Predicting the future is notoriously difficult. Who could have imagined, in the mid 1970s, for example, that by the end of the 20th century, computers would be as common in people's homes as TV sets? In the 1970s, computers were common enough, but only in big business, government departments, and large organizations. These were the so-called mainframe machines. Mainframe computers were very large indeed, often occupying whole air-conditioned rooms, employing full-time technicians and run on specially-written software. Though these large machines still exist, many of their functions have been taken over by small powerful personal computers, commonly known as PCs.
In 1975, a primitive machine called the Altair, was launched in the USA. It can properly be described as the first 'home computer' and it pointed the way to the future. This was followed, at the end of the 1970s, by a machine called an Apple. In the early 1980s, the computer giant, IBM produced the world's first Personal Computer. This ran on an 'operating system' called DOS, produced by a then small company named Microsoft. The IBM Personal Computer was widely copied. From those humble beginnings, we have seen the development of the user-friendly home computers and multimedia machines which are in common use today.
Considering how recent these developments are, it is even more remarkable that as long ago as the 1960s, an Englishman, Leon Bagrit, was able to predict some of the uses of computers which we know today. Bagrit dismissed the idea that computers would learn to 'think' for themselves and would 'rule the world', which people liked to believe in those days. Bagrit foresaw a time when computers would be small enough to hold in the hand, when they would be capable of providing information about traffic jams and suggesting alternative routes, when they would be used in hospitals to help doctors to diagnose illnesses, when they would relieve office workers and accountants of dull, repetitive clerical work. All these computer uses have become commonplace. Of course, Leon Bagrit could not possibly have foreseen the development of the Internet, the worldwide system that enables us to communicate instantly with anyone in any part of the world by using computers linked to telephone networks. Nor could he have foreseen how we could use the Internet to obtain information on every known subject, so we can read it on a screen in our homes and even print it as well if we want to. Computers have become smaller and smaller, more and more powerful and cheaper and cheaper. This is what makes Leon Bagrit's predictions particularly remarkable. If he, or someone like him, were alive today, he might be able to tell us what to expect in the next fifty years.
[flvplayer http://bcs.duapp.com/newce1/media/3-51.mp4 400 300]
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1. Predicting the future is notoriously difficult.
notoriously adv. （尤指因坏事）众所周知地，如：
This organization is notoriously inefficient.
Doctors notoriously neglect their own health and do not seek help when they should.
2. Mainframe computers were very large indeed, often occupying whole air-conditioned rooms, employing full-time technicians and run on specially-written software.
employ v. 雇用，使用(to pay sb. to work，use)，本文中的意思是"使用"，如：
How many people does your company employ?(雇用)
They have employed different approaches to obtain these results.(使用，可以用taken代替)
3. Though these large machines still exist, many of their functions have been taken over by small powerful personal computers, commonly known as PCs.
be taken over: be replaced by。关于take over的用法，我们再看两个例子：
I've asked my assistant to take over preparing for the conference. 我叫我的助手接手准备会议。(take over doing sth.. )
4. In 1975, a primitive machine called the Altair, was launched in the USA.
launch这里指推出一种新产品(a new product was developed)，如：
5. It can properly be described as the first 'home computer' and it pointed the way to the future.
The car is not working properly.
point the way to: show the way/direction to。如：
A line of restaurants pointed the way to the theatre.
Recent medical discoveries are already pointing the way to more efficient treatment.
6. In the early 1980s, the computer giant, IBM produced the world's first Personal Computer.
giant n. 巨人，伟人。如：
The takeover battle is between two of American's industrial giants. (industrial giants，工业巨人)
7. This ran on an 'operating system' called DOS, produced by a then small company named Microsoft.
by a then small company: by a small company at that time, but the company was no longer small. 再看一个例子：
I wanted to live in the city, but my then husband preferred the country. (He is no longer my husband now. )
8. The IBM Personal Computer was widely copied.
copy这里的意思是模仿( imitate )，如：
They have copied the basic design from the Japanese model and made a few adjustments of their own.
9. From those humble beginnings, we have seen the development of the user-friendly home computers and multimedia machines which are in common use today.
Even when she became rich and famous, she never forgot her humble background. (这里表示low in rank, 卑微的出身)
Whenever you saw him, he was always wearing a humble smile. (这里表示unpretentious，谦逊的)
user-friendly: easy to be use，通常用来描述计算机以及与计算机相关的事物，如：
a user-friendly printer / software
The computer manual is supposed to be user-friendly, but I cannot understand a word of it. 电脑的使用说明书应当是容易使用的，但我一个字也看不懂。
10. ......was able to predict some of the uses of computers which we know today.
predict: foretell, 预测。predict还可用于predict to do sth, predict + that从句以及其它从句。如：
Storms are predicted to reach the north of the country this evening.
Who could have predicted that within ten years he would be in charge of the whole company?
We cannot predict when the next earthquake will happen.
11. Bagrit dismissed the idea that computers would learn to 'think' for themselves and would 'rule the world'.
dismissed the idea that: refused to believe in that。我们再来看dismiss其它的一些用法：
The teacher dismissed the class early because she had to attend a meeting. (dismissed the class，下课)
He laughed and dismissed my suggestion as naive. (dismissed my suggestion: refused to consider my suggestion)
12. ... and suggesting alternative routes, when they would be used in hospitals to help doctors to diagnose illnesses, when they would relieve office workers and accountants of dull, repetitive clerical work.
alternative: some other thing to replace 替代性的。如：
They are looking for an alternative venue for the concert. 他们在为音乐会寻找另外的场所。
alternative energy, alternative medicine
relieve ... of ...: 把...从...解除出来，如：
The baby-sitter relieved her of many of the chores. 保姆给她解决了很多家务的问题。
13. ... that enables us to communicate instantly with anyone in any part of the world...
instantly: immediately, 当即。如：
The driver was killed instantly. I recognized him instantly.
（美国）国际商用机器公司（International Business Machines）
磁盘操作系统（Disk Operating System）
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