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I know, I know it would destroy the atmosphere. But I’m interested to see if JK Rowling has made a up a valid reason for a complete lack of computers in Hogwarts.

It’s always bugged me ever since I first read Philosopher/Sorcerer’s Stone when Harry was racking his brains for who Nicolas Flamel was.

I don’t care how magical things are. Instant search engine hit for Flamel. All potions, spells, history, quidditch matches, mail, the distribution of the daily prophet, everything. It would be easier to keep students out of the restricted section of an intranet library too! I don’t care how many invisibility cloaks you’re wearing.

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They still use Owls instead of Whatsapp... – Evil Angel Apr 14 '14 at 22:37
They don't us computers because they can't get WiFi to go through the stone walls. – Xantec Apr 15 '14 at 1:18
Over in the Adult Fantasy genre, in Fritz Leiber's 1952 novel Conjure Wife, a witch-against-witch war is decided when [spoiler] one side uses a computer to design a new spell. – user14111 Apr 15 '14 at 1:39
Try doing some programming in Assembly. I still think it's magic. – jnovacho Apr 15 '14 at 8:43
Could it be that a society that removes children out of academic education at age 11 has a problem with computer literacy? Sorry, that's a touch facetious. However it is true that system admins don't grow on trees. They can hardly hire a muggle can they? – Nathan Cooper Apr 15 '14 at 10:22
up vote 57 down vote accepted

While looking up some information about this I stumbled across this... It's not entirely canon but it gives a good theory about why it is that wizards and witches might not use modern items.

From "When Magic Meets Muggle Technology" at Harry Potter Lexicon

Magic in the Harry Potter world is a power that wizards and witches are able to harness and control by some innate ability. Magical effects are often accompanied by lights, sparks, and sounds. The very first magical effect that Harry performed in his new world was shooting sparks out of his new wand at Ollivander's.

It seems to imply that magic effects the electro-magnetic spectrum in some way. Some serious energy is being dealt with. A similar thing happens when a nuclear device is exploded. A massive pulse of EM energy is radiated out all over the spectrum. Radios cease to work. Power lines arc. Telephones burn out. It is because of this chaos that nations spend millions installing infrastructure that is immune to this EM interference.

This might be why so many magical families are always baffled by Muggle technology, simply because such devices could not work well in conjunction with the magic they use in everyday life.

I also found this stating that there was a Computer in the Muggle Studies classroom. The wikia states that the devices do not work because they are powered by electricity.

Computers are one of numerous devices that do not work in magical environments such as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry because they are powered by electricity.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 28 - (The Madness of Mr. Crouch)

Direct quote from the book :

Harry had such a bad case of Twitchy Ears, he had to hold his hands clamped over them as he walked away from the class.

"Well, Rita's definitely not using an Invisibility Cloak!" Hermione panted five minutes later, catching up with Harry and Ron in the entrance hall and pulling Harrys hand away from one of his wiggling ears so that he could hear her. "Moody says he didn't see her anywhere near the judges' table at the second task, or anywhere near the lake!"

"Hermione, is there any point in telling you to drop this?" said Ron.

"No!" said Hermione stubbornly. "I want to know how she heard me talking to Viktor! And how she found out about Hagrids mum!"

"Maybe she had you bugged," said Harry.

"Bugged?" said Ron blankly. "What. . . put fleas on her or something?"

Harry started explaining about hidden microphones and recording equipment. Ron was fascinated, but Hermione interrupted them.

"Aren't you two ever going to read Hogwarts, A History^"

"What's the point?" said Ron. "You know it by heart, we can just ask you."

"All those substitutes for magic Muggles use - electricity, computers, and radar, and all those things - they all go haywire around Hogwarts, there's too much magic in the air."

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Pretty cut and dry :) – Starkers Apr 15 '14 at 0:51
Admittedly this is answering why computers can't be used at Hogwarts, not why computers (or various sorts of technology) are not used by wizards in general. There's probably no reason why they couldn't be operated away from heavy magic use, if it weren't for the extreme sense of conservatism and social inertia exhibited by the wizarding community - witness the complete inability of most wizards to admit that Muggles might have figured out a better way to do something. – user1787 Apr 15 '14 at 3:44
@user1787 The second sentence of the question is "But I'm interested to see if JK Rowling has made a up a valid reason for a complete lack of computers in Hogwarts." I'd say this answer pretty well covers that, though I guess it uses a little bit of hand-waving by boiling it down to simply "there's too much magic in the air [at Hogwarts]". – Michael Kjörling Apr 15 '14 at 7:39
You could also assume that "pure" magic families do not use muggle devices because they too use magic a lot. – DoctorWho22 Apr 15 '14 at 12:52
@Michael Not all radiation is dangerous. It very much depends on the wavelength and such. All electronic devices emit radiation. Hell, even light and such are radiation. In the mid-twentieth century, ignition systems in gasoline engines caused radio sets to crackle and tv sets to show stripes on screen. It wasn't dangerous to us though. – Doc Apr 15 '14 at 18:44

The wizarding world is a bit late in introducing new inventions. Most of the story of the Harry Potter novels take place between 1990 and 1998. The wizards simply hadn't had time yet to adapt to computers.

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Computers had been around for a long, long time by the time the bulk of the story took place. DoctorWho22's answer gives a much better, in universe explanation: electricity does not work well around high concentrations of magic. That rules out use of computers almost entirely. Maybe at some of their homes they would work, but certainly not at the Ministry or in Diagon Alley (and similar). – Dave Johnson Apr 15 '14 at 14:58
@DaveJohnson: Been around, sure. But they weren't yet present in your school before about 1980. – b_jonas Apr 15 '14 at 17:22
they werent yet present in my school in2002 – Steven Wood Apr 15 '14 at 19:54
@StevenWood: Where did you go to school? I remember seeing computers in school from the very beginning, way back in kindergarten in the late 80s. – Mason Wheeler Apr 15 '14 at 20:48
They don't... The only computers shown in Hogwarts is actually in the Muggles Studies room. – DoctorWho22 Apr 16 '14 at 16:07

A common theme in urban fantasy is that arcane magic does not work well with technology. There are three main reasons -

  1. Hubris. Those Muggles or non-magic-users simply do not understand what WE know. This can be a culture-mindset, or an issue of mind-inertia. Magic users have a tendancy to live longer than Joe Average, so change happens equally slowly due to the power of curmudgeon-ism.
  2. Need - Magic users have different needs and desires than Joe Average. Certainly the Knight Bus and the Hogwarts Express are not the most efficient forms of transportation, but when you can create a flying __, portkeys, can apparate or use the Floo network, there's no need to pour research into understanding a subway system, or internal combustion engine. Why think about electronic messaging when you can enchant paper to fly directly to them? If your newspaper could update itself like the Daily Prophet, would you care about the evolution of hypertext protocol?
  3. Power - Modern Technology & arcane power traditionally don't work together because of 'science' - similar to static or other electric shocks, anything containing microchips simply cannot compete with raw power . Hermoine mentions that electricity doesn't work in Hogwarts because of the "Magic in the air". JKR doesn't elaborate if the magic in the air is location based (i.e. leylines) or simply because there's a bunch of wizards there. If it's the latter, it may be similar to Harry Dresden's "I can fry a fax machine at 20 paces" unconsious aura of a magic-user. Note we don't ever actually see modern technology around multiple wizards outside of the little radio near the end of the series, or the TV in the Dursley's house before the polymorph juice project to help Harry escape (but it was turned off, so we do not know).
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Well, as far the instant search engine hit is concerned, when The Philosopher's Stone was first published in 1997 Google, grounded in 1998, didn't even exist.

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And when it actually took place, in 1991–1992, nor did Altavista. Searching online for information was just not something you did back then. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 15 at 15:10

Magicians aren't used to Muggles' technology. Think about Arthur Weasley; he dealt a lot more than others magicians with Muggles' items, and still couldn't get many basic things right.

Magicians don't use computers because they feel soo superior that they can't even think about something created by Muggles can be more powerful than them on something.

And I think this is a good explanation because Mage's work is full of racism, even in some younger boy, versus the non and almost mage

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Don't know about the racism factor... Wizards are quite happy using steam engines, motor cycles, Ford Anglia's and loads more of muggle technology – Starkers Apr 15 '14 at 12:40
you can see the recism when people are called "half blood", "muggle born", event the term "muggle" is dispegiative. You see SOME of them using muggle technology, but they are a small(?) open-minded minority. – lesto Apr 15 '14 at 12:46
Racism is pretty strong. Typically implies hatred, intolerance, belief in superiority and right to rule (see Perhaps prejudice is a better label. – Stan Apr 15 '14 at 13:08
This is exaclty what Death Eater and their supporter wants. – lesto Apr 15 '14 at 13:22
And we see, in the course of the series, that Death Eaters and their supporters are a minority of wizards. – nomen Apr 16 '14 at 5:18

The thing you have to realise is that if you're a wizard and you can cast spells and all, why would you waste your time upgrading Windows? What would you prefer, a blue screen of death, or to spend time perfecting your death touch?

It's really just a matter of superior intelligence. As people develop better magical abilities like being able to teleport and travel on broomsticks, etc., there's less of a desire to want to spend time on Computers.

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Install Ubuntu, have the best of both worlds – Starkers Apr 15 '14 at 20:32
@Starkers - Sometimes it can take some serious magic to fix a Linux system ;) – Robotnik Jun 16 '14 at 3:39

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