DIGITAL FUTURE: The Personal Computer Explosion--Why It's Happening and What It Means by John Case
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DIGITAL FUTURE: The Personal Computer Explosion--Why It's Happening and What It Means

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To buy or not to buy: the question is not so much a practical one, as it is philosophical. Case's interesting look at computers today and tomorrow turns on their social utility and cultural impact. He sets the stage with the usual background history, a brief review from Babbage to Wozniak (Apple) via von Neumann et al., taking care to detail what makes a computer something more than a lightning calculator. He also deals with software, providing a fresh look at that history with its evolving languages (FORTRAN, COBOL), and proceeding with a stop at video games to today's growing assortment of disks and cartridges designed to fit specific computers, or increasingly, to be ""IBM compatible."" Case, editor of Inc. magazine, is very much on target as he discusses the present bewilderment inside the industry, as well as among consumers: the lack of standardization, the rise and fall of companies, the uncertainty as to where the field is going. Opportunities for bright Harvard MBAs abound, however, and Case provides a particularly long and interesting study of ""Spinnaker,"" a Cambridge-based software firm that decided to come up with really imaginative educational software and soared from nothing to millions in its first year. Where will it all end? In the book's final part, Case tells some intriguing cautionary tales from the history of technology, singling out the telephone, the automobile, and the light bulb for study. The telephone may provide the closest parallel. When Bell demonstrated his invention it was clearly a product ahead of its time. People had no idea why one would want to have devices that would enable conversations over long distances. (Telegraphy was an advanced art and even homes were being fitted with automatic telegraphy devices.) Now, the thought goes, we have personal computers but we really haven't figured out what to do with them. Will they go the way of CB radios? Case thinks not, given their growing impact in business and industry. He's willing to bet that the future lies in telecommunications: the hook-up of your personal computer with networks and systems that supply the databases that can provide knowledge, entertainment, and multiple conveniences. Worthwhile for its case histories and technology perspective, this addition to the computer library has the virtue of avoiding the extremes of computer doom-saying or millennialism.

Pub Date: Feb. 27th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow