Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 10, NO. 11 / NOVEMBER 1984 / PAGE 194

What makes a computer personal? P.D. Estridge.

Thousands of articles have been written about the remarkable growth of the personal computer industry. By and large, those stories have dealt with systems, options and ways to use personal computers and, in general, it would seem that hardware and software continue to be the stars of the show, the factors driving the tremendous acceptance of personal computing.

In many ways, the strength and potential of personal computers begin with machines and programs and the rapid-fire development of new systems, options, and applications. But these factors are only the beginning. The key ingredient in the growing acceptance of personal computers is their consistent focus on the person using them.

The reason they are called personal computers is that there is no "one size fits all" in personal computers. Each person is unique, and has different needs, habits, income and desires. It is the element of choice that personal computing offers to people that ensures the continuing appeal and acceptance of personal computers.

It is choice, for example, that is the underpinning of IBM's commitment to open architecture: providing information and specifications which encourage others to develop options and programs that run on our systems. This approach has enabled hundreds of companies and individuals to develop hundreds of hardware peripherals and thousands of applications which people can choose for their IBM Personal Computers.

Compatibility is also extremely important. It means that much of the software already available for IBM Personal Computers is immediately available to those buying a newly introduced IBM system. That helps protect the investment made by those who developed the applications. It means consumers buying a newly introduced IBM system can choose from an existing library of thousands of program applications. It protects the investment that people buying a second system already have made in software and hardware. It means individuals using different IBM Personal Computers can share programs and information either electronically with a cluster or modem, or simply by exchanging work disks. And it allows those familiar with one PC model to start using another model quickly and easily.

Ease of use is another critical factor, and is defined as how easily a person can start using a system or program, and how easily that person can expand the way the system is used. One of the surprising aspects of personal computing for many people is that, while they bought a PC primarily to do one job, they soon discover that it will do many. They realize that the productivity it gives them in writing letters and reports, for example, is easily carried over into managing a budget, tracking investments, organizing files, and many other personal, business and educational activities.

Variety, flexibility, and ease of use have given people the technological tool to let their creativity flow; to give free rein to their imagination; and to use the power of the PC to change and improve the way they use their time and energy at home, in business, and in school. Personal computers give people new tools with which to learn, to develop skills, to expand their potential, to make everyday routine tasks easier, and to focus their energy in areas that improve their lives. The thousands of applications available for personal computers are an indication of the many things people can do now that were not possible without a PC; but the true potential offered by the personal computer lies in the many functions that remain to be discovered.

One of the most exciting aspects of the personal computer is that tomorrow's discoveries may not come only from today's developers. The personal computer has made the power of the computer available to almost everyone in nearly every walk of life. They are being used in accelerating numbers by people of every age, in classrooms at every rung of the educational ladder, in homes around the world and in nearly every area of business, science, medicine, the arts, and education. Wherever they are being used, people are taking advantage of the potential personal computers offer to them to better manage information and broaden their horizons.

The personal computer industry cannot achieve that potential alone. However, it can provide the technology and make it easy to use and readily accessible so that systems and applications can be combined with the creativity and imagination of those using personal computers. With that combination, there are no limits to what changes can take place to improve all our lives.