A Brief History of Personal Computing by Charles Emes
Smart phones, the internet and laptops now form an integral part of many people’s lives but a mere 35 years ago they were mainly figments of a few researchers’ imaginations. It was fascinating for us that Charles, from personal involvement and wider knowledge, could recreate the timelines for how hardware and software have moved at an ever increasing pace. He highlighted key developments in this progression, and who were the lead players.
In 1980 Bill Gates foresaw a time when there would be a computer on every desk and in every home. In those days various PCs like Commodore and Sinclair ZX were arriving but each had its own operating system using floppy and hard discs with rapidly increasing capacities in the next few years. The big players like Apple and Microsoft soon exploited the need for better but far fewer operating systems. From Apple came the Imac in 1995, Ipod and Itunes in 2001, Iphone in 2007 and the Ipad in 2010. Windows from Microsoft first surfaced in 1985 as a rival to Apple, though early versions were not very good. In 1981 IBM had also produced their own PC which by 1983 sold 750,000 and whose success led to widespread cloning elsewhere.
Much early software used DOS as its operating language for key apps for spreadsheets, word pro and data bases. These were not able to migrate easily to Windows and so Microsoft did a complete rewrite and succeeded in grabbing a major market share with their Excel, Word and Access apps.
A word too on the power of the gaming front where the need for better reality gave the impetus to vastly improved hardware and apps.
Charles then took us through the development of connectivity from dialling up via a phone line, to bulletin boards, modems, the emergence of broadband with routers and emails [gm(Gmail only from 2004!). The internet had its origin with 3 sites in 1971. By 1992 the so-called World Wide Web had 9 sites and then took off to 10,000+ sites within 2 years. Finally came Virtual Machines and The Cloud. What next?
With 1.5 billion smart phones being sold every year since 2015, the update to Bill Gates forecast should now be “a device on every lap and in every hand”.