So the PC is 20 years old now, although of course nothing from Sinclair, Tandy, Commodore, Altair or Apple figures in anyones counts. MTV has also hit the score mark, and, like the PC industry, the music industry is awash in commercialism and uncertainty. But, oh, how the PC and MTV have changed us to a culture of nervous, information-grubbing, acutely impatient gadget weenies.
How times have changed—sort of. Just about 20 years ago, I was writing reports on an IBM PCjr. It was a disaster. The Chiclet-style membrane keyboard was awful, the green screen Im certain was the cause of my myopia, and the commonly installed Micropro Wordstar word processor turned a bunch of nobodies into a clique of keyboard command junkies. At least the PCjr booted faster than todays systems.
Yet everyone loved the PC industry then, as if it were Americas salvation. Nowadays, every single part of the least expensive computer works thousands of times better than those that appeared 20 years ago, and what does the industry get? A bunch of whiners driveling on and on about how they dont like certain features of Windows, or about how Linux isnt easy to use, or about how some graphics cards cant display enough polygons.
Back then, Microsoft—a much smaller player, of course—was at the forefront with Disk Operating System. Bill Gates was about 26 years old—the same age as a lot of those who only recently made a killing with the dot-coms and then faded away, probably to some beach in Thailand.
This year, Microsoft is gearing up its launch of Windows XP, which it calls the companys most important operating system release ever.
I agree. XP is the best desktop operating system you can get. Im aware that the definition of an operating system is a moving target, but XP delivers on all the promises that Microsoft has made.
The operating system may be late. It may be bloated with additional tools and features that many users dont want or need. There may be too many copies of Windows floating around. Heck, Microsoft may be too powerful. But its not as if the cost of the operating system has soared out of control.
I could complain about things XP doesnt do. But if I have any nostalgia for the PC of 20 years ago, its not for the junk that passed as a computer back then. Its for the enthusiasm and open-mindedness of an industry in its infancy.