Fewer and Fewer People Want to Know About Computers, Says Google

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Bouncing around Google's trend data, I came across what to me is a very sad looking chart. It's the search volume for a basket of computer and electronics related terms (e.g. "windows, mac, hp, ipod, google, dell, sony, xbox").


computerslecronics.jpg

We see some seasonality around the holidays, as you would expect, but the dominant trend is DOWN. Every year since Google started tracking this information in 2004, the number of people trying to find information about computers has marched ever downwards. Of course, that could just mean that people understand their machines better or that the machines themselves are good enough that people don't need to look things up about them as often. Or perhaps people have settled into their brand preferences and don't comparison shop like we used to in the old Computer Shopper days. 

But whatever the reasons -- and with a trend this big and long, it's almost certainly many reasons -- the number of people interested enough to Google things about desktops, laptops, and other electronics has been halved since 2004. 

One partial explanation worth noting is the rise of the phones and other mobile technologies. Luckily, Google lets you plot this against the decline of computer-related search volume. 

searchtraffic_mobilecomp.jpg


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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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