Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Computer Evolution

This being the first day of 2014, I started thinking about all the thing we don't have that we were predicted to have by now: flying cars, vacations on the Moon, talking computers.  But then I realized some things happened that weren't predicted: the Internet, the smartphone, the shrinking of computer.

Think about this: in the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, the computer on the space ship (HAL) was much more advanced than computers we have now.  But it was also huge.  Remember that scene where the guy goes inside the computer to shut it down?  I mean, the astronaut went into the computer, his entire body.  So the makers of that film missed that computer would get smaller and smaller.

My first contact with a computer was at the Eastern Idaho State Fair in the early '70s.  Idaho State University had set up a computer and had interfaces were you could interact with the computer.  The interface looked a lot like a typewriter.  The computer's output was printed on paper, not displayed on a screen.  And what they had set up was a number guessing game (slightly fancied up as an artillery aiming game).  You'd put in a number on the typewriter-like keyboard, it'd print out "long" or "short" (if I remember correctly).  And I was so impressed!  Here I was using a real computer.  But the computer was probably in a back room taking up square feet of space.  (I wrote a similar program in BASIC about 10 years later on my first computer.)

I like to point out that my first PC, a rather large desktop, had a 40 megabyte hard drive.  My iPhone that fits in my pocket has 32 gigabytes of memory on a flash drive.  My laptop has a 500 gigabyte hard drive and my back up drive is 1 terabyte.  That's 26,200 times larger that that first hard drive.  And probably a lot cheaper.

So while we don't have a lot of things that were predicted when I was a kid, we do have amazing computer technology.  Just not yet advanced enough to talk to us, read lips, and lock us out of the cargo bay.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

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