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Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century

futurework: Chapter 6 - Box 6.1

B O X 6.1 Computer power

Moore’s Law (named for the founder of Intel Corporation) holds that the processing power of microchips doubles every 18 months. The costs of computing are falling sharply, dropping by nearly 25 percent per year,5 underpinning the growing importance of technology in the workplace, the development of the Internet, and the reduction in communication costs that is a factor in the globalization of the economy.

The market for under-$1,000 personal computers now makes up half of all U.S. computer sales. As a result, half of U.S. homes have PCs.6 In 1997, the most powerful PCs on Business Week’s yearly "best buys" list were priced over $3,000; in 1998, only one PC on the list was that expensive. A standard PC in 1997 came with 32 megabytes of memory and a 4-gigabyte hard drive; in 1998, a similarly priced model came with twice the memory and a zip drive or a DVD drive as well.

The future of computers may extend to the realm of what was previously only science fiction. Noted computer scientist Ray Kurzweil predicts that by 2019, a $1,000 computer (in 1999 dollars) will be able to perform 20 million billion calculations per second and will be equivalent in sophistication to the human brain.7

Improvements in computer technology signify that computers will be an even stronger presence in the American workplace in the future.

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