media across multitudes of channels. Figure 2.1 shows trends in acquisition of devices such as personal computers compared with ownership of two consumer staplesrefrigerators and automobiles. If one could lift the roof from the characteristic U.S. home, one would see that it looks increasingly like a multiplex theater. What once took place in the town square, in the neighborhood tavern, on market day, or in the library can now occur as easily in the study or in the bedroom. Computers and advanced communications are also playing increasingly significant roles in community organizations and in education.
Computer use in the home is a relatively recent phenomenon, and one that has changed considerably in the past two decades. At first, a majority of use was work-related. Today computers are more accepted as a household technology, with an increasing amount of software and other development targeted to the home. (For further discussion and a model for the interaction of the household and technology, see Venkatesh, 1996.)
Descriptive studies of computer use in the home are relatively rare and almost always very "thin," that is, based on a small number of survey questions.