Practical Technology

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Losing the ‘Personal’ in ‘Personal Computing’


I got involved in computers just in time for the revolution. It was the 1970s, and we were moving from centrally managed computers to PCs. For the next 40 years, users had an unprecedented level of choice, which put the “personal” in “personal computing.” Today, that revolution is being pushed back.

I don’t want to overstate the case. In some organizations, users never moved from the terminal/server model, and even if you had a PC, there was always some vendor lock-in. If you bought a Mac, you used Apple’s operating system. You had more options with a Windows PC, but they were limited.

Through all those years, though, no matter what sort of PC you bought, you could always modify it to meet your changing needs. All you needed were expansion slots and a bit of know-how. It was easy to upgrade to a more powerful graphics card, add more memory or switch out to a bigger hard drive.

The first sign that things were changing came with the arrival of sealed-unit smartphones and, a bit later, tablets. Upgradability just doesn’t exist in the tablet world. With a tablet, what you see is what you get, and there’s no way to give yourself more down the road.

Losing the ‘Personal’ in ‘Personal Computing.’ More >

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