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Frank Romano on the Post PC Era and Impact on Print

Published on June 13, 2012

Frank on the evolution from the PC to post PC era with introduction of tablet computers and how it's impacting print.

Hi.  This is Frank Romano for WhatTheyThink.com.  Well, I came upon an article the other day where they were interviewing one of the last people who was involved in the IBM personal computer.  Now if you recall, it was introduced in 1981, and the group that developed it decided not to use the traditional IBM way of developing things.  They’d established a base in Boca Raton, Florida, and they essentially put the machine together with pieces that they could buy on the open market—monitors, keyboards, etc.  And then, of course, they bought the software.  They bought the operating system from Microsoft.  

By the way, they originally wanted CPM, but when they visited the company the guy was flying his new plane and they were kind of blown off.  So they went to see Gates and he said that he had a better version, which he didn’t, by the way, he had to buy it from someone else for $50,000, and that was the way that we got DOS.  And, of course, Gates wanted to have the ability to sell it directly, and they said that’s okay because we’ve got this bios chip and, therefore, no one else could run the software unless they run it on this machine.  And then within six months of the PC being introduced, a company in Massachusetts broke the code of the bios chip and the rest is history.  Cloned PCs were created and the market evolved from that point on.  So this guy’s talking about the era of the PC and how we are now in the post-PC era.  And he makes the point that he uses a Tablet for almost everything he does.  And I have to say that I’m starting to use my Tablet for more and more—by the way, that’s WhatTheyThink, if you’re interested.

And you can do almost anything you want from the Tablet.  Now the only thing I really have trouble with is typing because of the way that it puts a little image of a keyboard on the screen.  But I use Dragon Naturally Speaking every now and then and it captures my voice, converts it into text; and I then cut and paste that into a document, and then send it to myself, and then use it on my other computer.  So it’s rather interesting how we evolved from the PC, which was the dominant device.  I think I got mine in ’81.  Maybe it was ’81 when they introduced the XT which was the one with the hard drive in it.  Maybe it was ’80 when they introduced the original PC, so just to get my dates right on this thing.

As I remember, the XT had, I think it was a 5 megabyte drive in it, and that would hold me for like a year worth of storage.  Today, you know, if I get a gigabyte thumb drive I throw it away because it’s just too small to do anything at this stage of the game.

So we’re in a post-PC world.  Now, of course, we’ve got the Macintosh out there and I tend to be a Macintosh user.  And once the MAC came out, I went to the MAC and I never went back to the PC.  I just found the MAC to be the kind of machine that I could deal with.  The PC was something I really could not deal with, and I could not deal with DOS, it was driving me crazy.  But it’s amazing how technology changes.  The guy, when he was interviewed, said that he never thought that he would live long enough to see that the PC era would end.  That’s an interesting statement.  

But with Tablets coming all in different sizes, our SmartPhones, just the communication devices that are out there, it’s just absolutely mind-boggling.  And you can create content almost anywhere at any time.  But unfortunately, it’s not the kind of content that gets printed in many cases.  It’s video, or digital photographs, or things like that.  So I think we have to kind of realign ourselves as an industry that we’re not only going to be involved in print, we’re going to be involved in other kinds of media as well, and we have to figure out how to do that in this new era which is beyond the personal computer.

And that’s my opinion.

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By Chuck Gehman on Jun 13, 2012

Frank, the IBM PC XT was introduced in the late winter of 1983 with a 10mb drive. It was exceptionally popular.

I would certainly agree that we in the printing industry must figure out how to operate in the post-PC era. That term, by the way, is generally attributed to Steve Jobs, who is said to have introduced it at the D8 conference in 2010. In that same talk, he also referred to PCs as trucks-- saying that only 1 out of 10 people need a truck, most people prefer to drive cars (i.e., iPad)

The problem we have in this industry is that all too many of our colleagues never fully adapted to operating in the PC era, so there's kind of a double challenge for those folks.


By Werner Rebsamen on Jun 13, 2012

Frank, nice to see you back at the RIT office.
I love my new iMac desktop. I cannot even imagine writing all my articles on an iPad.
Keep us entertained with items on printing!


By John O'Rourke on Jun 13, 2012

Perhaps "Mobile Computing" is a better term than "Post PC".

I don't really use my Ipad for business - it's a great product, but doesnt have the seamless, cross-platform functionality that I need for my business apps and windows software.

I'm very hopeful now with the introduction of powerful, viable windows tablets and the pending release of Windows 8, that I'll be able to migrate from portable laptop to (even more) portable tablet.

Either way, (for me, at least), it's still a PC.


By Roger Lyngholm on Jun 13, 2012

Hi Frank,glad to see you made it back to dry land. We still have our Model 3 TRS from Feb. 1980 but we didn't use a computer in the business until we got our IBM XT in June of the following year. We loved the computer, it was the Mannesman-Talley printer that made getting output difficult. Of course as you know, it took a god number of years before we got printer output worthy of film. Do you recall some of the early printer manufacturers that addressed that market?


By Frank Romano on Jun 14, 2012

We had both a dot matrix and a character printer attached to IBM XT with an A/B box to switch between them. The Canon LBP-CX became the LaserJet and the Laserwriter. But 300dpi was not really good enough and the Varityper VT-600 was 600dpi and 11x17. I think that was 1989. By the early 1990s 600dpi was the norm. That’s when everything started to change. 600dpi created the on-demand book market.


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