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TECH TALK: The Years That Were: 1995

September 25th, 2002 · No Comments

Times May 1995 special issue on Cyberspace led with an article by Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

The Internet is far from perfect. Largely unedited, its content is often tasteless, foolish, uninteresting or just plain wrong. It can be dangerously habit-forming, and truth be told, an enormous waste of time. Even with the arrival of new point-and-click software such as Netscape and Mosaic, its still hard to navigate. And because it requires access to both a computer and a high-speed communications link, it is out of reach for millions of people too poor or too far from a major communications hub to participate.

The Internet is changing rapidly. Lately a lot of the development efforts and most of the press attention have shifted from the rough-and-tumble Usenet newsgroups to the more passive and consumer-oriented home pages of the World Wide Web a system of links that simplifies the task of navigating among the myriad offerings on the Internet. The Net, many old-timers complain, is turning into a shopping mall. But unless it proves to be a total bust for business, that trend is likely to continue.

The more fundamental changes are those taking place underneath sidewalks and streets, where great wooden wheels of fiber-optic cable are being rolled out one block at a time. Over the next decade, the telecommunications system of the world will be rebuilt from the ground up.

Its not just the Internet surfers who are crying for more bandwidth. Hollywood needs it to deliver movies and television shows on demand. Video game makers want it to send the kids the latest adventures of Donkey Kong and Sonic the Hedgehog. The phone companies have their eyes on what some believe will be the next must-have appliance: the videophone.

As a rule of thumb, historians say, the results of technological innovation always takes longer to reach fruition than the earlier champions of change predict. But when change comes, its effect is likely to be more profound and widespread than anyone imagined.

Fortunes issue of July 10, 1995 had a cover story on Intels CEO Andy Groves dream of making your PC more important than your TV. Intel was on track to ship 35 million Pentium chips in 1995, with projected revenues of USD 16 billion and profits of USD 3.6 billion. Wrote Brent Schlender:

The PC is it, Grove says. We can make it superb as an entertainment machine, and so vital as a communications medium for both the home and the workspace, that it will battle with TV for peoples disposable time.

US consumers last year spent more on PCs than on TVs. These eager newcomers are shelling out big bucks for multimedia bells and whistles and multimedia means high-powered chips. Unlike most businesses, which have already invested vast sums in software for older, feebler machines, consumers are free to buy the hottest new boxes.

Grove now aims for Intel to define a global standard for consumer companies. He envisions machines that will incorporate, as standard equipment and at much lower cost, all the features of todays best multimedia PCs: crystalline stereo sound, crisp digital video, gymnastic 3-D graphics, rich fax, voice and data communications. How? The key is to use supercharged Pentium or P6 processors to handle chores that now require additional hardware.

Grove charges that [Microsoft] doesnt share the same sense of urgency to come up with an improved consumer PC. The typical PC doesnt push the limits of our microprocessorsIts simply not as good as it should be, Grove complains.

Tomorrow: 1995 (continued)


The Years That Were T

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