Over the weekend, August 12th precisely, PC
computing turned 25 years old. On that date back in 1981, IBM shipped the first
IBM PC. Microcomputers had already been around for several years, but the IBM
PC legitimatized computers in the workplace. Apple, Radio Shack, and others
were starting to make small inroads into business with their offerings, but it
wasnt until the PC arrived that they really took off.
ran an article discussing the 25th anniversary of the PC.
CNN.COM certainly isnt a tech site per se, but I was still a bit taken aback
by one paragraph in the article:
A floppy disk is a
thin, plastic disk that was coated with a magnetic substance used to store
data. Earliest disks were 8 inches wide, more efficient disks shrunk to 5 1/4
inches, then 3 1/2 inches. Unlike a CDs or DVDs of today, the disks were
floppy, or flexible.
I find it hard to believe that that many people would be that
unfamiliar with what a floppy disk was that CNN felt the need to devote an
entire paragraph to it. Floppy drives still appear on some systems, and most
people would have either grown up with them if they were under 25 or used them
at some point if they were over 25.
It would be interesting to think what things would be like
now if IBM hadnt entered the microcomputer market. Compaq likely never have
been formed because its sole purpose was to clone the successful PC. Michael
Dell never would have been because he started out selling gray market PCs out
of the back of his dorm room. Bill Gates would still be in New Mexico with a
small business working out of store front selling languages. Linux may never
have existed because Linus Torvalds created it as a clone of a Unix-based OS
for a PC-compatible.
Its conceivable that wed still have the Mac. Apple was
influenced by the PC, but not all that much. Tandy/Radio Shack may have stayed
in the market place longer. Because they were starting to leverage Unix on
their business PCs such as the Model II and the Tandy 6000, Tandy may have lead
the charge to bring Unix into the forefront of small computers
The Internet had already been in existence for over 10
years, so we may still have been surfing the Internet. Except rather than doing
it on IBM compatibles running Microsoft Windows, we may have been doing it on
Tandy-compatibles running some flavor of Unix. Or, it would be a Utopia for 5%
of the current market because wed all be using Macs.
A company I did some consulting for was using original IBM
PCs as late as 1992. I should have salvaged one of the machines because they
wound up tossing the last one in the dumpster by 1994. I couldnt see taking up
the room at the house with one though. I still had boxes of 5 1/4 floppies
around and my trusty Tandy 1000 to run them on. Even that computer is old
enough to drink now.
But as for the PC generation, it enters another quarter
century. With all of the changes in the last 25 years, its hard to imagine
what its going to be like at the end of 50 years.