"Personal" computers have been around since the 1970s -- I worked on a TRS-80 in high school, and let's just say that was sometime before 1980. But today the world is celebrating the 30th birthday of the PC, because the IBM 5150 was introduced on Aug. 12, 1981. PCs have used a lot of pounds of engineering resins in the past 30 years, and I've contributed my share. I must have 50 pounds of obsolete equipment in my basement and garage. But the market is changing, and now analysts are wondering if the PC era is over. On Wednesday, Mark Dean, chief technology officer for IBM Middle East and Africa, wrote on the company's "Building a Smarter Planet" blog that although he was proud to help design the first PC, he's also proud that IBM exited the PC business in 2005, when it sold that division to Lenovo. "While many in the tech industry questioned IBM's decision to exit the business at the time, it's now clear that our company was in the vanguard of the post-PC era," Dean wrote.
I, personally, have moved beyond the PC as well. My primary computer now is a tablet. When I helped design the PC, I didn't think I'd live long enough to witness its decline. But, while PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they're no longer at the leading edge of computing. They're going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs. 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.Is the PC era dead? I doubt it -- tech analysts and writers are always eager to write off yesterday's technology. Sure, PCs have replace typewriters. But I think we've got at least a decade or two left before PCs disappear.