December 08, 2008

Personal Computer Turns 40

It was 40 years ago tomorrow that the very first personal computer was demonstrated by Douglas Engelbart of the Stanford Research Institute. SRI's PC already had a few familiar accouterments, including a keyboard and mouse. Who decided to call it that? Nobody knows. Even a very primitive form of the Internet already existed, documents could be hyperlinked, and the computer had something vaguely like windows.

People watching the demo — all 1,000 of them — were blown away by the proto-PC. It was the smallest computer they'd ever seen and it didn't use punchcards. It could even edit text.

40 years ago, this was big stuff. To celebrate, I'm going to stuff a cupcake into my CD drive today and click "burn." These things can eat now, right?

You can view silent black-and-white video taken from original film of the first PC demo here. It's too bad that there's no sound, though. If there were, you could hear the guy at the back of the auditorium shouting, "Now I can haz cheezburger!"

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