Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 10, NO. 11 / NOVEMBER 1984 / PAGE 258

Personal computers in 1990. Egil Juliussen.

Personal computers have changed tremendously in the past few years--in hardware technology, software technology, as well as in sales and advertising. These changes will continue, and the capability of personal computers will be dramatically improved by 1990. Personal Computer Capabilities in 1990

Technology advances will remain a major force in the personal computer industry. Three key technologies will have the most impact on how personal computers will look in 1990:

* Software based on artificial intelligence (AI) technology

* Mass storage devices based on optical disks

* Flat display technologies

Artificial intelligence is rapidly becoming a buzz word in the personal computer industry. There are numerous startup companies that are developing AI-based software for personal computers. Expert systems will probably be among the first applications. We also believe that tomorrow's integrated productivity software will gain ease of use through AI techniques. A few AI products are currently available on mainframe computers, but personal computers will be the major market for these products. The processing power and memory required to run AI-based products will help push personal computer hardware advances.

Figure 1 shows potential mass storage devices for the 1990 time frame. Optical disks have been a promising technology for 15 years but have been a disappointment so far. The investment in R&D and manufacturing for the videodisk and digital audio disk (compact disk) is rapidly changing the outlook for optical disks. By the late 1980s, Future Computing is projecting four categories of optical disks that will be used in the personal computer industry. At the high end of the spectrum is an optical read-write disk, which will cost about $5000. The optical read-write disk will have a capacity of approximately 1 gigabyte or 125Mb. A write-once optical disk will be priced in the $1500 range and will store 0.5 to 1 gigabyte. These two devices will probably be based on the current 12" video disks. A compact disk (CD ROM) would be based on the digital audio disk which has a 12cm (4.8") diameter. The CD ROM will cost $250 to $500 and will store 0.2 to 0.6 gigabytes. The format of the digital audio disk will offer a capacity of 550Mb on one side.

A smaller size read-only optical disk is also a possibility. Such as optical microdisk could have a 3.5" diameter and could store about 50Mb. The price will be in the $200 range. The read-only disks will be albe to display digital and video images.

The magnetic disks will see continued improvements and will remain the primary mass storage devices. Vertical recording is likely to have a high impact on magnetic disk products. There will be 5.25" Winchester disks as well as micro Winchester disks, probably 3.5" in size. The leading floppy disk will be 3.5", but a 2" version will appear. The 5.25" minifloppy disk will still be in use.

Flat display technologies will improve substantially in the next few years and will be a key in the growth of battery-powered personal computers. There are several other display technologies vying for dominance in the personal computer industry, but LCD appears to be in the lead due to its low power consumption. High investment in LCD manufacturing and R&D favors this technology as well.

There are other technologies that will impact personal computers in this decade. The laser printer will be the most important printing technology. Ink-jet printers, as typified by HP's Thinkjet printer, will also be important. Speech I/O is also likely to improve its position. Office Personal Computer Capabilities in 1990

With these technology advances, we can sketch the typical office personal computer capability for 1990, as shown in Figure 2. The floppy disk personal computer will have at least 4Mb of RAM. It will have two microfloppy disks and an optical read-only disk (CD ROM). A color graphics display driven by a powerful graphics chip will be standard. This graphics chip will execute high level commands, such as rotation and windowing. The printing tasks will be handled by a multifunction printer which will handle graphics and various levels of letter quality printing. Communication via modem or with a local network will also be included. The primary software will be integrated productivity programs that have been enhanced by A I technologies. Windows will be common. The price will be in the $3000 range. The microprocessor will have 32-bit capabilities.

The winchester disk personal computer will have even more capability in memory and mass storage. Program storage of 16Mb will be common. A micro Winchester disk with 100Mb may be conservative if vertical recording is successful. The optical write-once disk may be used as a backup and archival device. The laser printer will probably be standard. The modem will also be faster than for the floppy disk personal computer. The typical price for this system is in the $7000 range.

Figure 3 shows a similar scenario for battery-powered personal computers. The book-size personal computer is constrained by its size. That is the reason for the small disk and the add-on printer. The book-size personal computer will finally approach the capability of the so-called Dynabook, which alan Kay postulated while at Xerox in the early 1970s.

The book-size personal computer will have 1Mb of RAM and a 2" microdisk storing 400K and possibly more using vertical recording. The trick is to find the space for both the keyboard and the display. Some products will use touch input technology instead of keyboard. the integrated productivity software will have multifunction communications software for access to databases and for retrieval of information from the "mother-computer" back at the desk. Battery operation will be mandatory and could easily sustain 70 to 80 hours of use.

The briefcase personal computer is more capable and will run most of the desktop personal computer software. It must, therefore, have the same microfloppy disk as the desktop product and must also emulate the display characteristics of the desktop personal computer. The size constraints are not as severe as for the book-size personal computer. This allows the inclusion of two larger 3.5" disks and a printer. The low power consumption of ink-jet printers favors this technology. Some of the briefcase personal computers will have a micro Winchester disk in place of one of the 3.5" floppy disks. Home Computer Capabilities in 1990

The home computer capability of 1990 will increase dramatically over current products. For comparsion, the capability of Future Computing's two home computer segments is shown in Figure 4. The equivalent of a cartridge home computer will have 1Mb of RAM. A 2" microdisk or a 3.5" microfloppy disk will also be included. An optical read-only disk will be a common optional peripheral. A color TV interface will be a standard feature.

All home computers will have a powerful graphics animation chip, which will be able to construct Saturday morning cartoons in real time--a capability which will provide tremendous entertainment and education software.

Output will be provided by a non-impact printer--possibly thermal transfer or ink-jet technology. A 1200-baud modem will be very common. It will allow multifunction communications and transaction software to become a major application. Future computing believes strongly that home banking, transaction, electronic mail, and videotex will become major applications by that time. These functions will make home computers a "need" in 1990 versus being primarily a "want" in 1984. This product will cost $300 to $400 in 1990.

The equivalent of the floppy disk home computer will have at least 2Mb of RAM in 1990. A microfloppy disk, probably a 3.5" disk, will be standard, along with an optical disk. The CD ROM will be based on the digital audio disk and may store more than 500Mb. The ink-jet printer is most likely to be the printer of choice and will provide both letter quality and higher speed draft and graphics output. The major software applications will include entertainment and education programs along with multifunction communications software. In addition, personal productivity software that behaves like expert systems will have a profound impact.

These advanced home computer capabilities will have a very significant impact on industries other than the computer industry as shown in Figure 5. Currently, the television, home computer, communications, and publishing industries are, for the most part, separate industries, each with a definable set of participants, products, and customers.

By the late 1980s these distinctions will blur as television, telephone, and publishing technologies merge with home computer technology. Home computers will incorporate all of these technologies, and thus become very different sorts of machines than exist today.

The Challenge for firms in these industries is to change with technology; if they do not, they will fall behind competitors. The shift will be equivalent to the shift from vacuum tubes to transistors, and from mechanical adding machines to electronic calculators. In each case, some firms were able to adapt while others could not and disappeared.

The floppy disk and cartridge home computers of 1984 will merge with new video and communications technologies during the late 1980s. By 1990, three new classes of home computers will develop as seen in Figure 6: expert home computers, information-media home computers, and communication home computers. The expert home computer will include high speed communications and large storage for personal productivity applications, but will also be used for education, communication, and transactions.

The information-media home computer will upgrade the television set with storage for video, audio, and software and will become the home entertainment and education system of the next decade. By 1990, the TV receiver function will fit on a handful of integrated circuits. Thus, a small board that could fit inside a home computer could add the TV function.

The communication home computer will be compatiable with the information-media home computer. It might also be used apart from the television for electronic mail, home banking, shopping, and database retrieval. This computer will incorporate the voice communications features of the telephone but will also play ROM entertainment and education cartridges and optical disks. Summary

In 1983 the office personal computer market in the U.S. was nearly $8 billion at the customer spending level--including both hardware and software. The home computer hardware and software market in the U.S. was $2.5 billion in 1983. By 1990, Future Computing projects that the U.S. office personal computer hardware and software market will exceed $45 billion. And the 1990 home computer market will be nearly $14 billion. To put these numbers in perspective, a 1% market share of the U.S. office personal computer hardware market is worth over $350 million in customer spending.