Accidental Empires, Part 5 (Chapter 1b)

 

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ACCIDENTAL EMPIRES — CHAPTER 1B

Several hundred users of Apple Macintosh computers gathered one night in 1988 in an auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to watch a sneak preview demonstration of a new word processing application. This was consumerism in its most pure form: it drew potential buyers together to see a demonstration of a product they could all use but wouldn’t be allowed to buy. There were no boxes for sale in the back of the room, no “send no money, we’ll bill you later.” This product flat wasn’t for sale and wouldn’t be for another five months.

Why demonstrate it at all? The idea was to keep all these folks, and the thousands of people […]

Accidental Empires, Part 4 (Chapter 1a) — The Demo God

accidental-195x300ACCIDENTAL EMPIRES CHAPTER ONE

THE   DEMO-GOD

Years ago, when you were a kid and I was a kid, something changed in America. One moment we were players of baseball, voters, readers of books, makers of dinner, arguers. And a second later, and for every other second since then, we were all just shoppers.

Shopping is what we do; it’s entertainment. Consumers are what we are; we go shopping for fun. Nearly all of our energy goes into buying—thinking about what we would like to buy or earning money to pay for what we have already bought.

We invented credit cards, suburban shopping malls, and day care just to make our consumerism more efficient. We sent our wives, husbands, […]

Accidental Empires, Part 1 — Looking back at a golden era

accidental-195x300February, 2013 –

We stand today near the beginning of the post-PC era. Tablets and smart phones are replacing desktops and notebooks. Clouds are replacing clusters. We’re more dependent than ever on big computer rooms only this time we not only don’t own them, we don’t even know where they are.  Three years from now we’ll barely recognize the computing landscape that was built on personal computers. So if we’re going to keep an accurate chronicle of that era, we’d better get to work right now, before we forget how it really happened.

Oddly enough, I predicted all of this almost 25 years ago as you’ll see if you choose to share this journey and read on. […]

Life after the personal computer

A reader pointed out to me this week that the personal computer is well over 30 years old — a number that has real consequence if you are familiar with my work. He remembered I predicted in 1992 that PCs as we knew them would be dead by now. I was obviously a little off in my timing. But only a little off. PCs are still doomed and their end will come quicker than you think.

Here’s what I wrote in my book Accidental Empires in 1992:

It takes society thirty years, more or less, to absorb a new information technology into daily life. It took about that long to turn movable type into books in the […]