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TIME magazine has been naming a “Man of the Year” annually since 1927. In 1982, for the first time ever, it broke tradition and gave the award to a machine, the PC.
In the article it said that “there are some occasions, though, when the most significant force in a year’s news is not a single individual but a process, and a widespread recognition by a whole society that this process is changing the course of all other processes. That is why, after weighing the ebb and flow of events around the world, TIME has decided that 1982 is the year of the computer,…TIME’s Man of the Year for 1982, the greatest influence for good or evil, is not a man at all. It is a machine: the computer.’ This was an era when it really dawned on people just how important the computer was as a force in modern life. So much so actually that in 1982, 80% of Americans said that they thought home computers would be as common as TV sets and dishwashers. Safe to say that they were correct.
Funnily enough, this news devastated Steve Jobs as he thought this accolade would go to him. I say ‘funnily’ as TIME actually had an article in it, in February 1982, which stated that Jobs “practically singlehanded created the personal computer industry.” However, as publisher John A Meyers wrote: “Several human candidates might have represented 1982, but none symbolized the past year more richly, or will be viewed by history as more significant, than a machine: the computer.” The PC revolution of that era was referenced by TIME as bringing computers “down to scale” so “people could hold, prod, and play with them.”
Even though to us the PCs from 1982 look ancient, they were doing some remarkable things. They were now able to do what the big mainframe computers were doing with a small silicone chip. Moving into the home front was only a matter of time. At that time though PCs were more limited and the main thing they did was replace typewriters. This meant that you wouldn’t have to erase a whole page for one spelling error! It was said though that the Man of the Year article was still written with a typewriter, with TIME’s employees fully converting to PCs within a year.
According to TIME, in 1980, 724,000 PCs were sold in the US. The next year would see 1.4 million sales, and the year after that saw sales double. And the growth doesn’t stop, that has expanded to over 62 million being shipped in the US in 2020! Computing evolution has meant that now people can take their computer on the go with them, whether that be a laptop or tablet. Laptop sales fully eclipse PC sales now but we can’t forget the origins of our everyday essentials.
“Dec. 26, 1982: Time’s top man? The personal computer”. Long, Tony. December 2012
“Today in Apple history: Steve Jobs loses ‘Man of the Year’ award to the PC”. Dormehl, Luke. December 2020
“26 December 1982: personal computer named man of the year”. Samueli, Michael. December 2015
“Tech time warp: Time names the computer ‘Machine of the Year’”. Johanns, Kate. December 2018
“December 26, 1982: Time’s ‘Man of the Year’ is a computer”. vintage.es . December 2019
“PC market in the US: statistics and facts”. Alsop, Thomas. November 2021