Images that prove how far technology has come

Sometimes we forget how fast technology – from computers to memory cards to the Internet – is evolving. These pictures are one kind reminder

1) Lightweight computers

In 1949, tech magazine wrote Popular mechanics that in a few years computers could be developed that did not weigh a few thousand kilos. The magazine wrote: “While a calculator like ENIAC today is equipped with 18,000 electron tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have as few as 1,000 electron tubes and can weigh as little as one and a half tons.”

The electronic computer ENIAC at the US Army Ballistic Research Laboratory.

Built for the US military, ENIAC is the world’s second electronic computer; the British Colossus is considered the first. Both computers still had electron tubes. In more modern copies, these had been replaced by transistors. The first computer with transistors was the IBM 608, which came on the market in 1957. As a result, the calculator was half as light as its predecessors. Much later, engineers introduced microchips. This made PCs (and later laptops) much smaller and lighter. Apple’s new MacBook Air, for example, weighs just over a pound.

computer
IBM 608, the first computer to have transistors instead of electron tubes. © IBM

2) Hard disk

Today you can buy a hard drive with a storage capacity of a few terabytes for a few tens for a few hundred euros. In addition, the storage medium is comfortable in the hand. It used to be different. The man below holds a hard drive dating from the 1960s. The disk had a capacity of ‘not less than’ 10 MB. By comparison, a terabyte is one million megabytes.

Hard drive

And another image that shows how compact storage media has become:

technology

And although the memory card format for your camera or smartphone has remained the same in size, they can store much more data.

technology

What’s next? Storing data in DNA. Large companies today invest a lot of time, effort and especially money in optimizing this type of data storage. You can read more about this in KIJK 9/2020, for sale here.

3) World Wide Web

On October 29, 1969, the first two computers were connected via ARPANet, the forerunner of the Internet. Computers could send messages to each other, but that was all. It was not until around 1990, when Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web, that real progress was made. In addition, Berners-Lee developed a protocol for communication between the web browser and the server (http) and a computer language (html). In 1991, the world’s first website, info.cern.ch, came online, which still exists today.

But today, internet use is also completely different than 30 years ago, this infographic from Statista shows:

internet

4) Alt i ét

In the past, the real gadget enthusiasts had a video and a photo camera, a laptop, a digital clock with stopwatch function, a phone and so on. For several years now, all of these devices have only been able to be replaced by one thing: the smartphone. Apple’s latest iPhone 12 even has LIDAR, which allows it to determine the distance to an object or surface.

smartphone

5) Sharper vision

We regularly place beautiful images of the sun, galaxies and planets occupied by (space) telescopes on this website. It makes you forget for a moment that the detailed images of astronomical objects millions of miles away are not that common at all. In the 1990s, for example, astronomers did not get a particularly sharp picture of Pluto. So about twenty years later, a lot has become possible in that area.

Pluto

As the famous science fiction writer Arthur Clarke said:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology can not be distinguished from magic”.

Arthur C. Clarke

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