Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 10, NO. 11 / NOVEMBER 1984 / PAGE 97

The computer as a creative tool. Crhis Rutkowski.

Today, everybody knows that the computer is a tool. Right? Well, ten years ago when Creative Computing was launched this truth was by no means self-evident.

Let me put this in perspective.

Computers were invented as servants of the biggest organizations even conceived: the superpowers and the multinational corporations. These groups, not exactly known for their accurate vision of the future, supported and embraced the computer because of its prowess at one thing: number crunching. And between censuses and actuarial tables these groups had lots of numbers to crunch.

So specialized were the capabilities and so exorbitant the price of these earliest computers that some nameless sage at Univac predicted that the total world market for computers was five. How this number was arrived at remains unclear today, but the magnitude of his error was soon clear. Demand for computing power erupted upon the face of business with unprecedented rapidity. Seemingly overnight demand rose form none to too much--and created legends like IBM in the process.

But make no mistakes: computers were very expensive. So this newest survival tool was available only to those who could afford it. But not surprisingly, however, no company could afford to be without one. The 60's

This created a market vacuum. By the 60's there were many thousands of companies that gazed longingly at the computers of their bigger brethren and wished that they too could gain control over their runaway paper mills. And this set the stage for the mini computer revolution.

It is important to not that the mini computer performed jobs that were different in no important way from those to which mainframes had been put before. They were servants to the power structure of corporations--tools, if you will, of organizations, by organizations, and for organizations. What had been created was a tool with no feelings, no conscience, no morals, no human flaws. In short, The Ultimate Bureaucrat.

Need an advance on wages? Sorry, the computer only makes out checks biweekly. A mistake in your billing? Computers don't make mistakes; only humans makde mistakes. Not feeling up to snuff? Your keystroke count is down, Miss Jones. . . . And so on.

True, the computer gave management the most accurate and up to the minute control of organization ever achieved. But it also dehumanized the contemporary office and gave rise to a new disease: Cyberphobia. The 70's

By the 70's the spurt of semiconductor technology precipitated by the space program made possible something called LSI; Large Scale Integration. LSI made possible semiconductor devices of unheard of complexity which could even be made to resemble large computers in their architecture. Various companies toyed with programmable logic devices for such exotic applications as traffic light control.

It was at this time, when LSI technology was emerging and productivity was sagging in spite of advanced data processing, that the personal computer was born.

The personal computer was a radical departure from the data processing models that had so-long served corporations. Data processing computers were enormously de-humanizing. They were, perhaps, the culmination of second wave industrial society's belief that the individual was without worth. Personal computers, served the needs of individual human beings and were by definition humanizing.

The personal computer was, thus, the result of an available technology being used in a way totally unpredicted by the mainstream corporation which had given birth to the technology. That is, it was the result of Creativity. And Creative Computing was right there from the beginning, passing the word among a hard band of renegades--reinforcing the belief that computers could be more than just number crunchers.

And because of that, today you have Macintosh and Valdocs and personal productivity software and all the other things that seem so self-evident and obvious.

Happy Birthday Creative Computing. And thanks.