The phrase “Saturday night special” used to be applied to cheap handguns available to gangs. These days, the gangs have Uzis. But I am sure that low-budget criminals still buy Saturday night specials.
About 30 years ago, I applied the phrase to describe the microcomputer. I said that this would shift power away from the federal government. It would provide the common man with a tool of resistance.
This year, tablet computers will outsell PCs. The prices are falling like stones. The new Android 4.3-based Nexus 7 tablet sells for under $250.
I bought a new PC, which was delivered last Saturday. I am a dinosaur. I own an iPad. I have used it once. I gave it to my wife. I also have a cell phone: no screen, no GPS, no 4G (or 3G or 2G), and no earphone jack. I can barely use it to make phone calls. It’s not a smart phone. It’s a retarded phone. It’s all I need. I don’t like talking on the phone.
I am like a man who mastered the Colt .45 Peacemaker single-action revolver and who watched the world move to double-action revolvers, then to the 1911 Army Colt semi-automatic, and then to Glocks. I can still hit the target with a Peacemaker. Use the tool you have mastered.
The public now has cheap tablet computers that have more computer power then the entire IRS computer complex in West Virginia. The IRS can still nail you if it has enough time. It can still hit its target: you. But the decentralization of knowledge that is implied by Gordon Moore’s famous law of computer chip density continues to work its digital magic. The public runs ever farther ahead of the bureaucracy, with its mainframes and its incompatible programs.
Knowledge spreads because the cost of information falls. Economics takes over. “At a lower price, more is demanded.” The world’s establishments are all based on two factors: (1) their possession of specialized knowledge (priestly); (2) their ability to enforce this monopolistic knowledge through the state (kingly). They are all threatened by the spread of computer power. They are rapidly losing their advantage with factor #1. The fiscal and monetary crisis that began in December 2007 has revealed the vulnerability of factor #2. It is not simply that the emperor has no clothes. Now winter is coming.
I think Android will defeat Apple. I said this in 2011. Why? Because open source will defeat proprietary source. Linux will defeat both Apple and Microsoft. This has already happened in Asia. The cheap computer is going to defeat the expensive computer. But in this competition of operating systems, the state will lose. Mainframe computers are no match for tablets. The mainframe computer is like a tank. It is now facing a growing army of guerrillas armed with IEDs. Tanks get more expensive. IEDs get cheaper.
Moore’s law applies to supercomputers, which government bureaucracies cannot afford, and tablets, which urban Asians can now afford. The public does not perceive the threat which the modern Saturday night special offers to the modern state. The public does not have to know. It merely has to buy the next generation of Androids or iPads, and then do it again two years later.
The American government worries about its lack of gun control: the decentralization of power. But that is nothing when compared to the threat of Android.