The rampant rate at which computers have grown in power, shrunk in size and found their way into every little nook and cranny of our lives must surely be one of the greatest technological phenomena of our time. Back in the day just simply owning a computer was something special, no matter how big or noisy it was.
The rampant rate at which computers have grown in power, shrunk in size and found their way into every little nook and cranny of our lives must surely be one of the greatest technological phenomena of our time. Back in the day just simply owning a computer was something special, no matter how big or noisy it was. Now they’re everywhere: in your car, in your fridge, in your pocket.
Did you know that the computer in your phone is one million times cheaper, a thousand times more powerful and a hundred times smaller than the first computer was in 1946? What used to fit inside a building now fits inside your pocket, and in 25 years it will fit inside a human cell.*
Computers are the driving force behind much of modern technology, and they’ve catapulted us into a digital age which is increasingly defining the way we live. In a way we are becoming slaves to electrical impulses – zeros and ones. But at the same time, they are our slaves, put to work to make our lives easier, richer, better.
The next phase of this age of pervasive microchips will likely involve all (or close to all) computers being online and thus capable of ‘talking’ to each other. As soon as you disable your phone’s alarm clock in the morning, it will tell your coffee machine to start working its magic.
As you approach your car to leave for work, your phone will tell it to unlock the door and start the engine. When you return in the evening, your car will tell your garage door to open, and the outside lights to turn on. If you make an omelette for supper, your fridge will update your shopping list (which you can view on any portable device) to include eggs, or just add them to your shopping cart on an online grocery store.
This is a far cry from where we were just a few years ago. In the 90s (ah, the 90s!), we made do with Windows 3.1, floppy drives and 16 megabytes of RAM.
I remember being in complete awe at the first CD-ROM drive I used, about 15 years ago. What – I could put a flat, round, shiny thing into a sliding cup-holder and an entire multimedia encyclopaedia – with pictures and videos and sounds and everything – would pop up on my screen? Incredible!
In primary school we used to copy games (remember Stunts? How about Wolfenstein?) for each other on stiffy disks, 1.44 megs at a time, or we’d download them from the internet (which we were only allowed to use after 7pm) at the dizzying dial-up speed of 56kbps.
Also around 15 years ago, I remember begging my parents to upgrade the RAM in our 486 from 16 to 32 megs so I could play cooler games. These days anything below two gigs of RAM is considered lacking. And of course the holy grail back then was the mighty Pentium – if you had one of those you were rocking the PC party.
A year or two later I remember a friend’s dad getting a six-gig hard drive, and thinking that made him the coolest dad in the world. I mean how would he ever possibly manage to fill up six whole gigs? One-and-a-half HD movies – that’s how.
In 25 years from now, with zeros and ones pulsing through the cells of our bodies, we’ll be remembering our dusty iPhone 5s and two-terrabyte external hard drives and giggling in sheer embarrassment. What a silly and clunky lot we were back in 2012!