In 1982, Time magazine named the personal computer its “man of the year” because the computer had become such a pervasive influence in our lives. By 1983, a Washington D.C. translation specialist recalls how the computer was being shipped every eight seconds; by 1986, all Americans over five years old had access to some form of computer through video games, electronic cash registers, microwave ovens, automated bank tellers, and such. By 1987, worldwide investment in computers and accessories reached $500 billion. Further, all but the smallest personal computers produced in 1987 operated faster than ENIAC. At that time, a $90 Commodore VIC-20 personal computer had more power than ENIAC, power that ten, twenty, or thirty years ago would have cost millions. Of course, IBM quickly changed its mind mind about computers: For a while it commanded more than 60 percent of the computer market worldwide, before exiting the market.
The force behind the information revolution and office automation is the microcomputer (synonymous with personal and small business computers) and related silicon-chip technology. The imprinting of thousands of circuits on a single chip smaller than the tip of a finger has drastically reduced both the size and price of computers, so that anyone with a few hundred dollars can own one. It’s this technology that allows a Chinese translator in Philadelphia to work with a remote client on the other side of the world. It also powers the internet and many of the tools that translators have come to rely on each day.
Advances in computer technology continue to astound the translation industry. Intel, the company most responsible for silicon-chip breakthroughs, recently began shipping three new silicon chips. Collectively smaller than a fingertip, these chips are the brain of the newest mainframe computers. Although they have the enormous processing power and memory of massive mainframes, the chips and related components of Intel’s micromainframe are no larger than a thick telephone book. As one Dallas translation services worker in the IT world reports that even more impressive breakthroughs are expected in the coming decade, sometimes within the space of a few days or weeks. A major implication of the technological revolution is that information itself becomes the ultimate product. Successful businesses and industries will be those that remain abreast of these rapid changes, those that receive, process, generate, and transmit information most efficiently.