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Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Thinking About the True Power of Personal Computers

“Today’s average Personal Computer has more power than all of the combined power of all of the computers in the world in 1970.” Moore’s Law I purchased my first computer in 1982 at the age of 11, thoroughly amazed at the capabilities of my new Atari 800 with its 1.8 megahertz CPU and 48k of RAM. Of course I was hooked immediately, and since then have rarely left my computer desk. The personal computer has certainly changed. For those of you would opt not to think in terms of megastuff and gigawhatnot, you can affordably purchase a computer today with a processor that’s twenty thousand times faster and with ten thousand times more memory. I didn’t have any type of data storage device, such as a floppy disk drive those were only for rich kids. No “off-the-shelf” software applications were available. The only programs that my Atari could run were the ones I wrote myself in BASIC, which were lost as soon as the power was turned off because I had nothing to save the programs onto. Now I can buy a three hundred gigabyte hard drive that you buy at Fry’s for $200 today that is capable of storing all of the text of about a quarter of a billion books. Even so, they say that your new computer will obsolete within six months. Obsolete is a hard and absolute word to describe the effect, but you can make a sure bet that something faster is coming soon. If today’s personal computer is equal to the power of all computers 35 years ago, in 35 years will one personal computer be equal to all of the computer power that exists in the world today? Probably … Maybe … I sure hope so! So what will a person be able to do with all of today’s computing power at their fingertips? I’ve spent long hours trying to imagine. Applications drive technology innovations. The end is not merely to have faster and faster computers. The end is to be able to do more things with a computer and that is what requires increasing horsepower. When I got my start in 1982, the mass appeal of a personal computer was for geeks like me to have a fantastically complicated and mysterious toy to play with and become absorbed and lost in a world of programming logic. In the late 1980s, computers were adopted by businesses, they could utilize word processing and spreadsheet applications and forgo their typewriters and ledgers. Managing everything The 1990s were the equivalent of a modern day Gold Rush to network all of the computers in the world together on the Internet to communicate with E-mail, Instant Messaging, and post information through the World Wide Web. We now live in the age of digital media, and users desire instant access to their music, photos and videos. We expect computers to manage virtually every element of our businesses and most companies are completely dependant on their systems to operate. Each newfound demand for applications drives technology innovations and requires increased personal computing power. It seems to me that people want computers to help them fulfill their desires. For the most part, people want more money, people want romance, people want to stay close with their friends and family, and people want to meet other people who share common interests. Computers are wonderful tools to help people do all of these things, and they just keep getting better and better at it. Few doubt that eventually computers will be smarter than humans. Moore’s Law, which has held true since 1965, states that computer processing power doubles every 18-24 months. If this Law holds true then your computer is expected to outwit you sometime in the Autumn of 2020. Think about your PDA, or Personal Digital Assistant. Today’s PDA’s are pretty advanced, and can do a lot of things that help attain your desires including handle E-mails, cell phone calls, manage your calendar, store your contacts, play your MP3 songs and the list goes on and on. Then think about what your PDA will be like in 35 years, when the gizmo in your hand is equal to all of the computing power in the world today and actually far smarter than you. Connected to everything You can be reasonably certain that your future PDA will also be wirelessly connected to every other PDA in the world. Our PDAs will know everything about us and our desires and interests and they will all be talking to each other, all the time. Consider a few possibilities. You have a complete collection of autographed baseball cards of the 1917 Yankees. Within moments of telling your PDA that you want to sell them and for how much, your PDA has already communicated with dozens of PDAs around the world whose owners wish to buy a complete collection of 1917 Yankees autographed baseball cards. Now suppose you own a textile business in Fresno with a 2,000 barrel cotton overstock that is clogging your warehouses. In seconds your PDA has negotiated a deal with the PDA of an owner of Cotton Swab manufacturing business in Argentina who can’t find a single ball of cotton in all of South America. Suppose you are new to a city and you’re looking for a date to see the twenty-seventh James Bond movie on opening night. Your PDA will find the closest compatible partner and begin to dial their number before you can say “Bond, James Bond.” Your Personal Digital Assistant will give reasonable, sound advice on topics of love, finance, education, investments, relationships, education, and could in fact even become your best friend or a nanny to your grandchildren. The more you use it, the more it will understand your character in a profound way, more than any human can relate to… perhaps even yourself. The possibilities are endless, but there’s a scary part… those that live and breathe by the recommendations and advice of their PDAs will be more successful in attaining their desires than people who do not own or use technology. In a sense, our technology will direct our lives. Or better said, the most successful people will be those who allow technology to direct their lives. My PDA already tells me what to do my calendar indicates where I should be and when and what I need to do. Sure I always have the power of choice, but as long as a follow my PDA’s calendar, I keep myself out of too much trouble by fulfilling my responsibilities and people seem to like me. Mike Newman is business development manager of Northridge-based Cal Net Technology Group

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