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The end of the personal computer

The "personal computer" is on its way out. It was a revolutionary idea to have all of your files stored physically in your computer when it was invented in the 1970s, but that era is about to end.

Before "personal computers", information was accessed through "dumb terminals" (yes, they called them that) that were hooked up to the mainframe computer. So the terminal that sat on your desk only worked if the information could be accessed from the computer, which was a gigantic machine that sat in another room.

Today, that gigantic computer can be accessed wirelessly. In fact, you have been using a dumb terminal with a mainframe computer whenever you have used your cell phone. That's why when your phone breaks, you buy another one and connect to the system. The information isn't in your phone, it's at Verizon.

Of course, the reason that "dumb terminals" were used is because before the 1970s, computers were too big to fit in anything other than a whole room. The miniaturization of component parts allowed them to be small enough by the 1980s to fit on a desktop. My career as a graphic designer began with what was called, somewhat derisively, "desktop publishing". And the leader in all of this was the Apple Macintosh computer.

With the advent of streaming HD movies, desktop computers have gotten too small again. The amount of digital information in movies is enormous, far more than most people would be able, or willing, to store on their personal computers. And the answer is to store the information on a remote server (just like the old mainframes) and access it through a dumb terminal. This is what is known as streaming. The mainframe computer is referred to as "the cloud".

The newest dumb terminal is the Google Chromebook. It's a little bit smarter than the old dumb terminals, but not much. And it doesn't need to be. It really just needs to be smart enough to connect to the internet, which connects to a mainframe computer (at Google, or Netflix, or wherever), and off you go. It's not meant for data storage, so your files need to be stored remotely. If you are concerned about the safety of your files being stored remotely, then I would recommend avoiding free services. I have had a website, with the ability to store files remotely, for over ten years. I pay for it, and there are real live people there that I can talk to if needs be.

Welcome to the mainframe computing. Again.