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"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



The keypunch is introduced


"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



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


Eccles and Jordan invent the flip-flop electronic switching circuit



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


Color television signals are successfully transmitted



IBM introduces an electric typewriter


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



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


The University of Pennsylvania's ENIAC is operational


First transistor developed at bell Labs



The IBM 650 becomes the first mass-produced computer


Xerox introduces the first commercial copy machine



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


IBM builds the first floppy disk


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



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


Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak form Apple Computer


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



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


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


CD-ROMs are introduced for computer use



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


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


Intel introduces the Pentium chip
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Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Previous Article:One for Bobby.
Next Article:The Tech Files.

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