Origins of Personal Computing; December 2001; Scientific American Magazine; by M. Mitchell Waldrop; 8 Page(s)
Just over a quarter of a century ago, according to the standard accounts, a pack of techno-savvy kids with names like Gates, Jobs and Wozniak began to play around in their garages and dorm rooms with the new technology of microprocessors-and ended up pioneering the personal computer revolution almost by accident.
In reality, however, the story actually didn't start with these young entrepreneurs. After all, what really put the fire in the PC revolution (and in the Internet revolution that would follow) wasn't the hardware or the software per se but the message those products embodied. This was the idea that computers didn't have to be huge, ominous machines sitting off in a back room somewhere, processing punch cards for some large institution. Instead they could be humane, intimate machines, responding to us and helping us as individuals. Computers could enhance human creativity, democratize access to information, foster wider communities and build a new global commons for communications and commerce. Computers, in short, could be instruments of individual empowerment. The irony is that the foundations of that vision had been laid more than three decades earlier-by the very same government and the very same establishment that the 1970s generation so distrusted.