The origin of PCs : perspectives on the history of the office computer

ATKINSON, Paul (2000). The origin of PCs : perspectives on the history of the office computer. In: FERNANDEZ, Lucila, (ed.) Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Design History & Design Studies. Havana, Cuba, Oficina Nacional de Diseno Industrial, La Habana, Cuba.

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On the desks of offices all over the developed world, there rests a computer. An anonymous beige box, beige monitor, keyboard and mouse make up a self-referential design subject to no nationalistic or cultural diversity, or constructed product differentiation in the way it is marketed. It is a truly 'universal' design - a rare example of a global, mass-produced, multi-purpose object.

The personal computer might easily be regarded as the most influential invention of the late 20th Century, and its impact in the 21st Century shows no sign of abating. As an object, which, without doubt, has directly or indirectly affected the lives of the majority of people, it might be assumed that its design history is a well-known and documented story. This is not, however, the case. The form of the computer has been static for so long that its past identities appear to have faded into the ether. Perhaps because of their seemingly inherent technological obsolescence they are viewed as ephemeral objects unworthy of notice.

This paper suggests that the computer presents a series of unique problems to design historians, and that the various methodologies which have been used to construct its history to date have been, at least in part, responsible for the way in which computers are perceived today. This paper aims to construct an overview of some of these histories; a meta-narrative of the different perspectives that have been used to document this development, and perhaps suggest more fruitful avenues for exploration.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
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Depositing User: Paul Atkinson
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2014 16:44
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2014 16:44

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