These prophetic words come from Blondie’s 1978 Parallel Lines album (one of the all-time great albums by the way – if you haven’t got it then shame on you).
In fact the preceding lines are just as prescient:
“Picture this, my telephone number
One and one is what I’m telling you
Get a pocket computer
Try to do what you used to do, yeah”
This was 1978. The year Epson introduced the TX-80, the first successful dot matrix printer. The year the 5.25-inch floppy disk became an industry standard. Apple (I do believe I have heard of them) introduced Apple DOS 3.1, their first operating system.
It preceded the Intel 8088 CPU (released on June 1, 1979), the first commercial version of SQL (thank you Oracle), the Motorola 6800 8-bit processor (which powered the Mac and my beloved Atari 1040ST) and VisiCalc (the first spreadsheet program). It was just over a year after the release of the Commodore PET (which I had to program in raw machine code to run heat capacity equations as fast as I needed), the Apple II and Tandy’s TRS-80 (first pocket computer, 1.9 kB of programmable memory). DOS and the PC are 3 years in the future.
Yet as I sit here, talking tech with the enthusiasts in Hull Digital, I am struck that in my pocket sits a computer with my telephone number (but regrettably not Debbie Harry’s). Picture this, it holds a local gallery of my personal photographs, a camera to take more and access to Flickr etc. to browse further millions. All the power and flexibility to do what I used to do and so much more besides… including listening to Parallel Lines whenever I feel the urge. I understand Moore’s Law at a rational level, but sometimes the effect of it is a little more visceral.
I seamlessly switch between my pocket computer, my slate computer and my laptop. My content, my knowledge, my entertainment, my friends are accessible from all of them. The tools each contains are unimaginably capable; the capabilities are limited only by our imaginations. And there’s more to come.
Thank you Blondie for your glimpse of the future, so many years ago. Where to from here?
Get a pocket computer, try to do what you used to do.