Printer Friendly

"Everything that can be invented has been invented.".

Charles H. Duell, 1899

That's a statement made not at the close of the twentieth century but of the nineteenth; and, even more incongruously, attributed to someone who should have known better: the commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents.

But consider the vantage point from which he surveyed the technological scene. He was looking back on a century of change that had been like no other. At its start, the movement of people, goods, and information was stuck at the speed of the Greeks and Romans. Faster meant a faster horse. Then came the birth of the train, the steamship, and the telegraph, fundamentally altering the way people could move, consume, and communicate.

What more could a civilization need? Who could have foreseen TV dinners, Pac-Man, or the laser printer?

This century will close with no pronouncements of the limitation of human endeavor; after all, in the past 100 years, we've gone to the moon and begun to decipher our genes. The residents of our planet have reached what had been considered unreachable, and learned what had been considered unknowable. Emboldened by our achievements and certain of our potential, we refuse to be satisfied.

Which brings to light the greatest miscalculation of those who, a 100 years ago, imagined what our lives would be like.

Those dreamy days of leisure, in which robots are working hard, have yet to materialize. Sure, such visions were the concoctions of science fiction writers, but they reflected a sense of infinite possibility, and a society moving ever closer to utopia.

Yet most of us are only moving ever closer to answering our e-mail in a timely manner.

The possibility of speed--of instantaneous communication, or information on anything and everything literally at our fingertips--has in turn created the demand for speed. So we're moving faster, working harder, under more pressure to produce. To progress. And finding it increasingly tough to do it all and still play plenty of computer solitaire.

Relax? Maybe at the end of the next century. -- Seth Oltman

Upfront The Last One Hundred Years

1900s

1901

The keypunch is introduced

1902

"The actual building of roads devoted to motor cars is not for the near future, in spite of the many rumors to that effect." --Harper's Weekly

1910s

1911

Calculating, Tabulating, and Recording Co. is formed; will later become IBM

1919

Eccles and Jordan invent the flip-flop electronic switching circuit

1920s

1922

"The radio craze... will die out in time."--Thomas Edison

1929

Color television signals are successfully transmitted

1930s

1935

IBM introduces an electric typewriter

1938

Hewlett-Packard is formed in a garage in Palo Alto, CA

1940s

1943

"I think there is a world market for about five computers."--Thomas J. Watson, chairman of IBM

1945

The University of Pennsylvania's ENIAC is operational

1947

First transistor developed at bell Labs

1950s

1953

The IBM 650 becomes the first mass-produced computer

1959

Xerox introduces the first commercial copy machine

1960s

1963

Douglas Engelbart receives a patent on the mouse pointing device for computers

1967

IBM builds the first floppy disk

1969

Internet's birth: Advanced Research Projects Agency Network links host computers at various academic locations

1970s

1972

Nolan Bushnell's Pong video game is a success; he founds Atari

1976

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak form Apple Computer

1977

"There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home." --Ken Olson, President of Digital Equipment Corp.

1980s

1981

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."--Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft

1984

Apple's "1984" commercial runs during the Super Bowl to introduce the Macintosh

1985

CD-ROMs are introduced for computer use

1990s

1990

Bell Labs develops a speech-driven robot, which understands and responds to conversational English

1990

Tim Berners-Lee writes the initial prototype for the World Wide Web

1993

Intel introduces the Pentium chip
COPYRIGHT 2000 Chief Executive Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Words:636
Previous Article:One for Bobby.
Next Article:The Tech Files.
Topics:


Related Articles
Lack of vision.
History in a new light: The Flubber salute to great inventors & inventions.
Inventors for hire. (Packets).
Index card science: invention competitions have become school-wide activities involving parents and the entire community.
A talk with Ben Franklin: on his 300th birthday, Ben Franklin tours the National Constitution Center with Scholastic.
Teen inventors: meet three teens and their amazing creations.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters