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IBM Inventor: PC is going the way of the vacuum tube and typewriter

Mark Dean, one of the IBM engineers who designed the first IBM PC, says the venerable device is going the way of the vacuum tube and typewriter.

Dean made this pronouncement on the eve of the IBM PC’s 30th anniversary, Aug. 12. Currently the chief technology officer for IBM Middle East and Africa, Dean was chief engineer for the development of the IBM PC/AT, ISA systems bus, PS/2 Model 70 and 80 and the Color Graphics Adapter in the original IBM PC. He holds three of the nine patents for the original IBM PC.

“When I helped design the PC, I didn’t think I’d live long enough to witness its decline,” Dean wrote on an IBM blog. “But, while PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they’re no longer at the leading edge of computing. They’re going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs.“

Dean mentioned obvious candidates that might replace the PC, such as tablets and smart phones. But he said it’s not really the devices but “that innovation flourishes best not on devices but in the social spaces between them, where people and ideas meet and interact. It is there that computing can have the most powerful impact on economy, society and people’s lives.”

IBM left the PC business in 2005 and sold the division to Lenovo. That was a good thing, according to Dean.

“While many in the tech industry questioned IBM’s decision to exit the business at the time, it’s now clear that our company was in the vanguard of the post-PC era,” he wrote.

The IBM 5100, the first portable computer, was released in September 1975. The computer weighed 55 pounds and had a five-inch CRT display, tape drive, 1.9MHz PALM processor, and 64KB of RAM.

Even Dean said he has moved on from the PC.

“I, personally, have moved beyond the PC. My primary computer now is a tablet,” he wrote.