Source: How Computers Work by Ron White


The deskless PC has long been computing's holy grail, a computer that slips the bounds of keyboard and cables, of monitor and mouse, to soar free as a bird-a bird endowed with a constant feed from the Internet, applications that will run a multinational corporation, and on easy abandon that lets it go with you anywhere, like a parrot perched on a pirate in pinstripe.

Why do you think there are no indefinite articles in front of keyboard, monitor and mouse? After all, you're never going to say something like this: "I'm going to the store and I'm gonna buy bottle of milk, fork and can of ground meat." Sounds very ungrammatical, doesn't it?


4 Answers 4


The omission of articles serves here to emphasize the generality and ubiquity of those devices and parts (keyboards, monitors, mouses, cables) that essentially become attributes of computers, their traits, thus losing their individual meaning as devices in their own right.

Besides, here those prepositional phrases are grammatically adjectives to the word "bounds", and since the overall the article about all deskless computers (although it says "a computer...", it means it as a class, not as a single instance), the reference to "bounds" is plural in higher sense, so we can argue that "keyboard and cables" are semantically plural, but not definite (each computer has its own).

Compare such use with "bounds of space and time", "bounds of reason".


The use of "the" four times in a row of nouns immediately one after the other would be clumsy. Without article it is shorter and no less understandable.

  • Why would it be clumsy? I see no compelling reason why that would be true. Sep 8, 2015 at 14:47
  • 2
    of the keyboard and the cables, and of the monitor and of the mouse - I find this repetition of a superfluous element clumsy -that may be my personal view, but it is my view.
    – rogermue
    Sep 8, 2015 at 15:27

To your example: "I'm going to the store and I'm gonna buy bottle of milk, fork and can of ground meat."

How about this?

I'm going to the store and I'm gonna buy a bottle of milk, a fork, and a can of ground meat.

My point is that articles are only needed for the head of these phrases for noncount nouns like milk and ground meat. I think that "of keyboards and cables, of monitors and mice" is also acceptable, even without considering my next point.

The article's quote seems to me to be a misspelling of a reference to the poem adapted for the famous Challenger speech: "to slip the surly bonds of earth and touch the face of God." References to poetry in English tend to really mess with the expected grammar, causing the changed words to behave as much like the words they replace as possible. Earth is somewhat personified in this text, as "bonds of earth" seems to mean "bonds belonging to earth." If you personify the list like this and pretend the nouns are proper names, then it seems perfectly valid to leave out these articles.


In computing, a keyboard, a monitor, a mouse and the cables connecting them to the computer are all called peripherals. Knowing this, I read that section as a noun-phrase used as a synonym for peripherals:

The deskless PC has long been computing's holy grail, a computer that slips the bounds of peripherals, to soar free as a bird-a bird...

As an aside, technical manuals are written by people who are far more proficient in their technical field than they are proficient at writing. This has long been a problem with the technical writing industry as a whole and could explain the popularity in technical YouTube channels.

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