Where Are We Going and Where Have We Been?

earth-futurist_00359761As you may have noticed from some of my earlier posts, I am a technology geek. I purchased my first computer (a TI-99/4A) in 1983, and I have been hooked ever since. Out of the box it came with 16 kb of memory. I spent a bunch upgrading the memory by adding a 32kb memory expansion card, taking the device to an unprecedented 48kb of RAM. But what brought me to that point? I think before we can investigate where we are going, we need to look at where we have been, and how far we have come. That is the point of today’s blog. I am going to discuss a few technologies that we all take for granted and provide some background that you may, or may not be aware of.

Most of my technical background is the result of my years in the U.S. Navy (1963-1971) and the experiences gained as a Communications Technician (CT) and a Radioman (RM). Many of the devices I used during that period have evolved into today’s technologies. Here are a few:

Cell phones are the direct descendants of two way voice radio communications. That little device that you put into your pocket or purse is simply that in it’s most basic form, a two way radio transmitter. To accomplish the same task of communication back in my Navy days, it required a speaker, either a squawk box mounted to the bulkhead, or hard Bakelite earphones to listen. It required a hand held or desk mounted microphone, which weighed several pounds (and would not fit into your shirt pocket. Additionally, a radio transceiver was required. This device generally was housed in a separate area due to its size, noise, and heat. The transceiver and other required componets stood over six feet tall, three feet wide and three feed deep. Finally, the transceiver had to be connected to an antenna which was mounted outside and high in the air. It was high in the air for better radio way transmission, and for the safety of personnel. All combined, we are talking bout hundreds of pounds of equipment and many square feet of required space. You could not fit it in your pocket, but possibly could mount it and transport it on a semi tractor trailer. And it was not as efficeint as the cell phone in your pocket or putse.

The printers of today are a direct descendant of the Model 28 ASR teletype machine. Teletype machines were originally designed to print information received over a radio link. Eventually, teletype machines became the first line printers for early computers. The teletype machines were large, bulky, and noisy. Several of them printing at the same time in a room precluded normal conversation. The machines efficiency was determined by its printing speed. Typical of the day were 60 word per minute machines. A word was identified as five characters. Sixty words per minutes, or 300 characters per minutes translates to five characters per second. Today, a dot matrix printer can print at 500 characters per second. And laser pritners are measured in pages per minute versus words per minute. Again, we have come a long way.

That is enough for today. I would like to write mote articles like this one, but that is assuming others, besides me are interested. If you find this historical perspective of interest, please leave a comment and let me know. .

those are my thoughts, what are yours?

Tom Lind

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