Computers Are in the Midst of the Latest Great Hardware Transition of Our Time
Since the first “portable” computer made its appearance on the market in the 1970’s, computer hardware has undergone a stunning renaissance, completing several stages of rapid transition while simultaneously increasing its ability to transform our everyday lives. What were some of the most notable of these stages?
A Computer You Can Hold in Your Arms?
In 1975, a computer was introduced called the IBM 5100, which weighed a miraculous, feather-light 55 pounds. While large and clumsy by modern standards, the portable 5100 represented the height of technology, since it offered a processor, RAM, several hundred KBs of ROM, a five inch screen and a keyboard. The computer even had a tape deck with which users could play small reel-to-reel audio tapes, the predecessor of the cassette. If it caught your fancy, you could buy an IBM 5100 for 8,000 to 20,000 dollars.
The Arrival of the Laptop
The first laptop computer was technically designed in 1979, but didn’t hit the market until 1982. Even then, the Grid Compass 1100, or GRiD, was primarily used by NASA and the US military. It had a full keyboard, 340 KB of memory, and an Intel processor, and it cost about 10,000 dollars. Its screen was approximately the size of a modern iPhone.
Personal computers for home use became available in 1981 with the introduction of the IBM 5150. The 5150 was small enough to fit on a desk and offered a 8088 Intel processor, 64 KB of RAM and a floppy disk drive that allowed users to boot the computer with an early version of MS DOS.
The World Wide Web
On August 6, 1991, the first web page was put online by Tim Berners-Lee, an employee of the CERN research facility. Photographs are available that show the first computer ever to support a page on what would later become the Internet. “This machine is a server,” says a warning label stuck to the computer. “Do not power it down!”
We’ve come a long way since an accidental shut-off could close down the entire (one-page) World Wide Web. And at the moment, progress shows no signs of slowing down. Computers are now in the midst of the latest great hardware transition—the migration of onsite servers to remote data storage facilities and “the cloud”. Businesses everywhere are unifying their software systems onto a single platform and then moving that platform to a separate facility that charges a simple fee for server access and maintenance. The impact on cost and accessibility for smaller businesses has been enormous. What will the next evolution of business technology bring us? Share your ideas and thoughts in the comment section below!