Vol. 4, Issue 8, December 12, 2006
Amish Computer Surprise Bestseller of the Season
With the holidays fast approaching, many devices are flying off store shelves as shoppers stockpile the "must-have" gadgets of the season. One of the most in-demand computers, however, is a surprising entry not from Dell or Apple, but from an Amish community in western Pennsylvania.
The computer, bearing the modest title of 'Computer', consists of a handsome hand-carved maple tower, a "monitor" with a leaded glass screen, and a keyboard connected with cotton twine. The entire set retails for $150.
"Some folks from Circuit City were handling our sales," said Jacob Stoddmeyer, one of the craftsmen responsible for creating 'Computer'. "But we weren't comfortable with their markup; they seem fond of rounding things up to the nearest thousand. Man's got to make a living, but it's not seemly to charge more than you have to."
Although not even on the radar for most IT professionals, the Amish computers, mostly sold off the backs of horse-drawn buggys, are proving wildly popular with users who are tired of keeping up with the pace of Moore's Law and purchasing an endless succession of increasingly powerful, but increasingly finicky and complicated machines.
"You don't even have to worry about the power switch, because there isn't one," said Gerald Boyce, an avid 'Computer' enthusiast. "Installing Windows was a breeze too: you just pop open the lid to the monitor - see what beautiful craftsmanship that is on the hinge? - and drop the CD inside. Believe me, it's not going anywhere. And it's completely immune to viruses, though you do have to keep an eye out for termites."
"Well, it's already got a window there in the front," said Stoddmeyer dubiously, gesturing to the leaded glass screen. "Don't see why you'd want to put more inside. Personally, I prefer the ones that show you the outdoors." He added that he generally uses his monitor to store butter, but that consumers are "free to do what they will". The tower is large enough to store two loaves of bread, plus a complimentary abacus tucked neatly in the bottom.
'Computer' does have its limitations. It isn't much good for word processing, as the keyboard is one solid block of wood with keys carved into the top; and it is not capable of playing most games, which is, as Stoddmeyer says, "by design" (the Amish are not fans of Nintendo). However, its astonishingly low price makes it a compelling buy for many consumers who care less about performance, and more about how their desktop computer complements the décor in their living room.
"It's about time they came out with a computer which matches my needs," said Boyce. "I hate typing and don't trust email; as for spreadsheets - the only sheets I spread are on my bed. I'd say 'Computer' fits in quite nicely with my computing habits."
The principal drawback to 'Computer' is its slow internet connection speed. The manual explains that websites will only appear "if you don't dust it for a few weeks", and recommends being careful of those created by black widows.
"Can't be too careful about websites," said Stoddmeyer. "Better to keep the machine clean and full of butter instead."