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The Main Events of 1987 - How They Affect the Library World

Magazine article Online

The Main Events of 1987 - How They Affect the Library World

Article excerpt


Writing a year-in-review before the year is completely over can be a bit tricky. However, I talked to a number of researchers and writers, studied the columns of various pundits and industry gurus, and thought about how the important trends would affect the library world.

As I see it, there are four main events or trends to cover: the introduction of the IBM Personal System/2 (PS/2) line of computers, the introduction of the Apple Macintosh SE and II models, the introduction of hypermedia to the general computer using public, and the establishment of desktop publishing as a new industry.


The incredible success of IBM's line of XT and AT computers was due in part to the machines' open architecture. This architecture encouraged third party developers to market add-on boards and software for many different applications for which IBM had neither the time nor expertise to undertake. The success of the third party developers led to a flood of clones, many of them faster and better equipped than the IBM models. The IBM PS/2 line was planned as an open architecture line of computers, but one that was carefully protected by patents, trademarks, and copyrights. George Morrow, in the August 25, 1987 issue of Computer Currents, indicates that IBM originally planned to license the new technology only to large well-established companies such as AT&T, NCR, and Unisys, but that by July 1987, IBM was offering patent licenses to Taiwan clone makers in exchange for a small royalty. The demand for XT and AT clones has not slacked up, in spite of the fact that IBM no longer manufacturers these models. The pricing is so favorable that these models will continue to be very popular all through 1988. In August 1987, you could buy an XT clone with 640K RAM, a 20 megabyte hard disk drive and a monochrome monitor for less than $1000. Add $500 for an AT with similar specifications.

If you are planning to purchase a PS/2 model, you will have increased performance over the older IBM's and the 3.5 inch floppy drives are convenient (except for converting from the 5.25 inch media), but OS/2, the new operating system from Microsoft won't be available for a long time. It is so complex that it will be very late coming on the market. Morrow hints of a shipping date in mid-1989. Most of you will continue to use MS-DOS, which now has extensions that allow you to exceed 640K RAM. This will prolong the usefulness of the present hardware. If your institution can get good discounts on IBM's, try the PS/2 model 50. With the high resolution screen, mouse. . .er, pointing device (there are no mice at IBM), and the small footprint, it almost looks like a Macintosh. IBM now has a decent graphics standard, VGA, and they will eventually develop the multitasking capabilities, start making use of the MicroChannel Architecture, and try to pull the small computer users back into the mainframe world. Not being able to connect to larger IBM models may become more significant in a year or two.


Since IBM has embraced the graphics capabilities of windows, mice, icons, and small floppy drives, what does Apple have to offer that sets it apart from the competition? The Macintosh SE and 11 models are opening up the architecture, just as IBM is closing theirs down, ever so slightly. The SE is the largest selling Macintosh. It has only one expansion slot that will accommodate any number of boards to speed up the cpu, to project the screen image on an overhead projector, or to run MS-DOS software. AST will be offering an 8086 board so that you can run dBASE III on a Mac. My guess is that this IBM compatibility is primarily for companies that want to buy Macs but have to demonstrate that compatibility exists, even if the Mac is mainly used for other tasks. The increased sales fuels developments for vertical markets, and libraries, fire departments and real estate offices will have a greater choice of software crafted for their needs. …

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