Hardware

Happy Anniversary --- you frustrating beige box you

I was pursing through the IBM PC celebrates 25th anniversary photo gallery we published this week and it brought back some nostalgic memories of days long since past. The green monochrome screen of the original IBM PC seems so long ago now. I remember actually being bemused by the first amber monochrome screen I saw during that early period of personal computer bliss. Going from green to amber was a nice change of pace —- which on reflection seems so sad now.

In those first years of the PC, monochrome was synonymous with business, while color, even if it was only four colors, meant you were likely playing a game. Slowly the idea that color was okay for business began to take hold. That trend was, of course, accelerated by the graphical user interface.

My first IBM computer was the ill-fated PCjr —- that's right I was one of those people. I don't usually talk about it, but as this is as special occasion I'll make an exception. I used the PCjr for two things: Lotus 123 and Microsoft Flight Simulator.

I have two distinct memories of the PCjr. First, I remember that in order to run Lotus 123 I had to insert a cartridge into the front of the machine. My recollection is that it had some ROM on it, because the Jr. did not have enough RAM to run it outright. Which leads me to the second memory —- I remember the debate I had with my financial budget about adding another whopping 129Kb to the machine. In order to add the memory, you had to buy and attach a complete new side panel to the box. It wasn't just a chip, it was basically a new peripheral added to the side. Very strange design, and incredibly expensive when you consider how much memory goes for these days.

Now, some 25 years later, I'm lugging around an Alienware m9700 notebook with 2 GB or RAM and two video cards, each with their own set of 256 Mb, which are controlled by a CPU with a Gigabyte of cache. And the screens have really changed. We've gone from 120 X 40 (someone check me on the exact numbers —- my memory fails me) monochrome monitors to widescreens (16:9 ratio) capable of displaying millions of colors at a resolution of 1920 X 1200 or better.

So happy anniversary PC! It has been a generally wondrous ride. Although I have been frustrated many times by your quirks and temperamental electronic stability, I have nonetheless stuck with you all these years. As we continue the trend toward better performance in smaller packages, it will be interesting to see where we will be in another 25 years. I may be getting an Alienware shirt/computer to review in a few years —- I hope they carry extra large because I like my shirts roomy.

I think High Definition LCD screens are going to be the next technology we all clamor to acquire, but I'm not sure where we go from there. Do you want to take guess on what the PC will be like in 25 years? Does your crystal ball say we will be wearing our PCs? Will we have chips embedded in our bodies? Will the interface be connected directly to the synapses of our brains making the LCD obsolete? What do you think?

About

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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