The PC is dead, says the scientist who invented it

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The Independent Online

On the 30th anniversary of the first personal computer, one of its 12 designers has taken to the internet to herald the PC's imminent passing.

"They're going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs," wrote Dr Mark Dean, admitting that back on 12 August 1981, when his IBM 5150 was unveiled, he didn't think he'd live long enough to witness its decline.

There is no let up in our fascination with computers, in all their increasingly diverse forms: smartphones, tablets, televisions and games consoles, often controlled by the swipe of a finger on a screen.

The gadget that Dr Dean is waving an emotional but enthusiastic goodbye to is the kind operated by a clunking keyboard and errant mouse. The IBM 5150, priced at just over $1,500 (then about £830), was one of the first indications of a worldwide computing revolution, along with the Commodore PET, Apple II and Atari 800. But Dr Dean says that its direct descendants are now outmoded: "My primary computer now is a tablet."

Sales of tablets and smartphones have grown rapidly in the past year, as has an increasing dependence on "the cloud", with our information stored on the internet rather than on hard drive.

But making music, video or games is still tricky via small touch-screens and the traditional keyboard and mouse still have a role.

Dr Dean may well be right, the PC was always just a stepping stone. Even if it is going to bite the dust, there's no more need to mourn its passing than to mourn the passing of the typewriter.

The IBM 5150, unveiled at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York on 12 August 1981, had 16k of RAM (barely enough for one Word document), no hard disk and price tag of just over $1,500.