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Standards for the Personal Computing Network Disclosure Number: IPCOM000131248D
Original Publication Date: 1978-Oct-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Nov-10
Document File: 7 page(s) / 30K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

James Isaak: AUTHOR [+3]


De facto standards will not be adequate to allow widespread communication among personal computing systems. Here is a look at the issues and the possibilities.

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This record contains textual material that is copyright ©; 1978 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact the IEEE Computer Society (714-821-8380) for copies of the complete work that was the source of this textual material and for all use beyond that as a record from the SPI Database.

Standards for the Personal Computing Network

James Isaak

Data General

De facto standards will not be adequate to allow widespread communication among personal computing systems. Here is a look at the issues and the possibilities.

In 1972, the technology for personal information processing took an imperceptible but critical step. Before that time, a timesharing system based on cable television was the most likely way to get computing benefits to the masses,' but in 1972 the microcomputer entered the market and opened the door for personal computers. Many of the high impact applications -- electronic mail, remote shopping, financial transactions, and education -- necessitate standards for communication between systems.2 Even without a telephone or CATV connection, the potential for a network exists, and standards for information transfer must be formulated.3~4

Why standards?

The personal computing market is developing from three high-growth-rate product areas -- hobby computers, calculators, and video games.5~3 It is reasonable to assume that manufacturers entering the market will try to differentiate their products (and ensure growth) by keeping them incompatible. If so, the consumer -- and quite possibly our national communication/information potential as well -- will suffer, since differentiation will limit both consumer options and utility value of a communication/information network.

Standards could be established before this market gets locked into either too limited or incompatible equipment. A personal computing network could move us from the industrial age to the "age of information," with all of the impact and benefits that implies. We are on the threshold of a second Babel, and the resulting confusion of communication could be as counter- productive as was the first Babel.6

The forces working against standardization are many. What is the motive for manufacturers' set ting and adhering to standards? There is none; in fact it works in reverse. A manufacturer who isn't primarily seeking profit will not be around long enough to set a standard. It is most profitable for a corporation to set its own standard, then price its entry level equipment cheap and clean up on the additions. The generality of computer systems, the eccentricities of designers and programmers, and Murphy's law all conspire with the manufacturer's profit motive to ensure that no standard prevails. Progress itself is a co-conspirator. Just as most of the communication and transportation technology developed between 1880 and 1920 is now obso...