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Re: Diskless "Eunuchs" Machines Likely to Fail


In article <[email protected][]>, Timothy C. May wrote:

>A couple of years ago "the computer for the rest of us" was said to be a
>pen-based Newton-type machine, now it is said to be a diskless,
>memory-limited "Eunuchs" machine.

Beyond the specifics of Oracle's naive vision, I think what is
doomed (I hope) to fail is the obsolescent paradigm that it reflects.
It seems that many corporate types are fixated on the idea of tractable
and predictable consumers.  The need to raise the population and
broaden the demographic of potential customers for the coming
Information SuperMarketway by minimizing the entry cost is obvious. The
approach to understanding the actual dynamics of why people are and
will increasingly come into this space and what they will want to do
once they get there is deficient for many.  Some are intimidated by the
unpredictably evolving emergent properties of consumer (well, still
mostly window shopper) behavior in this new territory, and are looking
for the comforting familiarity that their marketing consultants and
financial planners could provide them in the old brickspace way of doing
business.  Others are puzzled, or are overtly threatened by the idea of
potential consumer's who are also content producers.

I think that the limitations of interactive set-top boxes and
lobotomized net terminals appeals to this mindset.  There's less
likelihood of troubling novel behavior and initiative.  The consumer's
options are constrained and thereby the details of marketing are more

These prospective cyber-consumers who are increasingly in the
frustrating habit of producing and sharing content amongst themselves
(usually for free, no less!), thereby distracting each other from the
content providers and virtual storefronts they should be flocking to,
are a potent wild card in the game that many cannot deal with, and some
wish they could deal out of the deck.  This nascent internet phenomenon
is the economic aspect of the broader disintegration and decline of the
means to control mass opinion and behavior that many in the current
ruling class find threatening as well.  The corporations that can get a
clue, and learn how to go with the flow of this changing environment, can
still prosper. The dinosaurs who can't, or won't adapt, will free up
valuable niches for the independent upstarts who not only can ride the
waves of change, but who thrive on them and even strive to make them

Oracle's vision of the low-cost, diskless "Eunuchs" net station
may materialize on the shelves of Walmart, and Circuit City, etc...
But it will not take long for those who buy them to realize that
they are in a subclass on the internet (That is, if they are really
given the freedom to explore the net at large) and to feel frustrated
with their limited options to create and express themselves.  Those
too dim-witted to notice or care might as well have remained as bovine
Cable Shopping Network viewers ensconced in their TV room lounge chairs.

I do think that there is a substantial and viable market for entry level
notebook form factor (running off a cheap wall socket DC converter with
battery optional) 'Net' PC's well below $1000 in the not-too-distant
future.  Processor and hard drive costs are certainly dropping fast
enough to make that a credible possibility.  Display and memory costs
remain the major obstacles, but I think workable compromises could be

This could be a potent opportunity for somebody like the AIM alliance
to make an end run around the Intel-Microsoft axis, if they were able to
take the long view and act decisively (yeah...fantasy).  Start with
something like the low end PPC602, develop a highly integrated chip set
for video, drive, RAM controller, modem,  etc... Surface mount on board
with RJ-11, USB and external monitor connector, include as much HD as
will fit within the target production cost. Throw in a SIMM or DIMM slot
for the option of supplementing the minimum included memory later.
Provide greyscale LCD standard with color dual-scan option.  Come up
with a _TIGHT_ fully native code subset of MacOS.  Add a compact
application suite including internet connectivity plus simple PIM and WP
functionality. Provide a coupon for a subsidiary online service cum
internet gateway, ala MSN. Sell the machine at a minimal margin over
cost, and view the entire venture as a way to gain broad market
presence. Market presence must have substantial worth, because
Netscape's stock is surely not being valued on its price-earnings

>The only relevance of this whole topic to Cypherpunks is....is....minimal.

Well, perhaps.  I suppose I'm risking the chastisement of Cypherpunk
purists with my follow-up on this non-crypto topic. But it seems to me
that the broadest shared sentiment among the people on this list is a
passionate interest in defending and expanding personal liberty,
sovereignty and privacy in cyberspace, and the realization that
the unencumbered use of strong cryptography is indispensable to those
goals. If it wasn't for this nexus, there would be no cypherpunks, and
the esoteric technicalities of modern cryptography would be of interest
to few besides professional security consultants/programmers and obscure
academic types.  It's useful to explore the wider context of relevance
occasionally, if only to gain perspective (As long as we can avoid
another Ayn Rand or Noam Chomsky pissing match...).


People limited solely to diskless terminals for their internet access will
be second class netizens.  They would be less likely to really
appreciate and comprehend the issues surrounding online privacy and
cryptography, and they would be less able to take action on these issues
even if they wanted to.

- -Michael

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