Information Technology: Bringing the world closer one “bit” at a time…

(Thank you to Rodel Henry for participating in our “Title the next SNX Blog Contest” and coming up with the title for today’s blog!)

 

Information Technology, or “I/T” as it is more commonly referred to, is a phrase used quite frequently today, but a term that only truly began to emerge as an every-day concept within the past 20 years or so. “Information Technology” may just make you think of the computer or computer network you’re reading this on, but in fact, it refers to everything from software to hardware to network administration and beyond. Wikipedia defines “Information Technology” as:

 “…the application of computers and telecommunications equipment to store, retrieve, transmit and manipulate data…also encompasses other information distribution technologies such as television and telephones…In a business context, the Information Technology Association of America has defined information technology as “the study, design, development, application, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems”.

How much has I/T actually changed in the past 65 years? Here’s a breakdown, by decade.

 

The 1950’s:

“Considered as one of the most conservative decades in recent memory the 1950s were a time when technology underwent a dramatic evolution.” (-techradar.com)

Enter the world’s first stored-program computer (read our blog about “BABY” here), the first commercial modem – the AT&T Dataphone, and the microchip. While the first microchip bears little resemblance to its modern counterpart, without it, you could say goodbye to your iPhone.

The 1960’s:

  • The first commercially available microchips were released by Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation in 1961 and were around the size of your pinkie.
  • A remote online search system is publically demonstrated for the first time by SRI.
  • The public sees a mouse for the first time.
  • April 22-October 17, 1964: The New York World’s Fair offers public viewing of online bibliographic retrieval at Library/USA. This is the first time the general public sees bibliographic information and interacts remotely with librarians through a computer using standard telephone lines.
  • 1969: Internet officially comes into existence.

The 1970’s:

  • The birth of modern computing was in the 1970s. The world’s first general microprocessor — the Intel 4004, came out on Nov. 1971.
  • Rudimentary personal computers began to be produced along with pocket calculators.
  • The availability of affordable personal computers led to the first popular wave of internetworking with the first bulletin board systems.
  • Beggining of the video game era – Atari is established
  • Start of Fiber Optics.
  • The integration of the computer and robot, particularly in Japan, saw unprecedented improvements in mass-produced automotive quality…such cars as the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla became some of the most popular and iconic vehicles of the 1970s.

The 1980’s:

  • On January 3, 1980: Hewlett Packard introduces the HP-85, a “microcomputer” with 16kB of RAM and a 5-inch CRT display.
  • Microsoft licenses Unix and starts to develop a PC version, XENIX.
  • Xerox introduces the graphical Star workstation, which greatly influences the development of Apples future computer models, Lisa and Macintosh, as well as Microsoft’s Windows.
  • Disney releases the movie “Tron” on July 9, 1982, the first movie to use computer generated special effects.
  • A Philips factory in Germany creates the world’s first compact disc August 17, 1982.
  • The 3.5-inch floppy diskette is introduced and later becomes an industry standard.
  • The first e-mail from China is sent to its connection in Germany September 20, 1987.
  • 1989: Invention of the World Wide Web by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee and Belgian Robert Cailliau

1990’s: The Information Age begins…

In 1991, the World Wide Web is implemented, and the Internet truly becomes a global network.

The 90’s saw the spread of the Internet which caused a sudden leap in access to and ability to share information in businesses, at home and around the globe. Technology was developing so quickly that a computer costing $3,000.00 in 1997 would cost $2,000.00 two years later and only $1000.00 the following year.

Innovations of the ‘90s:

 

The “Information Age”, which started in the 1990’s, and which we are currently living in today, is a period marked by the shift from traditional industry (brought about by the industrial revolution) to an economy based on the information computerization. The evolution of technology in the past 65 years is nothing short of astounding, and if it continues at this rate, the world our children’s children live in will probably be a far cry from this one.

 

How do you think the world of I/T will change in the next 65 years?

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Hey BABY! The world’s first stored-program computer was built 65 years ago and couldn’t fit in your living room…

Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine, aka "Baby"
Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine, aka “Baby”

Everyone knows that computers have dramatically shrunk in the past 60 years, but it’s become such a normalcy that the common person takes it for granted, and my 1-year old daughter will never know what it was like to carry around a 5 lb. gray hunk of plastic that used to be what passed for a cell phone.

Exactly how much have computers changed in the past 60 years? One great example of what our modern-day computers used to look like is the Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine, nicknamed “Baby”. Baby, which ran its first program over 65 years ago in Manchester, UK on June 1, 1948, was the world’s first stored-program computer. The program it ran was to determine the highest factor of the number 218, which took almost an hour to compute. It wasn’t meant to be regarded as a full-fledged computer, but rather proof that the concept would work. This proof of concept led to the production of the Manchester Mark 1, which eventually led to the creation of the world’s first commercially available general-purpose computer.

F.C. Williams, who wrote the program, said the following about its first successful run:

“A program was laboriously inserted and the start switch pressed. Immediately the spots on the display tube entered a mad dance. In early trials it was a dance of death… But one day it stopped, and there, shining brightly in the expected place, was the expected answer. It was a moment to remember. This was in June 1948, and nothing was ever the same again.”

Compared to the light-weight tablets and smartphones we carry around today that fit easily in a back-pack or purse, “Baby” was enormous, measuring over 17 feet long and over 7 feet tall. The technology that Baby made possible is exhibited nearly everywhere in modern day life. There are computers hidden away (or embedded) in everything from digital alarm clocks, to toasters, to your house alarm; even the traffic lights you pass under every day on your way to work. Because of the technological advancement made possible because of this huge machine, we use tiny, evolved computers dozens of times a day without even realizing it.

How many computers have you used today, and how would your life be different without them?

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