Computer Time Capsule Opened

The real innovations of the next 20 years will not be in making technology better but in making us better users of technology-if that's possible.

Out of the blue, a friend of mine, who works for a pack rat whos been in the computer business forever, told me she has a copy of PC Week dated Nov. 29, 1983 (for those of you who still dont know, PC Week changed its name to eWeek in May 2000).

"Impossible," I said. "PC Week didnt publish until February 1984." To prove herself, she faxed me several pages of the issue in question. And there it was, the first-ever "trial" issue of PC Week, complete with the first Spencer Katt and a rare glimpse at a lost age. While the technology making news back then was laughable by todays standards, users were grappling with many of todays problems:

"16-Pounder Debuts: The heavy battle for the lions share of the portable IBM PC market continues to get fiercer but lighter—in pounds, that is. Latest contestant is new kid on the block Visual Computer, whose entry is a 16-bit IBM-compatible weighing as many pounds."

"Apple Turning Compatible: Apple Computer can be seen as moving closer toward IBM PC compatibility as a result of an agreement with Rana Systems to jointly develop and market a compatible co-processor disk drive combination for the Apple II."

Some items were prescient, even if they werent totally accurate: "Sparring PC Partners: Microsofts brand-new product Windows can be seen as a bold market thrust aimed at permanently eradicating issues of compatibility among computers, software and graphics devices."

And some statements can be filed away with Bill Gates claim that 640KB of RAM is enough for anyone: "Who Can Use 7 Windows?: Users are sticking with plain-vanilla PCs rather than switching to 3270-PCs because, as one PC coordinator says, No one knows what to do with seven windows at one time."

The question I had looking through the issue was not just how much things have changed in 18 years but how much more things would change in another 18. If youre like me, you would agree that technology is leveling off and that despite Moores Law and technological advances, the uses of such technology may have been maxed out.

The real innovations of the next 20 years will not be in making technology better but in making us better users of technology—if thats possible.

Say goodbye to this column. Ill still be at [email protected]

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...