Friday, August 12, 2011

PC 5150

IBM PC 5150 was launched on 12 August 1981. A little over 30 years ago. In thirty years it has "changed the world". Now "changed the world" is such a cliche. Everything changed the world from automobile to telephone to condoms. So in that sense it really did NOT change the world. We are still stupid, insignificant, mortal human beings visiting planet earth for a roughly average 65 years. Nothing changed on that front. But on the other hand, the impact of PC on our daily lives is far more than the convenience of paying bills and buying train tickets from our desk. It DID change our lives in more profound way.

I think the most profound impact of computers in our lives is the way we think. People who uses computers thinks more objectively that people who don't. While phrases like "do it in your free cycle", "I have no bandwidth left" may sound geeky and mere phrases, I think they are not mere phrases anymore. They have invaded our thought process. We do tend to think the way computer thinks rather than the way humans used to think. Life is now a sequence of instructions to be processed rather than a sequence of experiences to be felt and enjoyed/endured. Improving things is like optimizing a program than making life better. A phone call from my father when I am in a party seems like a NMI while doing an important subroutine. I think I have now less feeling and more computing than I used to be when I did not know computers.

Now that can as well be just because I have grown old. But I have a suspicion computer did play a role here.

I first saw a PC (A little better than the one in the above picture) in 1989 in our Jadavpur University, Computer Science lab, in August! We had one that was exactly same as the above picture in a different lab. It is amazing that guy from a backward region of such an impoverished country and from a quite poor background will work on the most advanced machine within eight years after it was built. We also had a CDC Cyber 180 and a Norsk Data ND-500 machine in our labs. Both of these machines were less than 10 years old and I think used to cost thousands of dollars.

Our tuition fee for undergraduate studies in 1989 was IIRC Rs 20/month. When I was thinking about this last night I felt real gratitude for my country and the people on my country whose contribution made it possible.