Obviously, computers permeate our lives in many ways through the gadgets and machines that we use everyday. The Internet has also linked these computers in such a way that a vast amount of information can now be found flowing almost anywhere in the world.
I saw the revolution and evolution of computer technology from the time the Apple ][ was introduced. Those were exciting days when 16kBytes of memory was a big thing. There were competing makes and models of what were called personal or micro computers. Remember the Ataris, the Radio Shack TRS-80s, the Commodores, and the Sinclairs. There were others and even some of them predate the computers I just enumerated above.
On eBay, one can buy these computers, some of which are still in working condition. I have a couple of Commodore 64s myself. Try searching for the above computers and see how much they cost now.
In high school, I spent a lot of time, tinkering with the Apple ][ Plus. I learned Applesoft BASIC and Machine Language programming. Later on, I learned Pascal via Turbo Pascal which was later available on the IBM PC as well.
The IBM PC rose to become the dominant personal computer in the late 80’s. Apple, however, introduced a great machine called the Macintosh (it was misspelled — it should have been McIntosh) which featured a graphical user interface (GUI) and a pointing device called a mouse. Eventually, PCs (which usually meant non-Apple IBM-compatible computers) got their own GUI with the help of Microsoft. It took at least a couple of versions before Microsoft Windows displaced the command line interface of DOS on the PCs. Meanwhile, Apple Macintosh thrived, carving out a niche and building a loyal customer base.
The Internet was still at its infancy in the late 80’s. Some domain names like SUN.COM were registered around 1986. In the early 90’s, I got a taste of the Internet, albeit without the world wide web (WWW) yet. FTP and Gopher were what we used to transfer files here and there. It was entertaining and fascinating to know that computers were actually linked to each other and could pass information to one another.
Further down towards the mid 90’s, Linux rose to be a popular and useful open source project. I was lucky to have tinkered with sometime in 1993-1994 when the kernel version was something like 0.99. Once again, I was amazed at what one could do with a full blown Linux kernel-based operating system. We used Slackware, one of the few surviving Linux distributions today, to set up Linux-based servers.
I found it cool compiling and running UNIX applications on Linux. The X Window System provided the GUI with the additional functionality of remote Window sessions. Samba proved to be a great thing for those that wanted to use a Linux server as a file and print server. Of course, one could not help but gleefully hack and program on a Linux machine with all the free development tools available (Perl, C/C++, bash, tcsh, etc.).
……and many more things happened…….
Where are we today? Mobile devices, embedded computers in machines, tablets, smartphones, multicore processors, etc. It’s quite impressive to know they exist. Even more so that these gadgets and embedded computers are (or can be) connected to each other via a network, wired or wireless. They can even be accessible from the Internet.
We are all benefitting from these developments. Should we also be scared of them? We already face problems daily with computers getting affected by malicious software meant to steal our wealth and identities. We also face the difficulty in making sure complex software don’t commit errors where lives are at stake. With all the flow of information in the Internet, is our privacy not safe anymore?
Where do we go from here? I guess we should proceed carefully but with a positive attitude. As human beings, we are quite smart and we adapt. We will learn from our mistakes and make things right.