To fully understand the future of the computer and the computer's role in society, one must understand where the computer originated. The history of the computer is traced from the beginning of binary numeration to the life of John V. Atanasoff, the inventor of the computer. Several developments in technology are responsible for the transformation of computers into the high tech efficient and affordable technology. In review, four generations of computers exist. Atanasoff's first model and the derivatives from his work are the first generation computers. The development of the transistor by Bell Laboratories in the late 1940's led to the second generation of computers. In the second generation computers, the transistor replaced the vacuum tubes originally used by Atanasoff and led to smaller, more efficient computers. Third generation computers were the result of the development of integrated circuits, which allowed for reduction in size of computers. The fourth generation of computers are those that contain very large scale integration. The increased density of the computer chips allows for hundreds of thousands of transistors per chip. Thus, computers evolve into a new generation as the result of technological developments that reduce the size of the computer and increase the computer's power and memory. Most importantly, the future of the computer follows the informative background of the computer. This section is referred to as The Road Ahead, and discusses Bill Gates' book, The Road Ahead. This section focuses on the role of the computer in the near future. The section begins with a brief history of Gates and the development of Microsoft. The Road Ahead, according to Gates, is a world where everyone has either a personal wallet sized PC or uses abundant computer kiosks to access information, which is similar to how ATMs are available for the public to access their bank accounts from anywhere. As a result of having updated information at the consumers' fingertips, Gates sees an economic benefit from consumers making completely informed decisions. The social impact of computers on society is also addressed. Gates' vision does not account for the truth that society is universally technically proficient. As computer technology advances and become more prevalent, there is the possibility that we may become a divided society. There will be the technological aristocrats and those who do not have access to and do not understand the technology.
Lee Loevinger, The Invention and Future of the Computer, 15 J. Marshall J. Computer & Info. L. 21 (1996)