iPod touch or soon-to-be releasted tablet or netbook. They can then reap the benefits of the internet on an easy to use device that is non-complex.

    I find the mobile model of design and interaction to be very fitting to a ‘senior’s’ mentality – one task, one way to accomplish it, a familiar home screen, etc.

  14. Gail says:

    Hardly, unless I want to get rid of my on-line business, get rid of my internet friends, leave my discussion groups behine, leave the money saving opportunities behind. I don’t use my computer for entertainment except for the occassional game of solitaire. Most of the use is business related or relationship based–something you can’t get out of a TV at all.

  15. audrey says:

    The computer is a man made object. It is the person behind the computer that can be dangerous.

    I dislike how internet is blamed for all the ills going on. If we were all more civil towards each other the internet would be a better place.

    I think the internet is one of the greatest inventions in a while. But we as humans should not abuse the technology then blame then technology. That is not fair.

    I can live without it, but the TV is not as interactive.

  16. wandaa84 says:

    Could you ever give up your computer and Internet connection?

    Money would have to get pretty tight for me to give up my internet access. Our whole lives just about are run over the internet. From shopping, to banking, my small business, communications, socialization, research and on and on. My computer is as necessary as my stove.

    How do you control your costs of going on-line and maintaining your computer?

    I try to maintain and update my computer as often as necessary. Delete and defrag all unnecessary files and programs. Don’t overload my computer with to many extras. I don’t do networking at all and try to find any new programs, firewall and anti-virus’s for free online. It’s an ongoing process but worth it to keep my computer as long as I can.

    Why do you feel that a personal computer and Internet access is essential for your household?

    Readily available information, bill paying, instant communication, shop for the best deals, finding items I could never find in my local stores and so much more.

    If I had no choice I could live without a computer but I would definitely miss it. It saves me so much time.

  17. Savannah says:

    I constantly am on this, when i’m not… i’m sleeping or doing college work on it. Thank god for the computer.

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