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The present and future

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As the 21st Century opens, the future of personal computers is as murky and unknowable as ever. Some theorize that the P.C. will simply merge with other home entertainment devices, into a single, new super-unit combining the television, stereo and computer. Others are banking on the predicted rise of the networked P.C. - a dumb terminal where you rent the software you need and access it over the Internet, rather than buying and installing programs on your own computer.

Still, whatever the future holds, the present is already a miracle of technological achievement. The average American home now has a personal computer with more computing power than NASA had available during the Apollo moon missions. With a home computer and an Internet account, any family can access more information than kings and popes of old could dream of. The world's greatest libraries and art collections are available for the asking, families and friends can communicate instantaneously with e-mail, and free Web pages make anyone a publisher.

Along with the airplane and the television, the personal computer was undoubtedly one of the most significant inventions of the last century.

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