On August 12, the PC as we know it turned 30.
The term “personal computer” had been used in the past, but the original IBM PC was so successful that the term PC came to be something with IBM parts in it. That’s why we don’t say that Mac personal computers are PCs.
Check out the specs of the original PC:
To give you an idea, if you open Microsoft Word and type “The.” and then save it as a .docx, it will take up 12KB of hard drive space. A disc that could barely save 13 nearly-empty word documents was used for the entire operating system. Youch.
Why is this relevant to you? Computers back then were very very hardy. And the people who designed the hardware worked closely with the folks who did the software–if they weren’t the same person. That meant the software was designed to exploit the capabilities of the hardware as much as possible. And back then, you had to do that if you wanted to get any decent performance.
Now, we’ve got 3GHz quad-core processors running software that’s nowhere near optimized. Half the time, your software is wasting space and doing unnecessary things, and three of your cores are just sitting and waiting for a job to do.
The PC turned 30 a couple days ago, but computers age differently. Right now computers are in their adolescent phase. Where your hardware grows faster than your software and you’re not quite optimized. That’s why teenagers get acne, or bone cramps from growing way too fast. That’s why you can learn calculus but can’t change your car’s oil. Right as your hardware is becoming super-powerful, your software is only slowly catching up at the same pace it always grows.
The difference is that you’ll grow out of it naturally. Computers will only grow out of it if we do it for them. And the only way to do that is to not just learn how to engineer, but how to do it like a boss.
Read what I read.
- Wikipedia entry on the IBM Personal Computer
- Discovery.com article on the PC turning 30.
- RegHardware article on the PC’s 30th birthday.
- PDF of the original press release.
- Atlantic article about a prediction of iPad like technology, from 1994.