On August 12, 1981, IBM released the IBM Personal Computer. It was a transformative event; the one that in time would far exceed even the most optimistic projections of its future potential. It changed forever how the computer would be viewed, making it truly "Personal".
Much has changed since that day; many of these changes are immediately visible. The computer's user interface has transformed beyond all recognition, from the blocky text of the DOS command prompt to rich windowed interfaces driven by a mouse or touchpad. PCs are faster, smaller, and cheaper than ever before and are capable of doing things that were beyond the imagination of all but the most far reaching science-fiction authors. Other changes are more subtle; the PC is now both ubiquitous and ever-connected. Its transformation in size and appearance has seen it acquire new names to better describe its new form. Becoming the Portable PC first and later the laptop and netbook, and most recently the tablet and smartphone; hiding its nature in ever smaller packages with new interfaces designed to be controlled by gestures and voice. As a result, some would even have it that we are entering a post-PC era.
It is perhaps too soon to say that we have left the PC behind. For all these changes, one thing remains unaltered—today's personal computing experience is still centered on the device. Applications are for the most part installed locally and the decision to walk from device to device or carry one from place to place is based more on the device's size than the user's need for mobility. Either way, the only method to ensure that it is possible to provide service is to rigorously enforce standardization, making sure every PC has all the applications preinstalled on the off chance that someone will need them. This model has worked, after a fashion, almost unchanged for the last 31 years, but of late it is starting to show its age. Now, we need to consider a world shaped by new, deeply destabilizing forces.