By Dr. Philip Baczewski, Director of Academic Computing and User Services
A Bevy of Anniversaries
The anniversaries just keep coming. Already this year, we've noted the significant anniversaries of IBM, FTP, Apple, and Windows, and of course the 25th anniversary of .com last year. That's quite a bevy of anniversaries or should we call the collective a "birth of anniversaries."
Following a theme, we have two related anniversaries to report. 30 years ago on August 12, the IBM PC was introduced with a hail (well, at least one) of good reviews. July 27 of that same year saw the creation of MS-DOS. It wasn't exactly creation in the literal sense, since only days before delivering it to IBM for their PC, Microsoft bought the software from a company named Seattle Computer Products, rebranded it with their name, and jumped on one of the bigger band wagons of the 20th century (and in the process proved that software was much more important than hardware -- hardware is easily replaced, but software changes at a much slower pace.)
Since this is still the irony age, it's only fitting that on one of the designers of the first PC has declared IBM to have been "in the vanguard of the post-PC era." But, a VP for Microsoft has labelled this the "PC-plus era" and asserted that Microsoft will "continue to lead the industry forward in bringing technology to the next billion (or 2 billion or 6 billion) people on our planet." This may be true for a billion or so people, but Apple will still make all the money. So, a mere 30 years after it all started, it appears that the post PC era is upon us (at least where profits are concerned.)
There does seem to be an inevitable progression away from the PC. When I joined Academic Computing in 1987, the computer was an IBM mainframe and the IBM PC I inherited in my new position was there to test connectivity to the "real" computer. Today, my server is a desktop and my desktop is a laptop. My PC is a virtual desktop on my laptop. Some day my desktop will be a virtual presence somewhere in the cloud and my desktop will be whatever piece of hardware I may be holding (preferably a Web-OS tablet, but we'll talk about that some other time.)
There's one more anniversary to discuss. Just 20 years ago on August 6 the first web page was published. So, if you can read this column, thank Tim Berners-Lee. He didn't make a lot of money off of his invention that has changed our world, but at least he got a knighthood out of the deal (it's Sir Tim to us mere Internet serfs.) So now that you can read the web on your phone, where will all the old PC hardware go? I guess to silicon heaven, or remembering MS-DOS, perhaps to the opposite place.