She is 30 years old. She has provided us with lots of excitement and – admittedly – some frustration. Though she – the personal computer or the PC as we used to call her among friends – is not dead yet but her years are numbered.
It was exactly thirty years ago, August 12, 1981 when the first IBM PC 5150 went on sale. The inflation adjusted price was roughly the equivalent of ten current laptops while its computing power was about a mere 1/4000th of one contemporary machine.
Fast-forward three decades, DOS, XT, AT, x86, Windows 3.1, mouse, Intel Pentium, Internet and we arrive to the second decade of the second millennia, the era of wireless networks, mobile devices and cloud computing, which also marks the end of PC domination.
Is this just another typewriter story?
We saw the mimeograph (stencil duplicator), the telex, the typewriter, the fax and numerous other machines go obsolete and suppressed by more modern technology. We abandon our most loved and hated desktops for tablets and smartphones which can do all the jobs while we are on the move and keep us connected and entertained at the same time. Is this just another tale of the technological evolution or is it something different?
Mark Dean, Chief Technology Officer, one of a dozen IBM engineers who designed the first PC puts the change in a very different context on his blog:
“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.”
Technology is changing the way we are connected and the way we communicate at such a rapid pace that while we try to keep up, we hardly have the time to step back and realize the potential future impact of the change.
As mobile devices with ever shrinking size keep us connected to each other just as much as they connect us to cloud computing and 3D applications blur the reality with virtual reality, we’ll find ourselves in a world that is organized along new paradigms before we know it.
There will be absolutely no business, big or small, who will not feel the effect of this fundamental change in human to human and human to machine interaction that is facilitated by current technology.
Adaptive capability has always occupied a prime placement on the list of common qualities of successful businesses in the past but there is a change with regards to this too. Adaptive capability migrates from the “Key to Success” list to the very first chapter of the “Business Survival Guide to the 21st Century”.
When the slightest skepticism arises over what these changes might bring to your business, remember: Ken Olsen the CEO and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), a leading vendor of computer systems from the 1960s to the 1990s, said in 1977, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home”. DEC is long gone, we have more computers in our homes, offices, cars, briefcases and pockets than ever before and this is just the beginning of a new era.