The Turing Appliance

Oh someone got me started on how “Linux” (whatever that is) is just an appliance operating system, destined for gadgets or clouds and never any traction in the area of desktop or general computing.


Lets just define that buzzword for a second, Appliance: a single function machine often involving electricity which is simple to operate. An appliance is a device which is very easy to measure the function and performance. It literally applies to one thing. Does it clean clothes acceptably? does it keep food cold enough to stay fresh but not so cold as to turn your milk into a giant ice-lolly?

Multi-function machines are like multiple appliances bundled together, it washes, it dries and it leaves a minty pine fresh scent! Computers on the other hand are Turing machines, they’re mathematically speaking NOT appliances, they can run anything and do anything and are only limited by their hardware.

The iPhone App is far more like an appliance, single function, often gimmicky tools that are very easy to say if they perform their work. The difference of course is that general electric never had the gall to break into your apartment and retroactively remove your washing machine for non-compliance.

Not all Apps are appliances though, some are games or web browsers which pretty much disqualifies them. So apple are selling appliances on top of their iphone platform, why would Apple (and others) want you to believe that the device it’s self is an appliance?

Lots of people would like to put the genie back into the bottle, would like to convince us all that their platform doesn’t need to be open, honest or property to be controlled by the hardware owner. No, it’s an “Appliance” you see, and you don’t need to install anything new on your washing machine do you, no need to rewire your fridge for new reasons. So don’t worry that we’ve taken all your freedom away but retained our own freedom to do as we please with your property after sale.

Ah that’s right, it’s a good old fashioned hoodwink. Beware anyone telling you that the general computer1 is going away and in it’s place will be simple appliances. You can turn a phone into a computer but you can’t turn a computer into just a phone. We’ve known for a while that the mobile phone industry was rotten. Even if you’re not a techy you could feel the malignancy leaching out into the mainstream and the same will be true of internet use and other domains of functionality for these so called appliances.

This industry will rot and decay as a single function, centrally controlled framework where our options are to build our own appliances on top of someone else’s locked down api. Turing machines will always be more like canvases than spanners, even if we draw washing machines on the canvas it doesn’t change the nature of the general purpose machine and nor should it.


1 Desktops might fizzle away, but that isn’t the same thing as the general computer.