What do you really need your computer to do?

Over the weekend, Apple released its iPad, a light, flat, touch-screen computer with fewer functions than a conventional laptop. Today’s Question: What do you really need your computer to do?

  • Greg

    Less and less as applications move to virtual machines on the “web”. What I really need is : good input interface ( keyboard/mouse, active screeen, VOICE!) , good screen resolution, strong reliable network, applications designed with single screen users in mind, and the ability to write data to portable media ( thumb-drive). Blue-tooth for connectivity to nearby devices.

    Beyond all that I need technology companies to stop trying to beat the wall street quarterly estimates and I need Wall street to quit pretending that numbers rule the process of business. sometimes, taking that extra month, or fixing the known problems in slow rational well conceived way is better for both the consumer, the company and the market. Slow down the process of building a better world … we’re tired of the constant revisions to the dream … that often change it into a nightmare.

  • Software-wise: I need my device to have the ability to listen to/view media, access the web, connect to my IM clients simultaneously in a user-friendly manner.

    I should also be able to use the device to create similar content to that I access thru it.

    Hardware-wise: I should be able to make basic updates to the hardware myself storage upgrades, battery replacement, ect….

  • alice

    Go faster

  • Marjorie Proell

    It must give me fast access, no matter where I am, to everything on the Internet, including the news, movies, music. It has to give me WP (nothing fancy), the ability to connect to a printer and the ability to play and burn CDs. It must be lightweight and compact.

  • Al

    Stop becoming obsolete in 3 years. I’m tired of constantly replacing my computer. They are expensive and they already do what I need them to. Companies need to stop ‘upgrading’ software that already works fine. It generally requires you to upgrade your computer to a new operating system, and eventually a new computer.

    Often the upgrades don’t actually add anything to the application. Microsoft is a prime example of software ‘improvements’ gone awry. The upgrade to their Office programs moved around tools and made them completely frustrating to use.

  • Scott

    My computer needs to be able to do internet and word processing. It needs to be stable and reliable. A computer needs to be intuitive and user friendly.

    It also needs to run statistical software such as SPSS or STATA. A computer needs to run database software quickly and be stable while doing it.

  • Alison

    Computers need to be able to continually improve their performance as they age. My biggest problem is that my computer slows down after a couple of years.

  • bsimon

    I use mine for a lot of typing and spreadsheet work. Limited photo editing. Lots of surfing/browsing. Portability is not on the list; though that might occasionally be handy.

    I don’t see how an ipad is a ‘must have’ to accomplish those tasks – and question its suitability for doing extensive writing (i.e. without a keyboard, how efficient is the typing?) I can see how an ipad might be a convenient device for people who travel extensively, or want a portable surfing/reading device, but it doesn’t seem to be a candidate for a person’s only computer.

  • Carey

    My computer needs to help with communcations and finances. The rest is just fluff that isn’t a ‘need’ but a ‘want’. Things that fall under the umbrella of “communications” include: emailing family, friends, and business associates, staying current with news and events and connecting with school for my kids. As far as ‘finances” go – the quicker access to current financial statys (i.e. the checkbook balance) keeps our household well informed on our budget surplusses (or shortfalls!) and the spreadsheets make keeping track of things so much easier that there is more time in life for other things.

    That said – the computer needs to be efficient, low maintenance and user friendly.

  • Eric

    Web, E-Mail and other core applications are necessary, but the essence of a computer is programming. If I can’t program it, it isn’t a computer, it is an information / communication appliance. Why do you want me to be able to program it? If I can program it, so can thousands of other creative people. Otherwise, you are hostage to the imagination, agenda and market plan of one company.

  • Dana

    I don’t “need” my computer to do anything. My husband and I have been intentially letting go of many of our possessions in an effort to free ourselves to do things that are more important. We no longer have a television, cell phones, and are looking at getting rid of our car. People wonder how we have time to care for a toddler, work full-time, bake our own bread, cook healthy food from scratch, and grow a huge garden. It’s easy when we’re not consumed with the useless blather on TV, actually have conversations rather than 30 second updates, and do not feel the compulsion to constantly be in touch.

    That said, we recently purchased a lap top and we were looking for a better way to store and view photos and our home videos. He is a student and wanted better internet speed to view required school websites. We wanted a lap top rather than a desk top so we could research household, parenting, and gardening websites at our dining room table rather than in an office.

  • Reuben

    Work like the IBM typewriter, or even the Remington.

  • James

    It needs to run:



    SLA – Rapid prototyping


    Logic / Flow charts

    Spread sheets & Access

    Inter-Web and e-mail

    Faster is always better:-)


  • If I’m being honest, I really only need my computer for schoolwork (so, word processing) and email.

    It does come in handy as a media player, but I hardly need it for that.

  • kennedy

    Connect to the internet.

    Video display size and resolution sufficient to be useful.

    Provide a simple, effective way for me to interact (navigate, type).

    Work properly with all web pages. Display content, provide a secure connection, run interactive content (eg Java).

    Quickly do what I want it to do when I want it done. Function properly without requiring me or anyone else to perform maintenance or patch software. I want to spend my time working or playing and not doing system maintenance.

  • DMox

    I use my computer to keep in touch with friends, but I could write letters.

    I use my computer to watch videos, TV & movies, but I could just go to movies, watch my own TV, etc…

    I use my computer to buy products, but I could go to the store.

    I use my computer for the news, but I could buy a newspaper, or listen to MPR.

    I guess the only thing I really need my computer to do is to comment on things like this!

  • Comments texted to MPR at 677-677:

    I use my MacBook to post to my blog http://www.bronxtobarn.com, research about sustainable agriculture, email. -Sylvia Burgos Toftness Amery, WI

    I only get it about 60 percent of the time. Why? -Mark shivers, Roseville

    I use my computer only for internet access. I recently bought a refurbished Dell for only $156, includes flat screened. -Tom, Eagan

    My computer needs to be able to run multiple applications at once. And no one should have to approve them first. The iPad does neither. -anonymous

    I need to be able to control my computer. It needs to be able to handle all the different programs I build into it. -anonymous

    The most important thing for a good computer is to be reliable! -anonymous

  • Margaret

    I need my computer to run my spreadsheet and document software. Like another respondent I wish the keyboard software was more like a Selectric typewriter for forms. I love the upgrades and wish my computer was current for more than 6 months. I use my computer for either doing or watching everything I do. I use email extensively for work and personal use. The turnaround time is so great compared to snail mail. I am in better contact with everyone I know because of the computer access. My computer or my jump drive goes everywhere with me.

  • Good question. I was working before computers and really appreciate the functions for word processing and simple excel formulas. I don’t want or need the bells and whistles and don’t appreciate paying for them. I am technically saavy, I own several computers, am in the consulting business, have a website. In my opinion, too much reliance on “auto fill” and “auto correct” has made us dull and stupid. Critical thinking and understanding too place when we had to manually insert the formulas in excel and answer each email in full complete sentences using the generally accepted rules of grammar.

    Advertisers and those who can pay reap the rewards on the backs of those of us who need the simpliest of improvements. Cell phones replaced the advances made in telephone quality (“you could hear a pin drop”) with scratchy sounding, dropped calls. The move to digital TV eliminated millions of viewers and stations with little or no real improvement to the viewing quality and no improvement to service quality.

    As a consumer, I want the ability to pick and chose those items which will address my needs and not be forced into buying or using parts of applications that do not add value or save time. I would gladly pay for products and services which are a help. To answer the question: keep applications simple and designed as a “tool” or “aid”.

  • EAL

    What the iPad has done is continue the evolutionary process of managing information.The iPad will not do everything a desktop or laptop computer will do but it will do more than the iTouch, iPhone, Blackberry, Kindle, etc. The ability of Apple to create yet another niche market is a tribute to the beauty of America’s free enterprise system that allows for and rewards creativity and innovation.

  • Craig

    When I was a kid, some people wondered why my parents had spent money on a high-end computer. It was more power than we needed, but it allowed me to explore the world of programming in depth. Without that opportunity I may have missed out on the satisfaction and prosperity I now enjoy in my software career.

  • lawrence

    I use the computer for two main purposes, researching things online and applying for jobs. Occasionally, the computer is useful for flyers and typing reports, but ultimately, the computer’s ability via Internet to get timely answers to questions I have about this, that, and the other is unparalleled by anthing else we’ve created.

  • Steve the Cynic

    I need my computer to find news sources with all the coverage filtered to fit my biases, so I can have my prejudices confirmed and not have to read anything I disagree with. I need it to find like-minded people who all agree with me, so we can work together to make trouble for all the idiots who don’t see things our way. I need it so I can drop incendiary rhetoric bombs into political discussions to get people riled up derail rational dialog.

  • Marie


  • Said

    I need my computer to be a tool that streamlines tasks for me such as file sharing, email, productivity and viewing content such as news, video and other data.

  • Steve from up north

    As long as my computer can run some of the leading edge video games that I play, I know if can handle anything else that I need including photo editing, music, voice chat, any word processing needs, so on and so forth.