Imagine you have just bought a new TV set. You come home with a car loaded with boxes. Each box contains items that need connecting to each other – in the correct order, of course. Once you have spent an hour or two reading the instructions and connecting everything and you finally switch it on, before you can enjoy anything you have to configure the controls and register you new product, or it simply will not work.

Worse still, when you come to use your TV, you find there are half a dozen ways of doing the simplest of tasks. Then the TV manufacturer upgrades his mysterious product every couple of weeks and there is always the threat hanging over you that you will wipe out everything with the click of the wrong button. Things often go wrong and you regularly call in a friend who ‘knows about these things’ to sort out your mistakes.

Of course, if TV sets were like this few people would buy them, however that is how we buy personal computers. Before we even buy a computer, we are presented with technical specifications that would baffle Einstein and mean little to the average computer buyer and serve only to confuse them.

Home computing has come a long way since 1980 when I bought my first ‘home computer’ (the term PC, or personal computer, had yet to be coined by IBM), a Sinclair SX80. It cost fr220, had no hard or floppy disk, no screen (it ran through a TV set), no printer and no software. All you could do was learn to program in the computer language called Basic. You could not learn too much though, because after filling just over a page with text, the small memory was full and the SX80 stopped. With luck your work could be saved onto a normal audio cassette. It is hard to believe today that any of these computers sold, and it is equally hard to imagine that it was actually exciting to type on a keyboard and see words appear on a screen – but it was!

Ten years later the Internet started and within another ten years no office desk was complete without a computer dominating it. Today I pay my bills and book my holidays online. Email allows me to keep in regular contact with friends and family round the world – exchanging letters and photographs. Gordon Moore, a founder of microchip leader Intel, predicted that that the number of transistors on microchips would double approximately every 18 months. So far he has been right and the next twenty years will bring even more spectacular technical progress. The challenge for the computer industry is no longer technical but human: presently approximately 50% of the population are not online and research shows they see no reason why they should change.

There are plenty of courses for people to learn how to use computers and software like Word and even Windows, the most popular operating system on the planet, used in over 97% of all personal computers. But could you imagine attending a course to use a TV remote control, telephone or vacuum cleaner? If any of these appliances required potential users to take a course before using them, sales would be very limited.

Today’s personal computers are complex and powerful, but most users perform only the simplest tasks on them and will never use more than 20% of this expensive item’s potential. There are executives who have had a PC on their desks for years, who have little idea how to use it, but dare not admit this. Is this the executives’ fault? Or have the hardware and software geniuses made the fundamental error of believing that everyone thinks the way they do?

The spectacular growth in the computer industry cannot be sustained by just getter faster and cheaper. It is time for a serious rethink to include the half of society who is not online. The long-term potential of the Internet is likely to have a greater impact than the invention of electricity. Today’s technology will look older than 1980s technology does today in less than twenty years. But, with only half the population on board, it can never work to its full potential.

Look at some of the shortcomings of present day computers: the transistor radio taught us to expect that we switch on and listen, without waiting. Whereas, the more programs we have on our computer, the longer it takes to start and switch off.

If you have ever watched someone using a mouse for the first time, you will realise that has to go – and while we are at it, the keyboard is out in the future too.

There is a massive market – the western world’s population – for a computer that needs only removing from its single box, plugging in and can be used within seconds. It will not be complicated, you will tell it what you want and it will do it. There will be no software to install, update or crash. There will be no installing, registering or updating. Your ‘computer’ will access the massive databanks round the world at speeds only dreamed about today. There will be no wires or cables. You will shop or complete your tax return, watch a movie or be educated, be entertained or entertain others. You will be able to work anywhere in the world and best of all it will be cheap.

We used to ask “Do you have a phone?” now we ask, “What’s your phone number”. The same will apply with email - if email still exists.