A decade of PCs

August 14, 1991

Recently, the term "PC" has come to be associated with debates about "political correctness" on the nation's campuses. But the more enduring association of the term will be the one that has become ubiquitous in the past decade -- personal computer.

It was only 10 years ago that IBM unveiled its personal computer. It was not the first such machine, nor was its technology revolutionary. But because of IBM's dominant position in the computer industry, its PC established a benchmark by which to judge machines from dozens of smaller, competing companies.

Since 1981, personal computers have permeated many aspects of American life, opening possibilities unimagined before. Consider the fact that, a decade ago, the process of redrawing the boundaries of political districts remained largely an imprecise and mysterious exercise. Now, armed with a personal computer and the proper Census data, any political interest group can come up with its own redistricting plan with relative ease -- and in many states several of them have.

Even so, computers have not become the indispensable tools some predicted they would be. Many adult Americans are still computer illiterate, and many young people are going through school without acquiring computer skills -- which may prove to be as limiting as an inability to read and write proper English.

Personal computers have brought new possibilities to the information age, but many of them remain unexplored. That may no longer be the case 10 years from now, when the country looks back on its second PC decade.

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