SHCC WYSIWYG Article from December 2012

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This article was written by Don VanSyckel, the club president, as a part of "The President's Pen".  This article appeared in the December 2012 WYSIWYG newsletter.

What Made the PC

by Don VanSyckel

What made the personal computer (PC) successful? I believe it's a combination of two things 1) first there was need for a better tools for many tasks and 2) no one (no company) owned it. How did these items promote the PC?

The first reason is somewhat obvious. To become more efficient and to do new things a new technology was needed. Instead of rows of people with adding machines on their desks, the PC allowed more and better work to be done. Items could be typed into a spreadsheet instead of into an adding machine. In reviewing the items if a mistake was located in could be corrected and the calculations rerun. Everything didn't need to be retyped possibly leading to another error. the data could be save for later reference or use. The data could be shared with others via saving the data as a file on a file server or the data could be transmitted via email to virtually anywhere in the world. The PC also became mobile in the form of laptops. Laptops could be taken to places not generally accessible by other forms of data collection and manipulation. This enhanced the ability of people to do various things either more easily or in some cases that couldn't have been done previously at all.

The second reason from above that no one owned it, caused the technology to be available to be competed. Technology exists at two levels the macro level and the micro level. the macro level is the desk top PC, the laptop PC, the tablet PC, and the palm PC. The micro level is the various microprocessor families from Intel and AMC, the peripheral chips that consolidated graphics, networking, and storage management, and the enhancement of data storage technologies. IBM sort of owned the field for a while and the current WinTel PC was commonly referred to as an IBM PC. But the fact that Microsoft owned the operating system (OS) and not IBM allowed completing PCs to be built. The competition eventually became so intense that IBM got out of the business. Then there's Apple. They owned both the hardware design and the OS. They knew it and took advantage of it. The openness of the WinTel PC is what allowed for the innovation that has spurred the industry on. This is why the Apple never really challenged the WinTel PC.

There are some advantages of both the hardware and software being owned by one company. This leads to fewer integration problems. However the lower price for the WinTel PC has done far more for them than fewer integration issues has done for Apple.

It's just that simple it's been shown time and time again, competition drives quality and features up and drives costs down.

Now let's look at the electronic readers Nook and Kindle. The Nook from Barnes and Noble and the Kindle from Amazon use different formats for the distributed electronic media. Each wants you to join their camp because the real money is not in selling you the Nook or Kindle, it's in the follow-on purchases of electronic content. One interesting note is that both of these readers decided they could not ignore the PDF format and each included simple text format. I'm not sure if the content format is copyrighted or trademarked but the content is controlled by the two companies. If these two readers were capable of using a common format ebook the market would really take off.

One thing you should be aware of is many, many old books are available as simple text. These are usable on both readers. They aren't quite as fancy as the new ebook formats but if your goal is to read the content the text files work just fine.

End of Article

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