Technology: The Forward March of Progress

By Steve Anderson October 23, 2014

Every year in November, when even the United States is still looking more toward Thanksgiving than to Christmas, there's a little thing I like to do. I go to an air and space museum not too far away, and I walk among the exhibits, looking at the things that got us through war, into the sky, and even into the great vastness of space itself. It's an inspirational trip, and particularly useful since there's a little time left in the year with which to really accomplish something. But aside from that, there's also the opportunity to look at the progress of technology, a development that, when it's really examined, proves to have plenty of inspiration in its own right as it may start simply, but by the end, does amazing things.

While the term “technology” can be a little vague and work for just about anything from the wheel and the inclined plane to the Watson supercomputer, starting with some of the things that are familiar to us today makes sense, from Alexander Graham Bell's first patented electric telephone in 1876 and proceeding directly to George Eastman's Kodak roll film camera in 1888.

But then, technology starts getting a little interesting; consider that the first ever telephone answering machine was created in 1898, only 22 years after the telephone's patent. Then, after the arrival of the television in 1954, that's where development really gets going. The first major personal computer—the Programma 101—arrives in 1965 at a hefty cost of $3,200. The first successful cell phone arrives in 1973, and Japan follows up with the first commercial cell phone network in 1979, the same year the Walkman was introduced. 1983 sees the first cell phone network in the United States, with 1984 bringing both the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X cell phone—which retailed for $3,995—and the first computer-synced smartwatch in the Seiko RC-1000 wrist terminal.

The earliest breed of Wi-Fi, meanwhile, goes back to 1991, and two years later, the first smartphone emerges in IBM's Simon. Then in rapid succession came a string of mobile device developments, from the digital camera in 1994 to the Palm PDA in 1997 to the BlackBerry 850 pager in 1999 to even Bluetooth to end the 20th century and the last millennium in 2000.

With the rise of the new millennium, meanwhile, has come a host of developments; smartphones, touchscreen systems, biometric security systems, smart glasses, and of course, a string of iPhones going back about seven years now. Technology has made a steady—and in the last 20 years or so, downright rapid—climb upward since its earliest beginnings, but much of that technology has been combinations or refinements on earlier devices. Moore's Law has been a major source of gain, but what is a smartphone, really, but a fusion of digital camera, telephone, and television?  Is Apple's impressive iWatch really little more than an augmented Seiko RC-1000?

This comes back to the earlier anecdote: technology advances. It advances in ways some may not expect, but can basically be described as combinations of other technologies. Whether it's watching an airplane become the thing that gets us to the stars, or watching the telephone become the thing that snaps our selfies and allows us to watch videos, it's all still technology's advance in the end. Where will it all go from here? Only time will tell in the end, but if it's anything like the last 20 years, we may have some major developments in the works.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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