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Rise And Fall And Rise Of Technology

September 12, 2019

Everything old is new again

I’ve been in computers a long time. My first computer was a TI99. We got it around 1980. It had a whopping 256 bytes of RAM memory. Not GIGAbytes, or MEGAbytes or even KILObytes. Just bytes.

The computer didn’t have a hard drive. It also didn’t have a network connection. There was no network. There was no internet. The computer used a tape cassette drive to store programs on.

Our first computer with a hard drive was a Zenith Z100. It had a 5MB hard drive. And it cost $5,000. The Zenith Z100 used a system called CP/M to allow the computer to make it’s various hardware components talk to each other. After the Z100, Zenith switched their IO system to IBM BIOS. This meant that all previous CP/M compatible devices were no longer able to be used on future versions of Zenith computers. That included our $5,000 hard drive. My dad was so angry he vowed to never again buy an IBM computer.

IBM has an interesting history in computers. They were one of the original Big Iron computer companies. The original computers were large central processing units. Hooked up to these central storage and processing units were dumb terminals. Without the central unit the terminal was unusable.

Around 1980, IBM launched the PC industry. There were lots of computer companies, Apple and IBM, but also Zenith, Texas Instruments, and many others.

PCs represented a shift from central processing to distributed processing. PC’s were a remarkable achievement. They had their own memory, their own storage and they could operate independent of any central computer.

The internet started as a DARPA, or Defense agency project. Eventually, Netscape created and sold a browser named Mozilla. And the commercial portion of the internet was born. Porn was the industry that really taught people how to make money on the internet.

And of course, eventually Google came along with the “answers to everything.” And then smartphones and the internet of everything. And suddenly we were back where we started.

Computers no longer are really all that useful if they aren’t connected online; email, maps, social networks.

Computers, like life, have cycles. We think we are creating something new, but we’re mostly just rediscovering the old stuff.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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