Steve Furber: the future of computing in 1979

Steve Furber recounts how the future of computing looked at the end of the 1970s.

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Did you personally have much thought about where computing was going in about 1979?

Erm, not really, I think we all sensed it was coming, we all sensed that the microprocessor had moved computing into a completely new cost bracket where it was possible to build stuff that fairly normal people with sufficient enthusiasm might wish to spend their own money on. I think before the late ‘70s it was simply too expensive, you know, buying a computer was as expensive as buying a car if not buying a house. And so you’d have to have a really serious use to spend that sort of money. But by the late ‘70s it was clearly possible to build computers that, that cost more like the price of a piece of hifi than the price of a car, so – and that is game changing I think. I mean we had no idea of the scale of the game change, I think we probably still felt that computers were for people like us, you know, enthusiasts, hobbyists, people who were interested in computers for their own sake and therefore the market of such people is quite small, you know, people who’d be prepared to solder things together to connect to them or write assembly code or so on. So we saw if you like a sort of growing hobby market and also we saw that these cheap products then gained use in places like university labs and you know – I’m not sure we’d quite seen the way into schools at that point. So you could see markets of, you know, thousands or tens of thousands of parts. I – I don’t think anybody really saw the consumer boom and the sort of computer in every house scenario. Yeah.

  • Interviewee Steve Furber
  • Duration 00:01:57
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 10/22/2012
  • Shelfmark C1379/78

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