The Role of the PC: Communication and Leisure

Sixty-one percent of American homes have PCs, according to a report by PC Data, which found the role of home computers has changed from a tool of productivity to a means of communication and recreational activity.

According to PC Data’s “Home PC Portrait™,” almost 45 percent of home PC users still do not have anti-virus protection on their home computers, despite the publicity surrounding “Melissa” and the “Love Bug.” The report also found that only 20 percent of home PC users used a spreadsheet application in the month of June, suggesting that many PCs are not purchased so work can be done after hours, as previously believed. Seventy-five percent of home PC users play games on their machines, and pre-installed Windows games like Solitaire and Minesweeper are the most popular.

Other findings of the PC Data report include:

  • 52 percent of home computers in the US are connected to the Internet. Twenty-eight percent of home users access the Internet several times a day, while 2.6 percent use it once a month.
  • 50 percent of households have owned a PC for more than five years. Just 1.9 percent has had a PC fewer than six months.
  • 52 percent of home PCs have fewer than 5GB of hard drive space. Twenty-five percent of US home computers have more than 64MB of RAM. Thirty-five percent have CPU speed between 333 and 449 Mhz.
  • 76 percent of home PCs use inkjet printers and 15 percent use laser printers. Forty-three percent of computer households have 15-inch monitors, while 5 percent have monitors larger than 17 inches.

The Internet is likely a very big reason that entertainment has passed productivity as the main use for PCs. According to Greenfield Online’s “Netstyles” survey, more than 80 percent of respondents believe the Internet is a rich and diverse source of entertainment.

Rather than using the Internet for information purposes, 83 percent play games both online and offline. More of the participants in Greenfield Online’s study subscribed to fun/joke/game updates (52 percent) than daily news updates (43 percent), email newsgroups (31 percent), business updates (30 percent), or stock market updates (22 percent).

The Internet’s “entertainment-on-demand” offerings are also appealing to consumers, and may be causing some people to move away from the television as their primary means of entertainment. According to the survey, 66 percent of respondents with multimedia capabilities are downloading music. Nearly 44 percent of respondents are watching less TV since going online. Furthermore, a nearly equal amount of respondents consider the TV and the Internet as the most important item in the household.

Greenfield Online’s study was conducted in April of 2000 among 3,352 respondents. PC Data’s findings were based on information from four proprietary sources: its online panel of more than 120,000 home Internet users, The “Lifestyle and Activities Survey,” the “Net Portrait™,” and PC Data’s hardware and software sales reports.

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