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Computers as fashion furniture

Ross O. Storey | June 15, 2009
Why should they only be built in steel or plastic boxes?

A Taiwanese computer maker may just have given us a glimpse of computer design of the not-too-distant future, with its manufacture of a computer built in the shape and colour of a Chinese Ming Dynasty vase.

Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS), the innovators who unveiled the unique machine at Computex Taipei 2009, said the vase exterior can be coloured any way a customer wants, so the Ming Dynasty blue and white can be exchanged for other colors and styles such as ancient Greek or Roman.

The vase, about the size of a two-litre soft-drink bottle, rests on a traditional Chinese wooden stand, hiding the cables and they used Intel Atom microprocessors to keep the device small. Unfortunately, the vase was made from plastic, not original china porcelain.

So who says that computers should always be built in ugly steel or plastic boxes? Why shouldnt they be cased in aesthetically-pleasing shapes? Why not a computer inside a replica of Rodins famous statue, The Thinker or cased in a replica of Michelangelos David maybe with a fig leaf as the mouse?

What about a computer integrated with a coffee table? This brings to mind an announcement by Microsoft, about 18 months ago, about a touch-screen computer with the screen built into a table top.

It seems likely that the traditional pairing of a CPU box and a video display may be on its way out. After all, with wi-fi becoming increasingly ubiquitous, why shouldnt attractive thin-screen LCD monitors be placed around the home, able to be used by portable keyboards, perhaps with CPUs built-in? When not being used, the screens could default to attractive scenes, or painting masterpieces to augment the home décor.

In an office environment, why shouldnt computers be embedded into partition screens, instead of dominating the corporate landscape like colourless billboards? Or perhaps computer screens will develop into very thin, flat formats that can lie on the top of office desks?

We seem to be approaching a time when computers should make a fashion statement as attractive furniture. Im old enough to remember when a radio was called a wireless, and, as a child, I remember sitting by this attractive wooden art-deco styled cabinet, with big ornate knobs on the front, and listening with awe to the voices and music coming from within.

As I ponder the studious silence of my current office environment, broken only by the muted tapping of computer keyboards, I give thanks that I no longer work in a bureau crowded with loudly chattering telex machines requiring people to shout to be heard above them.

I find it interesting how devices such as computers seem to follow their original creators form factors, but perhaps this Taiwanese manufacturer has hit upon a fundamental change. Maybe the only place my 17-year-old daughter will be able to see computers like we have now, will be in some qaint infocomm museum.


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