The PC traces its lineage to the large room-filling mainframe computers of the 1950s and 60s used only by NASA. During the first 30 years of computer existence, conventional thought saw no value in a small computer that could be used by individuals.
However, in 1981, IBM changed all that. They took an interest in the personal computer and began a secret project in Boca Raton, Florida. Shortly thereafter, the IBM PC hit the market. Though not the first PC ever, this was the first PC from a company respected by corporate America. The consensus was that if IBM was making PCs, then small desktop units were worthy of respect.
Over the next nine years, the PC suffered many makeovers and clones. Compaq, Tandy, Macintosh, and even IBM made many efforts to "domesticate" the PC in American homes. Though many of these attempts failed, they did produce inventions that improved the PC overall. PCs began to come with floppy drives as standard equipment and the Intel chip appeared, to name a few.
Also during this time, basic spreadsheet and word processing software allowed the PC to enter the business world. Lotus 1-2-3 became the PCs first "killer-app" with its menus and on-screen help. The PC became common on company desktops, producing letters, memos, budgets, schedules and payroll. More work could be done in less time and the PC was validated as a legitimate business tool.
In January 1983, Time magazine anointed the PC as the "Man of the Year," a designation by the editors that the computer had been the most influential newsmaker of 1982. The PC had arrived and would change American life.
Another major event that greatly affected the evolution of the PC was the release of Apple’s Macintosh computer in 1984. It was radically different with its own operating system and most importantly, its point-and-click user interface. People who hated computers loved the simplicity of the Mac. Users could maneuver a mouse to a place on the screen and click an icon to launch a program, print a document, or copy a file. They no longer needed to know combinations of keys or
special codes to get the computer to do what they wanted it to do. The Mac made PCs "user friendly."
In 1990, when IBM and Microsoft ended their relationship, Microsoft began developing its most popular programs, like Excel, for use on the Mac operating system. Finally, Microsoft took the Mac graphical point-and-click interface, made it its own, and released a long-awaited program called Windows. "When Windows 3.1 came out, everyone was pointing and clicking with ease," said Jim English, vice president of Information Technology at TREND.
Still, the PC was found primarily in offices. Then the 90s came and brought with it something that would change the PC image forever – the Internet. It started as a simple "network," a few computers connected together by modems. Soon, e-mail, chat, and websites emerged. But the Internet was not yet a household word, and very few people used it. Until three events occurred, helping launch the PC into every home in America . . .
In 1991, an obscure online service called AOL (America Online) arrived for the PC, and people no longer needed technical expertise to read e-mail or connect to the growing Internet. "Surfing the Internet" gained mass appeal when Netscape released its Navigator browser as a free beta (test) in 1994. Finally in 1998, Microsoft released
Windows 98, with Internet Explorer.
"At first, PCs were used for business, you didn’t see widespread use in homes," said English. "Then everything became automated. Word processors became the rage and typewriters were history." Then the Internet changed the way information was disseminated and people communicated with each other, and now PCs grace the desktops of one out of every three American homes.
REALTORS® began sharing listing information while having lunch at local coffee houses and restaurants. An informal communication network began to flourish as a method to market homes, and the Real Estate Information Service Industry was underway. Initially the network communicated through books. But as the information age arrived and computers took hold, the MLS industry quickly grew into a computerized service.
Steven Witsil is the broker of Witsil REALTORS® in Centreville, Delaware and a member of the TREND Board of Directors. He has worked for 16 years eventually taking over the family business from his father, who founded it 50 years ago. He recalls the earliest MLS systems, "The New Castle Board of REALTORS® had a system that gave you information about a house, but not over the Internet."
Now computerized MLS systems, like TREND's MLS, provide endless possibilities for addition and manipulation of the listing data as well as easy distribution of that information to clients. And MLS companies, like TREND, have expanded beyond regular Multiple Listing Services, providing e-business solutions for REALTORS® that keep pace with today’s technological advances.
Witsil realized the potential power of computers long ago, predicting that his colleagues would want easy access to machines that once filled floors of buildings. Five years ago, Witsil believes about five percent of his colleagues were computer literate. Today, he puts that number at 65 percent.
Computers have become essential to successful business. "I think agents have come to realize it’s important to show clients how technologically savvy they are," Witsil added. These days, he not only scrambles to stay ahead of the real estate game, but also makes certain he doesn’t fall behind the technological times.
The creation and success of the PC would not have been possible without the elimination of the initial concept that a computer was a large, centralized, data processor and number cruncher. Now, when more than 500 million PCs have been sold, people have embraced the PC as a part of daily business and pleasure, and foresee that it will continue merging with the essence of our civilization.