Stepping back, it all adds up

By Robert Grahame

 

Humans have had the need to do mathematical calculations for centuries. Most of the time, calculations were made in one’s head. I’m not going into a history of calculators here, however, by 1965, a variety of devices and machines had been invented.

If you have never heard of the Chinese Abacus, where have you been living? I want to tell you about a massively complex, at least I always thought it was, adding machine that my dad used in 1965 and even well into the seventies when digital calculators were in abundance and cheap.

Take a look at this monster that debuted 1955, the year I was born, from Monroe. My dad had this sitting and taking up as much space as a large CRT (cathode ray tube) computer monitor of the 1980s, on a 200 year-old roll top desk. I still have and use the desk.

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Take a close look. Can you see the add and subtract buttons. Try to find multiply or divide. If you read the ad below, it does say that the machine can multiply and divide, however, it does not seem evident how this was done. It does not even have a printed tape. The operator had to write all the numbers down.

I remember my dad using this thing. He was pretty fast at it, I thought, punching buttons that would stay depressed until he hit one of those larger buttons on the right and then there would be a loud couple of, or a series of, ker-chunket, ker-chunket. All that for just adding and subtracting.

Today, I have a smartphone that has a massively multi-functional calculator and it is only one of hundreds of apps on a telephone that fits in the palm of my hand.

Here is the original advertisement for this Monroe beast:

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Note the space age references in the graphics. In 1955, radar, invented during WW II, and telecommunications were very new and futuristic. One must wonder who envisioned the idea of numbers being pulled down from outer space to a machine that would sit on an office desk and do basic arithmetic calculations. Wait, have you heard that Google is going to solve the technological divide, that is the lack of Internet connectivity in remote locations of the world, by placing balloons with Internet connectivity in low space orbit. Then anyone, anywhere in the world, will have more than just numbers coming and going, to and from space.

That’s how it all adds up when you step back in time.

 

Let’s talk telephone, © 2014 by Robert Grahame

 

 

BOOM! The dreams of boomer technology 50 years later—a look back

By Robert Grahame

 

As I write my book, The future never arrives…, I fall deeper into the vortex of technological change. Life seemed so much simpler when as was a kid. Watching all the TV shows and movies I could find about technology, I couldn’t wait for the future. We heard so many promises about how wonderful life will be. The problems of humankind solved, machines doing all our work—we would be free to have as much leisure time as we wanted, or we could travel throughout the universe.

This is really why I am writing my first book. Today was supposed to be the future. Where is it? Is it late? I’m shocked to find the future never arrived, at least, not as expected and it came with baggage. Yes, many of the technological advancements have come and many have not. In truth, this is not the promised utopia that I so deeply hoped for and bought into. If this is the future, what was I expecting? And, as I look around and examine this world of the future, it has a lot of baggage nobody told me was coming.

Thus, as a small sub-project to my book, I am thinking it might be interesting to have a look back 50 years, half a century. To make nice round numbers, I am going to work at this for the next half of a year. In 2015, I will look back at the technology of, and the future technological promises of, 1965. In that year, I was 10 years old. I think that 1965 is a good mid-point to consider. It was the years after the Second World War that the western societies of the world began to see many new technological innovations and began to look forward to what innovations might be on the horizon of the future.

By 1965, technological innovations were big news and big business. The space race particularly to the moon was well under way. Technological advancements were engulfing us swiftly. Predictions were made about the future based on the current rate of technological change at the time. Most people never imagined that in 1965, the world was on the brink of exponential technological change that would be difficult to comprehend.

This exponential growth has caught us off guard and knocked us off balance—a balance that humans enjoyed for centuries. The industrial revolution brought a plethora of changes to the modern industrialized societies, however, not to the masses of the world. What was about to happen after 1965 would truly change the world in global ways we never expected.

This series of blog articles will step back and take a look at the way technology was in 1965. We will be considering a few of the predictions being put forth at the time for what the future would hold. To start things off, here is a look back at the calculator.

 

BOOM! The dreams of boomer technology 50 years later—a look back, © 2014 by Robert Grahame