In the 1980s, Erik Sandberg-Diment was a household name in Silicon Valley.
He had what was at the time a radical gig at The New York Times, or any other mainstream publication for that matter. He was a software and technology columnist, and wrote weekly reviews and reflections about the burgeoning personal computing industry. It was an era when terms like “pixels,” “megabytes,” and “floppy disks” earned painstaking explanations, and printers came with sound shields because they were so noisy.
In recent years, there’s been something of a Sandberg-Diment revival online; his archived work occasionally pops up on forums like Reddit and Hacker News. Picking apart predictions of the past has long been a beloved parlor game among history buffs and technologists, and Sandberg-Diment’s oeuvre is a particularly rich trove—owing largely to the confluence of his lively and assertive writing style and the technologically dynamic time at which he was covering computing.
In 1985, for example, Sandberg-Diment declared laptops would never be a mass-market technology. “On the whole, people don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper,” he wrote. “Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so ... Because no matter how inexpensive the machines become, and no matter how sophisticated their software, I still can't imagine the average user taking one along when going fishing.”