Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pentium Chip Snafu Spiced Up Year of Steady Improvement

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pentium Chip Snafu Spiced Up Year of Steady Improvement

Article excerpt

If Intel Corp. hadn't livened things up by producing 4 million high-end Pentium chips that flunked sixth-grade math, 1994 would have gone down as a pretty dull year in the PC business.

Dull doesn't necessarily mean bad. Computers became faster, more powerful and at least somewhat easier to use.

Cheap machines that finally were fast enough to run Microsoft Windows flooded the market, and the public responded by buying millions of them. The most important development for these new users was the blossoming of the CD-ROM market.

Combined with sound cards in multimedia packages, these special compact disc players ushered in a new era of flashy and exciting educational, entertainment and reference programs, thanks to the CD's capacity of up to 550 megabytes of data. By year's end, about 80 percent of the games and educational programs that came in the door were on CDs, and a surprising number were good.

Because the CD format is one of the few things that IBM-compatibles and Apple Macintosh computers have in common, educational publishers were increasingly willing to put versions of programs for both computers on a single disk.

We'll also remember 1994 as the year people got connected. With modems standard on most home PCs, enrollment in on-line services such as Prodigy and CompuServe soared. Likewise, millions of new users found their way to the Internet, the huge, crazy-quilt network of networks that links 20 million to 30 million people around the world.

With all the major services developing Internet links, it suddenly became possible to send e-mail to almost anybody logged on to any system anywhere. This result was not only a revolution in communications, but also a revival of the lost art of written correspondence. The down side was the proliferation of junk e-mail, but you take the good with the bad.

Meanwhile, local telephone companies, long-distance carriers, cable companies, newspapers and entertainment conglomerates worked themselves into a feeding frenzy of deal-making and deal-breaking as they jockeyed for position on the "information highway," which will be built soon if we can figure out what it's supposed to look like, where it's supposed to go and who's going to pay for it. …

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