PCs

PC is on the way out, says man who invented it

Mark Dean: "My primary computer now is a tablet..."
PC

Is the long reign of the PC now over?Photo: Shutterstock

The PC is only 30 years old, but it's already going the way of the typewriter and the vinyl record, according to one of the engineers who designed the machine that kickstarted the personal computing revolution.

The IBM 5150, the personal computer which launched a gigantic industry, made its debut at a press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York on 12 August 1981. Click here to see photos of the IBM 5150.

However, Mark Dean - who three decades ago was part of the team that built the first machine and is now CTO for IBM Middle East and Africa - said the PC is now on the way out.

"When I helped design the PC, I didn't think I'd live long enough to witness its decline," he wrote in a blog post.

"While PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they're no longer at the leading edge of computing. They're going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs," Dean, who also lead subsequent IBM PC designs through the 1980s, added.

Even Dean has now left the PC behind: "My primary computer now is a tablet," he wrote.

The last few years has seen a variety of form factors begin to replace the standard desktop PC. Most obviously the classic desktop is being replaced by laptops, but also by games consoles, netbooks, tablets and increasingly powerful smartphones, all of which are giving businesses and consumers new ways of accessing computing power.

But it's not just all about tablets. Dean said the PC isn't simply being replaced by new form factors.

"PCs are being replaced at the center of computing not by another type of device - though there's plenty of excitement about smartphones and tablets - but by new ideas about the role that computing can play in progress.

"These days, it's becoming clear that innovation flourishes best not on devices but in the social spaces between them, where people and ideas meet and interact. It is there that computing can have the most powerful impact on economy, society and people's lives."

However, while IBM, which sold its PC division to Lenovo in 2005, is talking of the 'post-PC' era, not everyone is convinced. Microsoft, which highlighted 400 million PCs will be sold this year, prefers to talk of a 'PC-plus' era instead.

What do you think? Is it all over for the PC? Let us know what you think by posting a comment below.

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

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