In 1968, Carver Mead, professor at California Institute of Technology, began to demonstrate the possibilities of placing an entire computer on one chip at a cost of just a few dollars. He also began to preach the possibilities of the innovation, asserting it would end the burdensome and expensive computer mainframe’s dominance by distributing computing power to individuals through small, inexpensive personal computers.[i] The PC would take computers to the average man, like Ford’s Model T took cars to the people.
The next year Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce formed Intel, the company that would fulfill Mead’s prophecy. In 1971, Intel successfully combined working memory, permanent software storage, and the Central Processing Unit to create the 4004, the first microprocessor, the soul of the PC. This led to the 8088 and the MS-DOS operating system created for it by Microsoft. Following came the 186, 286, 386, 486, and Pentium®—all containing the three elements first combined in 1971.[ii] The legacy—the ongoing PC revolution—is commonplace knowledge: PCs in homes, PCs on most office desks, microprocessors in everything, making life simpler, and increasing efficiency.
On the existential level, it’s no coincidence that the personal computer (1971) crashed into history at the same time as Roe v. Wade (1973). The personal computer gives us control over every aspect of our lives. Likewise, abortion permits us to remove those things—children—that sap control from adults more effectively and thoroughly than anything else. Both quell the existential anxiety that bubbles in our chests due to the uncertainties of existence, an anxiety that can never be quelled through material means but which we, like the magician, seek to quell through the material.
[i] Recounted from George Gilder, Microcosm (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989), 32-41.
[ii] Gilder, 104-111.