Ultrabook – Top 12 Greatest Leaps in Technology, Part 3
Inspired by how the UltrabookTM, built with all the latest technological innovations, makes “everything else seem old-fashioned,” we put together a list of some the biggest leaps in technology that over time seemed old-fashioned. In Part 1 and Part 2 of the series, we looked at ATM’s, Air Travel, Cell Phones, Digital Music, TV, and the Internet.
Here are three more that made the list:
7. Microwave Ovens
Microwave ovens changed the world because they could keep up with it. With a few simple pushes of buttons, you can cook, defrost, and even reheat entire meals in just minutes. But, to truly appreciate the microwave’s awesomeness, it’s really all about the hot dog.
“Nuked” for 35 seconds, a hot dog is cooked perfectly throughout and the bun is soft and steamy. 35 seconds! And, even though a hungry kid can treat that as if it were an eternity, in the grand scheme of things, 35 seconds is nothing. Now, get out a pot, boil some water and make that same hot dog. 10 minutes? 15? 20? That’s an eternity.
The microwave oven has been around much longer than you may think. Although not a common household appliance until the early 1970s, the microwave, or the “Radarrange” as it was known, was first introduced in 1947. The first commercial microwave ovens stood almost 6 feet tall, weighed over 750 pounds, and were water-cooled, so they had to be installed by a plumber. The price? $5,000, today’s equivalent of over $51,000. Five years later, the first home model was brought to market for around $1,300, or nearly $11,000 in today money. It wasn’t until 1965 when the smaller, safer counter-top microwave ovens debuted at just under $500.
So, how did it all begin? In 1946, Dr. Percy Spencer was working on a research project having to do with improving radar. He was testing out a new vacuum tube called a magnetron when he noticed that the candy bar in his pocket had melted. Curious, he tried an experiment where he placed popcorn kernels near the tube and fired it up. The result? The world’s first batch of microwaved popcorn.
The next day, he tried an egg, and even though he ended up with egg on his face, he knew he was on his way to revolutionizing the way we cook – and project “Speedie Weenie” born. “Speedie Weenie,” the nickname his team gave to their secret microwave project, was also part of what they hoped to achieve, “a quick hot dog.”
See, it really is all about the hot dog.
8. Personal Computers
You can literally boot up an Ultrabook in a flash, the whole “from zero-to-go” thing isn’t just a slogan. On today’s computers, on any desktop, at any given time, you might find several documents being worked on, an open email account, a Facebook page, an IM window, a CNN news feed, and maybe even a large, 750MB video file downloading as you work.
So much data, so many apps open, so many documents, photos and videos stored in memory, it’s funny to think about think and compare that to first personal computer experiences people had to endure. For example, if you needed to write a paper (no photos, just text) and were lucky enough to be able to use the brand new Apple II computer, there were challenges.
The Apple II, featuring the first ever “color” display, had whooping 16K of RAM, not MB –k. For perspective, find a picture of the Apple II online today and it’s likely over 200k. Before you started typing, you had to insert a 5.25” floppy disc (whatever you do, “DON’T BEND IT!” or you’ll lose everything) into the drive. For approximately every 20 pages of text, the 360k disc limit, you needed a new floppy to store it.
“What was the first personal computer?” There are some questions that you ask that you’ll never get everyone to agree on the same answer – this is one of them. It all comes down to “How do you define personal computer?” and “What do you mean by first?” Here are the top contenders:
According to the Computer Museum of Boston, designed in 1971, the Kenbak-1 is the first personal computer. In a time before microprocessors were invented, the Kenbak-1 had 256 bytes of memory and featured small-scale integrated circuits on a single circuit board.
In 1975, when Ed Roberts introduced the Altair 8800, he was the first to use the term “personal computer.”
In September of 1975, IMB released the first portable computer, the IBM 5100. It weighed a backbreaking 55 pounds, had a five-inch display, tape drive, and 64k of RAM.
Then, depending on who you ask, there’s the Osborne I. Introduced in 1981 by Adam Osborne, the Osborne I weighed a trim 24.5 pounds, 64k memory, two 5 1/4″ floppy drives, and included a modem.
Regardless of who was first, it was in 1977 that the Tandy Corporation, better known as Radio Shack, took the computer industry to the mass market by introducing the TRS-80. It was incredibly popular for several reasons; its $599 price tag, it had a keyboard, and you could save information on its cassette tape storage unit (tape included). It became even more popular in the 80s when the TRS-80 became the Color Computer, nicknamed the CoCo. Everyone loved the CoCo due mostly to the fact that it had a 12” color screen.
Who doesn’t love color?
9. Space Travel
Space Travel has given us some of the most amazing inventions of all time. Beyond pioneering the technology that made computers, cell phones, faxes, wireless tech, and weather forecasting possible, the desire to explore space has given us GPS, Velcro, a golf ball that flies straighter, an acne medication, and, of course, Tang.
However, this post is not about any of those technologies; rather, this post is about boldly going where, few have gone before.
It all began on April 12, 1961, when Cosmonaut Yuri Garagin became the first man in space. Years later, on July 20, 1969, at 10:56 am, when Neil Armstrong took the first step of the surface of the moon, the race to make space travel available to everyone was on.
Here are some milestones in the “commercial” space race:
In the 60s, Pan Am put customers on their “waiting list” for future flights to the Moon, issuing free “First Moon Flights Club” membership cards.
In 1984, McDonnell Douglas paid $40,000 to send Charles D. Walker on the Space Shuttle, making him the first non-government astronaut – the first space tourist.
1990 saw news anchor, Toyohiro Akiyama, rocketed to the MIR Space Station for the ticket price of $28 million. But, because his network picked up the tab, he became the first business traveler in space – not a tourist.
American Dennis Tito was set to travel to the MIR Space Station until it de-orbited (crashed). Unfazed, he arranged passage to NASA’s International Space Station through the privately held, Space Adventures, Ltd. That flight made Space Adventures the first company to ever send a paying passenger to space.
The MIR crash also cancelled NBC’s plan for a new reality show called Destination MIR. Contestants were to be eliminated through cosmonaut training exercises – the prize would have been a trip to MIR.
Hilton Hotels joined the space tourism industry by co-funding a plan to build a space station – the Hilton Orbital Hotel. The company believes the space hotel is still 15 to 20 years away.
At the turn of the century, X Prize, a national contest, offered $10 million to the first private company to develop a reusable space ship to carry private passengers. In October 2004, Scaled Composites, a California based company, won the prize with Space Ship One.
With over 500 passengers already booked with a $20,000 deposit towards the $200,000 flight, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is on-track to launch a late 2013 commercial space flight. Among the first passengers booked are; Tom Hanks, Stephen Hawking, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Paris Hilton.
History was made on May 25, 2012, when SpaceX’s Falcon 9 spacecraft became the first privately built vehicle to visit the International Space Station and return safely.
That makes 9 of the biggest leaps in technology. What inventions should make the final 3? Let us know in the comments.