Friday, May 2, 2008

Cool Technology of the Week

As I write this on my MacBook Air connected to my home WPA-secured 802.11a wireless network traveling over the internet at 20 megabits/second via Verizon FIOS, with my Blackberry 8320 strapped to my belt, and my 4 Gig USB drive in my pocket, my vote for the Cool Technology of the Week is the all of them.

Let's consider how these technologies have evolved in my lifetime. The photo is a 1956 IBM 305 REMAC, the first computer with a hard disk drive. It weighed over a ton and stored 5 Megabytes of data.

In 1984, I bought my first IBM XT that weighed 32 pounds and stored 10 Megabytes of data.

In 1987, I bought a Unisys server to run my small company that included 128 Megabytes of RAM and half a Gigabyte of storage - a supercomputer for the time.

In 2008, Gigabyte USB drives are given away in junk mail and weigh 1 ounce.

Think about the impact of traveling back in time with the Macbook Air, Blackberry and USB drive.

Think about showing the Macbook Air to Alan Kay in 1972 at Xerox Parc, side by side with drawings of his fictional Dynabook.

Think about showing a functional 2008 Blackberry to Gene Roddenberry in 1965, side by side with his fictional Star Trek Communicator.

Think about explaining to an IBM engineer in 1956 that Gigabytes are free, Terabytes are cheap, and Pedabytes are the technology we're now installing. Exabytes (1000 Pedabytes or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes) will probably be included in my daughter's laptop in her lifetime.

Arthur C. Clarke formulated the three "laws" of prediction which apply well to the evolution of technology in my lifetime.

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The Macbook Air, the Blackberry, and the USB drive are magic for a guy born in the same era as the IBM 305 REMAC.

The greatest benefit of being a CIO is experiencing the daily march of innovation. I know that my job will never be done and life will never be boring.


Glen said...

Corollary: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.

jessica lipnack said...

Ah, memories, John. We bought our first machine in 1971: Wang 600, 2K (yup, I didn't forget any 000s), price = $4400. Then we "upgraded" in 1975 to a Wang 2200. Bonanza! 8K! $25,000! Then a Kaypro, Vector, IBM PC, and finally, in '84, we came home to Apple (though I still see those pesky PCs scattered about).

The Imp ;-) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ducknet Services said...

Enjoyed the presentation on blog radio last night, very uplifting and informative, building computers before there was even a "Pentium" around! Nice to hear you have some California "roots" as well. Thanks again for sharing your time with Dr. A and the rest of us.

Frank P. Bresz }*{ said...

Have been reading for a while. Great blog. I too was recently lamenting over the size reductions we have seen. I distinctly recall putting several days of work into a cost justification for 3x1GB disk drives for a cost of $30,000 circa 1991. I compare that to the 2GB chip the size of my thumbnail that's now inside my Blackberry 8830, purchased @ Circuit City for $79.

Mr. Gunn said...

Don't you mean Petabyte?

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