The fact that this article is being written directly into a computer is part of the story about what to expect in the electronics industry in 1980, as more and more people using computers on their jobs overcome computer anxiety and begin welcoming the cute litte buggers into their homes.
A far cry from the fearful fantasies of the 1950s, when dwarfed and uncomprehending humans stood in front of whirring towering dominating machines -- computers have turned out to be toys, super-secretaries and accountants, twinkling gadgets to help run the kitchen.
It is still a long way to the "no home should be without one" stage. But constantly expanding uses of computers, of integrated circuits and microprocessors and other electronic advancements, and new cost- and energy-saving applications of the technology promise a growing market for electronics.
"In the solid state part of the business -- integrated circuits and microprocessors -- we're going to continue to have an excellent year," said Peter F. McCloskey, president of the Electronic Industries Association, a national association of electronics manufacturers.
As electronics has become miniaturized, as computers on silicone chips have developed, an array of new products has been born for which no end is yet in sight. Included in that array are hand-held electronic calculators, electronic watches and the electronic toys that proliferated during the Christmas shopping season just past.
Less fanciful but perhaps more important for the future will be the use of semiconductor technology in automobiles to reduce gas consumption and to govern ignition systems. "There are those who think that 25 per cent of the cost of an automobile may well be electronics by the mid-1980s," McCloskey said.
The data processing side of the computer business also promises gains in the year to come as more small businesses turn to automation and larger businesses broaden its uses, according to industry sources. "The next area of strong growth potential is the office automation market," Paul S. Mirabito, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Burroughs Corp., told-security analysts as the end of 1979 approached.
Business operators can buy systems that combine more traditional computer functions with word processing systems that churn out letters and camera-ready copy for publications. The market for such systems is expected to be particularly strong in areas such as Washington where demand for skilled clerical help far outruns supply.
Government electronics and electronics in communications also promise to be strong markets in what shapes up as a generally rosy year. "With the greater awareness of the vulnerability we have as a result of the Iranian situation and the announced intention of this administration to increase defense spending, it appears that a certain substantial portion of that will be in electronics," McCloskey said.
In communications, the lines between computer and satellite technology, telecommunications and television are expected to continue to blur.
Further down the line are personal computers, machines already available in retail outlets for relatively low prices starting at about $500. The major growth in sales of personal computers appears a few years away yet, according to McCloskey and others. But "we're developing a base of people who are attuned to computers' who will provide a growing market for the machines.
What the machines can do depends largely on who operates them, said Rich Doud, who owns a retail computer store at Tysons Corner. The store, a Computerland franchise, is one of about nine such stores in the area. s
Digital Equipment Corp., which may be the world's largest producer of minicomputers, just opened a new retail computer outlet at 1850 K Street NW in the past week.
The so-called home computers end up in both houses and educational institutions, he said. "It's a way to get a young person to know what a computer is. It uses a TV screen, and you don't have to teach kids to look at TV screens," Donald said.
Purchasers tend to be either people who want to experiment and play with the machine or people who do computer-related work and use it as a tool for work they do at home. "A lot of people come in and say they use it to play the stock market or the commodities market or to keep track of their finances," Doud said. But most of the buyers are "people who have some day-to-day connection with the data processing industry."
"It's not faddish," Doud inisted. "We're not even scratchng the surface of the potential consumer base. As more and more people come into contact with computers in their daily lives, in their work, their autos, programable video recorders, awareness will increase and increase this marketplace," he said.
"It's an evolutionary thing, and I'm not sure we know what the curve looks like," said Doud.
There are some clouds on the horizon for the electronics industry. For example, the technological lead of the U.S. semiconductor industry -- the chip makers -- is being challenged by Japan and other nations.
Japan, the strongest competitor to the U.S. industry, is gaining ground largely because of government support for development, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce study earlier this year. The stakes are high. uThe domestic semiconductor industry produces annually approxinately $6 billion worth of devices used in the production of more than $20 billion worth of goods, and services, according to the Commerce Department.
Also, "obviously if there is a major depression, everybody will be affected," McCloskey said. Short of that, however, the future looks good as more and more people turn to electronics for cost and engery savings, he said.