by T. Mayor

My First PC, An Enduring Love

Jun 01, 20012 mins
CareersData CenterIT Leadership

“I remember when the hottest machines had 2 megs of RAM, then it went to 8, then—whoa!—to 16, and that was a huge option.”

“I remember buying my first 286 for 2,000 bucks. At the time, that was a great machine.”

For all the sound reasons to stick with the PC platform, there is another, mushier argument that carries weight: People love their PCs, and it’s hard to take them away.

“All of the rational arguments kind of go out the door when you’re talking about the decision to purchase PCs,” says IDC’s Roger Kay. “It’s a love affair, and love affairs are often irrational.”

It’s a soft argument; there’s little science here. But there is an analogy: car culture. Just as postwar men of the 1950s grew up worshipping their Chevys and Fords, today we love tinkering under the PC’s hood and customizing desktops.

University of Louisville Psychologist Jim Beggan specializes in the psychology of ownership, and he thinks there’s something to this.

“I call it the mere ownership effect. Just because you own something is reason to like it more, especially when it comes to qualities that are hard to define, like the ability to tailor the device to yourself,” Beggan says. Think racing stripes or flames painted up the side of that 1966 Pontiac Tempest. Other psychological effects are at play here too, he adds. Territoriality and ownership of data go against the network computing model?it’s splurging on that Porsche versus taking public transportation. “And in some ways,” Beggan notes, “information is even more personal than stuff, like cars.”

“You have to take it seriously,” says Jim Cunningham, IT director at Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, a New York City law firm. “Managers pitching thin clients to their bosses with all the right statistics need to understand that love of the PC. Otherwise, they can get blindsided by that attitude.”

Beggan warns only scientific studies would prove that the psychology of ownership contributes to PC dominance. The words of devoted users tell their own story.

“My first was an 8086, 250K of RAM and two five-and-a-quarter-inch floppy drives. Four grand.”