Is the PC a Buggy Whip?

06/07/2010 08:48 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Stanley Bing Fortune columnist and best-selling author of business books

There was some discussion last week at the All Things Digital conference about the PC being the next great gizmo to be consigned to the garbage dump of history. In the future, it is thought, we will all be tethered to the great teat of the collective mind by some teeny implement that is smarter than we are. This seems counter-intuitive to me, but then I've always bet against sea changes. The debate did put me in mind, however, of other great toys that I thought would be around forever, including:

  • The buggy whip. This is always the example that is given when obsolete pieces of technology are hauled out. Its demise signaled the end of an era in which horse abuse was not only tolerated but encouraged, especially in heavy traffic.
  • Mr. Potato Head. In the beginning, Mr. Potato head was a potato whose persona was built out of small facial and body parts that were inserted into his skin with small, sharp prongs. At some point during my childhood, this was deemed too dangerous for tots and his body was replaced with the molded plastic orb we see today. I remember saying at the time, "Who wants a plastic Mr. Potato Head?"
  • The typewriter: "Who needs to have a computer all the time? I mean besides Larry." Larry was our CFO.
  • The Home Fax: Introduced into the workplace at the beginning of my career. I remember saying, "Who wants to respond to everything the minute it pops up?" Within two years, everybody had to have one in their house if you wanted to stay in touch with Big Bob, who lived and died by them. Now it's all e-mail. The Fax in the basement sits idle for weeks at a time.
  • The Sony Walkman, which played cassette tapes. I also was surprised by the demise of the portable CD player.
  • The Bic Pen: The one that cost 19-cents?
  • The Telephone: I think I used my land line three times last year.
  • The Cell Phone that's just a phone: I held out like a champ until last November. Then having two implements in my pocket just didn't make sense anymore.
  • Smoked meat.

And now the PC? What next? Say it ain't so! I don't want to be part of the cloud!