Global Technology Advancements

A RUN DOWN THE MEMORY LANE HIGHLIGHTING SIGNIFICANT TECHNOLOGICAL AND COMMUNICATION ADVANCEMENTS, WHICH MADE YESTER DREAMS TODAY’S REALITY.

Octavio Paz Lozano, a Mexican poet and diplomat, pens technology as “not an image of the world but a way of operating on reality.”

It’s amazing to see how technology has wrapped itself around “man’s little finger.” With multitasking fast becoming the mantra of the day, it’s tough to imagine being away from man’s newest friend and companion: the cell phone. Carol Connell, a poet from poetrysoup.com, captures the pun of technological integration into our daily lives in his poem “Cell Phone Phenomenon.”

It reads thus:

The husband and wife go out to dinner
to have quality time alone;
as they sit across from each other,
both of them on their phone.

And what shall we do with our cell phone next?
Should we start a photo stream or send out a text?
Our day is just not complete, it seems
without sending or receiving the latest memes.

The technology evolution of the past decade has been so hectic that it’s tough to pen it down and to analyse the how the cornerstones of technology are deeply embedded into our daily lives. Experts believe that such integration was possible because of chain reactions fuelled by the innate needs of humanity to remain connected, irrespective of communication barriers. Like all other eras, the digital revolution was observed in both the software and the hardware side. As authorities viewed and documented human history, they distinguished Information Age as an economy based on information computerization. This information era’s foundation was laid with the invention of early computing devices such as the abacus in Babylonia over 5000 years ago.

As time ticked away, a relatively advanced computing device was assembled by the “Father of Computers”, Charles Babbage, an English mechanical engineer and polymath of the 19th century. But, as the British government decided that the then project was not as viable as previously conceived, it was dissolved thereafter. However, this advancement sparked the need to develop a more sophisticated computer system – analog computers followed by the mightier digital computers.

The two dreadful world wars, which claimed lives of about 11 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians, was seen relying heavily on machines and computers. In order to achieve the favourable outcome and establish technological dominance, the government of United States heavily funded its navy to develop an electromechanical analog computer small enough to be used aboard a submarine, hence successfully shrinking its size, equipping the machine with precision, and educating it to solve firing problems using trigonometry.

It is undeniable that man’s need to win has often yielded in technological advancement. As the world recuperated from the disasters of war, a new battle field was prepped for the show of dominance. The entire world witnessed the launch of the Soviet Union’s artificial satellite, Sputnik, on October 4, 1957. Some viewed this news with suspicion, some with envy, and some with caution as the foundations were laid to usher in a new era. Another such war-worn invention that is noteworthy is the Internet (WWW – the world wide web).

With the breaking of the war, the importance of communication and information sharing within a small window of time became very crucial. The military realised efficiency of the packet networking system for communication. The US Department of Defence sanctioned funds for project ARPANET. This project helped in developing an eco-system of connecting networks. Simultaneously the UK government funded experts like Donald Davies to design and develop packet network between the 1960s and early 1970s.

Soon, man realised the application of computer and communications to non-defence sectors like business, commerce, pharmaceutical, etc. Because of the realisations that private entities operated differently to that of the armed forces, principal designers, J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, of the United States, invented UNIVAC – the first commercial computer. Having seen the foundation for the PCs / laptops, the market then saw many entrants. Facing the cut-throat competition, IBM, another American multinational technology company, invented IBM 702 to go toe-to-toe with UNIVAC.

As humans progressed, they envisioned a computer for each individual, terming them personal computers, and called it laptops in a few years. The first personal computers were assembled in 1975 and came as kits: The MITS Altair 8800, followed by the IMSAI 8080, an Altair clone. It seemed that a new universe of possibility lay at our feet. And first to try their luck was college dropout Bill Gates with his childhood friend Paul Allen, establishing Microsoft. Leading ahead on the path of progress, Microsoft added many feathers to its hat – Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS), Windows, Web browser – Internet explorer, gaming console Xbox, and much more. Soon the technology sector saw fierce competition as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak began their Apple journey; Intel was founded by Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce; Larry Ellison, Bob Miner, and Ed Oates started a software company ORACLE, and so on.

On April 3, 1973, Martin Cooper made the first call via a mobile phone. The initial handset though not made with consumers in mind was sold for $4,000 each. Standing true to its meaning Mo-bile – on the go communication – the sector stands witness to staggering facts. With a legacy of 150 years, Nokia entered the mobile communications in 1968 and soon won over 250 million consumers, making their model Nokia 1100 the best-selling electrical gadget in history.

Not long after, Packet networking system combined with satellite commutation leading to the development of the present Internet. Attendee Mark Pesce during the first International Conference on the World Wide Web, Geneva, addressed the audience, “if the web can be said to have had a starting gun, it fired on that Wednesday morning at CERN,” marking the arrival of WWW in the year 1994. The Internet opened such a world of technology where man is only at the hem of it. As the human civilization grows, so does his imagination to do the unthinkable. Technology has helped man to achieve that I-m-Possible.

With social networking, RFID, QR Code, graphic user interface, bar codes and scanners, SRAM flash memory, augmented and virtual reality, etc., technology is progressing at a very fast pace. Combine technology with man’s imagination and we are sure to find GOD soon. Although having progressed so much, technology has few shades tainted red. Critics are often heard blaming technology advancement for impersonal communication, growing distances, globalising community, privacy and security frauds etc. Another worthwhile debate is pin pointing the master vs. the slave. But having given the democratic setting, it’s safe to say for now that it’s user’s call of how to employ technology to enhance the quality of life.

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