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December 7, 2009

Signs of Recovery

Filed under: Main — Dan Gookin @ 12:01 am

Could the economic downturn be behind us? Maybe. Perhaps. Just a little?

One way I wanted to see whether we’re out of the economic slump or not is to look at tech spending this Christmas. I figured if it’s up, then there might be a recovery going on; people like to buy gadgets and toys for their computers when times are good.

Sadly, I didn’t find any news on the holiday shopping season, not thus far. There are some rumblings that Black Friday wasn’t as good as everyone expected, but that kind of news is to be expected. That’s like asking a kid a week after Christmas to rate his presents. Unless there was a motorcycle or pony under the tree, the kids will probably say that Christmas could have been better.

Then again, I see other signs that things might be getting better. Allow me to depart from my normal computer commentary for some observations on the state of the economy.

Cultural Status. I think there is a recovery going on because for the first time in a long while, economic and political news isn’t dominating the popular culture. We owe a lot to Balloon Boy.

Not only Balloon Boy, we owe a lot to the other reality TV stars of the moment: The couple who gate crashed the State dinner last week. Toss in the Tiger Woods fiasco and you have a trifecta of wonderfully distracting, utterly goofy actions quickly drawing the attention of a weary public. Nothing lightens the mood like that.

I might also mention that Susan Boyle’s debut album has utterly rocked the music world. Granted, she has a lovely voice, but getting people to put down $20 for an album of retreads means people have some extra money to spend. That’s good.

Political Status. Aside from the angry extremes, I think most of us in the middle really don’t give a crap about what’s going on in Washington DC. That’s always good news.

Tech. Status. Face it, computers are boring these days. There hasn’t been a Next Big Thing in a long, long time. The Internet was the last globally big thing, and that was over ten years ago. The iPhone could be considered a big thing, but it’s getting long in the tooth.

To get a true tech economic revival, the propeller heads are going to have to come up with something utterly brilliant. Even something tangential, like an Apple Mac Tablet computer, would prove a shot in the arm for a dreary PC industry.

Face it: Computers are tools, no more sexy than a hammer and as routine in life as the washing machine. The big difference between a computer and those other things is that the computer has an unrealized potential.

Given good economic conditions, and freedom from overbearing management, the boys and girls who make hardware and software can easily produce something brilliant and useful. Let’s hope they do so soon. Otherwise this economic recovery, if it exists, will be humdrum as far as computers are concerned.

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