main index of all writing
articles on IT and computing
articles on general topics

contents | gnulinux | writing | design | workshops | consulting | more                      

click to view other articles in PCWorld by niyam


Launched as the rebellious voice of mac users in India in 1995, the Iconoclast column by niyam bhushan soon evolved into tackling bigger IT issues. With the same irreverence.

Iconoclasts on apple macintosh.

Iconoclasts on mainstream IT.

Click for all iconoclasts.

Iconoclasts on mainstream IT.

  1. Ghost in the Machine

  2. ClearType or ClearHype

  3. Frank Einstein

  4. The PC is dead

  5. Quills on Arrows

  6. Another Brick in the Wallpaper

  7. Even Bigger than the Internet

  8. Shoot at sight

  9. Digital Wombs

  10. The Millennium of Contentment

  11. Know Where?

  12. Get your money back from Microsoft. Conditions apply.

  13. Wanna break free?

  14. Opening the Gates to Freedom.

  15. The price of learning

  16. Mortals with Portals

  17. Burn all GIFs

  18. Kaun Banega Bill Gates

  19. Gunning for Adobe?

  20. Paper Tigers?

  21. Cobwebs

  22. Another byte at Apple, Anyone?

Note: Some of these articles are also available in PDF format, and require you to download and install Acrobat Reader 5 or above.


on Arrows

Taking aim at colored water
Circa June 1999

A typical gardener, or a private chowkidaar or guard, or even a domestic help, earns about Rs 1,500 to R 2,500 per month anywhere in India. In that salary, he typically manages the food, shelter, and clothing of not only himself, but his wife and children. For the 30 days of the month. With a little extra money, or with the earnings of another family member, he also somehow manages to scrape enough to pay for his children's education. Some of India's great and legendary scientists are known to have come from very poor villages, some even studying by the pale dim light under a streetlamp near their home.
In urban 'sophisticated' India, meanwhile, computers in education both at school and at home has become 'imperative.' The government is announcing and implementing various policies for computers in education, and for bringing computing to the masses. Except that by masses, we merely mean the upper class, the rising middle class, and the mostly private and public schools with management policies and 'term fees' and 'building funds' and 'donation requests' that would put even Bill Gates to shame.
Sure, computers don't cost the crores of rupees they used to in the sixties, the tens of lakhs like in the seventies, the two to five lakhs they were known for in the eighties, or the fifty thousand to one lakh price point they had in the first part of this decade. Today an entry-level machine can be purchased for just Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000. However, there are several catches to that. The hidden cost of peripherals, telephone and internet connection time, power conditioning equipment and power supply, and the redundancy of the model within 3 years maximum. Not to mention the purchase of software and CDs.
Nevertheless the computer industry deserves praise and adulation for its price trends, unprecedented in any industry. At the same time, the industry needs to be slapped very hard for atleast one possibly corrupt policy. Ink cartridges. Though an entry-level inkjet printer is now for about Rs 6,000, the cartridge costs around Rs 1,000, and around Rs 2,000 for a color cartridge.
What that translates to is quite bizarre. Depending on your use, within three months you could spend the equivalent of your printer's price in ink, which is essentially colored water! You buy ink to spit your data on blank pages, for the money in which my cook and his family survives 30 days in a month. My total expenditure on ordinary pens and ink during my three years of college with its extensive note-taking in registers, and sitting for exams, did not cost me more than Rs 500 to Rs 750. That's about Rs 13 to Rs 20 per month.
The inkjet cartridge lasts a few hundred pages, and then needs to be replaced. That's a lot of expensive plastic and circuits thrown away per month. Even re-filling is expensive, and lasts a maximum of six re-fills. Something fishy is definitely swimming in the ink business. No wonder Hewlett Packard got sued by Colossal Graphics in the US, for unfair pricing on its ink consumables and its deliberate use of proprietary technologies to tie-in users to their ink. HP lost the case. All these greedy policies are sad. The key to ubiquitous computing is pricing. My gut feeling is computers will eventually come down to Rs 5,000 for a pc more advanced than today's Pentium III. Printers too would come down to Rs 1,000 or even less. The day they can make the ink cartridge cheaper than Chelpark ink bottles, even my domestic help's children will benefit from computing in education.
Until then, I am happy with my calligraphy pen-set and highly personal and handwritten correspondences: Something human in today's inhuman modes of communication. And commerce.

Top ]

12 August 2004 © niyam bhushan