IBM: 'PCs going the way of the typewriter'

The days of the personal computer are numbered, a leading IBM designer has claimed. Dr Mark Dean, who worked on the original IBM PC, the 5150, wrote in a blog post commemorating its 30th anniversary, that “they’re going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs”.

Dr Dean argued that PCs had created the environment for a new generation of devices, ranging across different form factors and uses.

This led, he claimed, to an environemtn in which technology allowed new ideas to flourish, without individual items being a barrier to creativity.

He wrote that “PCs are being replaced at the center of computing not by another type of device—though there’s plenty of excitement about smart phones 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.”

“While PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they’re no longer at the leading edge of computing,” he said.

IBM launched the 5150 on 12 August 1981, and it quickly established the look and feel of PCs in general. Dr Dean owns a third of the patents for it, and claimed he did not expect to outlive the idea. Now, however, he says that even his own main device is a tablet computer.

In a blog also marking the PC’s 30th anniversary, Frank Shaw of Microsoft claimed that the spread of new devices associated with computing was the start of the “PC-plus era”, rather than a sign of decline of traditional computing.

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