In 1980 IBM ruled supreme. It made 80 per cent of the world's computers and provided the software to run them. However there was a gnat on the horizon: Sir Clive Sinclair produced the Spectrum. This humble machine cost a mere pounds 100, compared with the millions that the mighty IBM mainframes cost. The spectrum was made for home use. It could run a few simple programs and it could play games. This was not a serious business machine and IBM smiled smugly.
However the BBC was interested and produced a small computer designed for schools. Apple did the same in the USA. IBM started to show a little interest and, to hedge its bets, decided to design the PC. It also hired a small company called Microsoft to write the operating system.
Today it is Microsoft that rules supreme. It writes the software that runs on 90 per cent of the world's computers. However there is another gnat on the horizon. This time the gnat is called the Sega Dreamcast. This humble machine costs a mere pounds 200 and is made for home use. It can play a few games and it can surf the net.
However Sony are interested and have announced a new Playstation, available next year. This machine will be more powerful than any PC currently on the market - and a lot cheaper. It will play games, DVD movies, and surf the net. You will also be able to attach a keyboard and a hard disk and send e-mail. All someone needs to do is to write a word processor, as well as some good educational software, and this machine will replace the home PC.
Microsoft have taken notice and announced their own console but it may be too little too late. Once these consoles become established a business version will appear.
The PC will not vanish. The mainframe has clung on in banks and finance departments. University dons will still be using PCs and Macintoshes to analyse complex systems. Microsoft will continue to exist just as IBM has. However, newer names will have taken the limelight.
BRENDAN E MOLLOY