Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Obituary: the Personal Computer is Dead (1971-2014)

Source: Martin Angler
Machine of the year 1982: the Personal Computer. Cover copyright: TIME magazine
The Personal Computer (his friends tenderly called him PC) who has died today aged 43 , made an unparalleled impact on people’s lives and world economy. Even though he became a celebrity, in his heart, PC always remained a humble servant who would solve even the most complicated calculations of his masters. His celebrity status came at a high cost, though: he has been reinventing himself for decades, changing often his complexion and name (“IBM PC”, “Macintosh”, “Laptop” are just a few of his aliases).
The PC was born in 1971 as Kenbak-1 to a single father called Ken Blankenbaker. After three years, Blankenbaker put him up for adoption. Since then, the PC’s adoptive parents have changed many times. PC was a child prodigy that was educated in the late 1960s and early 1970s at the Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. His teachers and mentors Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie taught him to speak and understand C as well as UNIX. Due to his outstanding performance, TIME magazine named the Personal Computer the 1982 person Machine of the Year.
Machine of the year 1982: the Personal Computer. Cover copyright: TIME magazine
The PC’s work life wasn't easy at the beginning. He spent a lot of time in nerds’ basements and university laboratories. After some time, he became so depressed he would bite carton business cards that were handed to him by geeky computer scientists. Eventually, in the mid-1980s, he got out of the labs and basements, lost a lot of weight and moved to brighter buildings with lots of windows and colourful offices.
Unfortunately, after moving to the bright office with all these windows, by the end of the 1980s, PC was down with the flu – and would never fully recover. In fact, in 1988 he was found to have intestinal worms and brought down most of the then Internet. Which consisted of a few thousand UNIX-based hosts. After more than three decades in that same office building, the8th of the windows broke (and couldn’t be fixed). The company eventually removed the glazier-in-chief, but it was already too late. The resulting draft made Personal sick, and he could never recover from that struggle. By that time, PC had already lost most of his former social status.
His younger brother, Tablet, says: “Yes, Personal was very successful in the past. He was ambitious at first but failed to become as social as I did. He never wanted to go out with his owner’s – said, he just couldn’t. I guess this was just… well, maybe it was his garage and basement past, you know. That’s why our parents and owners loved me more. I guess this is just the fate of the eldest brother.”
The PC never really recovered from this humiliation. What made his depressive state worse was the fact that he never knew who his real parents were. Several claims were made and came from an individual named Hugh “Lad” Pecker, an International Business Man, a successful fruit vendor and from Xerxes (not the Persian prince). Some are still fighting over who PC’s parents were.
Eventually, in February 2014 even his rich aunt Sonya would drop him like a hot potato.
The PC was crestfallen. Together with the deadly draft from the broken window, he silently faded away. The PC leaves behind his brothers Tablet and Smartphone and lots of smart children (rumor has it there are up to 8.7 billion of them, their mothers remain unknown). They are spread throughout the whole world but have promised to stay in touch via the Internet.
At long last, it is the PC that has enabled and shaped today’s Internet and Social Media.Thank you, PC! You were the Internet’s cornerstone, and you paved the way for your younger brothers and sisters. We’ll miss you.
But now it’s time to make way for smart, portable and wearable devices.
Cover copyright: TIME magazine, 1983. Machine of the year 1982: the Personal Computer.