Personal Computing Comes Full Circle

Personal computers weren’t for everyone.  Users needed a certain aptitude, training, and sometimes consultants to help them use and maintain their computers and software.  Businesses opened shop to help people purchase, configure, install, and repair their personal computers and the local area networks that allowed multiple users to share data.

Individual personal computers were somewhat isolated until the Internet became available.  With the Internet, browsing the web, sending email and sharing information on forums became practical.  New search engines provided access to diverse collections of information and multimedia content.  Personal computer users could now communicate, shop, purchase merchandise, study, and research.  A computing services model similar to timesharing began its return to center stage.

Early computer timesharing was limited by slow, expensive computers, slow terminal equipment, and, as the number of users increased, large costs for adding capacity to central computers.  The new Internet-based “timesharing” uses scalable networks of inexpensive but powerful computers, economical data storage, and lightning-fast communication to overcome these difficulties.

Personal computers became the popular clients for the new Internet-based computing.  A user viewed his PC as his “computer” and the Internet/browser as just one of its many useful applications.  Today, there is a powerful trend towards viewing the Internet as the “computer” and the PC as a client device for access.  This “cloud computing” initiative is reinforced by a growing variety of new Internet clients including notebook computers, netbooks, tablets, and smart phones.  Traditional personal computing applications such as word processing, spread sheets, and photo storage are now available as Internet applications.  This trend is accelerating.

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