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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 20:13 GMT 21:13 UK
20-year-olds ponder life without PCs
Twenty year olds on New York Times Square say they love their PCs
New York 20 year olds say they love their PCs
By BBC News Online's North America Business Reporter, David Schepp

The world was a different place when International Business Machines (IBM) launched the personal computer in 1981.

The US was just beginning the first of many launches of the space shuttle Columbia, which went into orbit around the earth for the first time in 1981, as well as the launch of Music Television (MTV) on cable systems across the country.

Personal-computers (PCs), cable television and space travel were the height of technology two decades ago. Twenty years later, the internet, human cloning and mobile phones are at the forefront.

To get a better understanding of how technology has affected the lives of young people, the BBC asked a group of 20-year-olds outside MTV headquarters in Times Square.

Love that e-mail

To no one's surprise, there was a near-universal embrace of e-mail and the speed and convenience with which it allows human communication over vast spaces. They are, after all, a group that has never known a world without a PC.

One young man, born in India and now living in Miami, told the BBC that his personal computer allows him to keep in touch in a much less time-consuming way than letter and post.

"I've travelled all over the world," he said. "I can talk to my mom. I can keep in touch with all my friends by e-mail. Twenty years ago you couldn't do that."

Records, CDs and digital music

He also appreciates being able to send over the internet photos that he has taken with a digital camera.

A young couple, both 20, disagreed over whether they like computers or not. She said that she was not very good with them, while her boyfriend countered that he liked the PC's ability to download and store music.

Twenty year old PC user
This young woman finds her computer "amazing"
Another young woman, a college student, said she could not fathom life without a PC. "I live by technology," she said. "You can't get by in college without a computer, without knowing how to use it or how to do things on the internet."

She said that she enjoys chatting with friends using instant messaging while she is doing her homework. She hopes to some day use technology that would allow her to dictate a college paper, for example, rather than having to type it.

Another 20-year-old woman said she found computers and the technologies they utilise amazing. "All my music is downloaded," she said. "I don't own any CDs."

In 1981, the CD, or compact disk, had not even begun distribution in the US, having been invented just two years prior. Few people expected to see a day when records would be obsolete let alone one that would reduce music to digital code that could be downloaded to a computer via the internet.

The PC has been credited for much of the large productivity gains the US saw in the 1990s as business found ways to automate tasks that previously involved tedious and time consuming human interaction.

See also:

03 Aug 01 | Business
Tough times for PC firms
20 Jul 01 | Business
Global PC sales slump
29 Jan 01 | Business
Gates talks up PC market
22 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Thinking outside the box
09 Feb 00 | UK
UK 'in love with home PC'
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