Do You Take Your Gadgets for Granted?

In 1961 two programmers taught the IBM 7094 how to sing.

Kennedy was president, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was a hit, the Germans were building a wall, and in a laboratory at IBM a room-sized 7094 Data Processing System, built for large-scale scientific computing, was haltingly half-crazy over the love of you.

In this photo from the IBM archives, the operator in the foreground is using the IBM 7151 Console Control Unit to monitor the system's performance, while the one in the background is checking on the 1301 Disk Storage Unit.

Later today, while you’re taking new music suggestions from Pandora or your personal iTunes Genius, give a think to how downright cool it is to be able to do so. We get so used to the technology that suffuses every facet of our daily lives, that it’s easy to lose perspective on the rapid evolution that’s taken place over the last four decades or so. Remember, not so long ago Sony’s Discman was cutting edge.

I was watching my friend look up something on his iPhone the other day. And I’m thinking, holy shit, it’s this flat little thing in the palm of your hand, and you can use it to talk to anyone anywhere in the world and you can just poke the screen to look up information on and photos of anything you want whenever you feel like it. (If you have signal, naturally.) It’s about 10,000 times radder than the communicators on Star Trek, and those were fictional. If the original Kirk were here right now, it’d blow his freaking mind.

Forty years from now people are going to look back at us and our cell phones and netbooks and think it’s all terribly quaint.

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