Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Back in the quaint era known as the 1970's, our ancestors used primitive computing machines called computers.  These were clunky devices about the size of two or three refrigerators side-by-side, with disk drives the size of washing machines.  The ancients interacted with these devices by typing on keyboards, and looking at displays of numbers and text.

And what did they do with these primitive computers?  They could communicate with each other by email and messaging.  They could manipulate information in databases and spreadsheets.  They could access files on other computers, create beautiful typeset documents, manage calendars, contact lists and other personal information, and write programs to do just about anything else they needed.

In other words, they could pretty much do what we do with our gadgets today.  But now we run on smart phones and tablets with graphical displays and multi-touch interfaces.  We drag icons around and flick our fingers on the glass to carry out actions that used to require typing.

So pretty much all we've accomplished in the past 30 years is eye candy. Literally ...
Left: Mike and Ike Berry Blast candy;
Right: standard OS X "OK" button.
Sure, devices have gotten smaller and faster, but much of that increased speed now goes to drawing all the cool buttons and  handling all those multi-touchy things.  Ask yourself ... is your [computer | tablet | phone] too fast for you?  Didn't think so.

So in the first 30 years or so of electronic digital computers, from World War II to the 1970's, almost all of the key technologies of today ... Arpanet (later Internet), email, spreadsheets, databases, personal computers, the mouse, Microsoft and Apple and Oracle, video games, computer animation ... were created.

And the 30-some-odd years since then?  The Web, Google and portable devices.

So remember that next time someone says the pace of technology is increasing.

EDIT:  This post is really from May 11, 2011.  For some reason, Blogger decided to change the posting date when I edited the keyword list.

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