Ultrabook – Top 12 Greatest Leaps in Technology, Part 4
Inspired by how the Ultrabook, built with all 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.
Joining in the conversation over our technology choices is a friend and fellow blogger, Dave Taylor. You can see what he had to say about our picks for the “Greatest Leaps” over at The Business Blog at Intuitive.com.
10. GPS (Global Positioning System)
If you were to go back 10, maybe 20 years, and look into any glove compartment of any car, you’d most likely find a few crinkled, half-folded road maps. All across America, people would pull off on the side of the road, hunch over the hoods of their cars trying to flatten out the massive, accordion-folded map trying to figure out where they were and where they were trying go. The really savy traveler would stop into their local AAA office and have one of their travel experts take a yellow highlighter and trace their route for them. Remember those days? Or, do you laugh at something so primitive?
Today, from any smart phone, tablet, computer, and even installed in most new cars, you simply input your destination and the GPS will give you turn-by-turn instructions on how to get there. And, even if you happen to miss a turn, the GPS will recalculate your route. Thanks to GPS, it’s actually kind of hard to get lost.
GPS first started as a military project back in 1973 and was the brainchild of Ivan Getting. The idea was to use a grid of satellites, or “man-made stars” as they were first nicknamed, to send signals to ground stations to triangulate geographical positions. The first of these satellites, NAVSTAR 1 (Navigation Satellite Timing and Ranging), was launched in 1978 and the early GPSs were accurate to a matter of meters – as opposed to today’s systems that are accurate up to the centimeter.
By the early 1980’s, GPS was made available to the public, although its high price tag made it out of reach for most consumers. Today, GPS is so affordable and available on many different devices, it’s even inspired a new pastime called “geocaching,” a treasure hunt that uses a handheld GPS to locate a “geocache” containing a logbook and “treasure.” I just did my first geocaching at a recent team building event. It was fun, but definitely a challenge.
Imagine how barbaric the world was before it went wireless. Phones were tethered to long curly wires, you had to get up off the couch to change the channel, and to surf the web you had to be connected to a modem that was plugged into the phone line, and the only “Bluetooth” that existed came from eating blue cotton candy. But, in the wild, wonderful, wireless world, life is good.
Where did “wireless” begin? That’s a tough question. In theory, or in the theories behind what would some day grow into wireless, many scientists and inventors share in the credit. Here are a few milestones on the road to wireless:
In 1819, Danish physicist Hans Christian Oersted observed a compass needle moving when put near an electric field, thus began the study of “electromagnetics.”
Published in 1865, James Clerk Maxwell’s On a Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field talked about the movement of electromagnetic waves through space. His equations and theories are still used today.
In 1880, Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Tainter made the first wireless telephone call on their patented invention the Photophone. Modulated light beams carried the conversation wirelessly between the transmitter and the receiver.
1887 brought Heinrich Hertz’s (yes, as in “megahertz”) invention the oscillator (an alternating-current generator) and his creation of the first radio waves.
Guglielmo Marconi made the word “wireless” a household term in 1896, when he invented the wireless telegraph, sending a signal 1,800 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
In its more modern form, Wi-Fi, wireless was invented by the NCRR Corporation/AT&T in 1991. It was first developed for cashier systems but was soon made available to the public under its marketing name, WaveLAN. The WaveLAN wireless devices boosted download speeds of 1 to 2Mbps – compared to today’s wireless connections that can download at up to 50 Mbps.
Today, we take it for granted that we’re going to be able to get (free) WiFi access at the coffeeshops, events, and in other public spaces. I know I hate it when I have to pay for WiFi at a hotel.
12. Digital Video
On August 29, 1967, Americans sat perched on the edge of their seat as Dr. Richard Kimble finally caught up to the “one-armed man” who killed is wife. The final episode of The Fugitive became the highest rated TV show in history, with over 25.7 million people watching. But, what about the people who missed it? At the time, their only option was to avoid people and wait for the reruns.
Jump ahead to March 21, 1980, as a stunned nation was left to ponder the answer to one burning question, “Who shot J.R.?” This now classic episode of TV’s Dallas became the new highest rated television show in history, with an estimated 83 million viewers tuned-in. If you missed the original broadcast, it was no big deal if you were the proud owner of Betamax or a VCR.
The way we watch our entertainment today is a quantum leap from where it began, from rigidly scheduled “live” broadcast black and white TV to anytime, anywhere streaming digital entertainment delivered to your flat screen, computer, laptop, smart phone or tablet. Digital video allows us to program entertainment to our schedule, not the other way around.
The first TV images were recorded in 1951 on Ampex Corporation’s VTR (Video Tape Recorder). Invented by Charles Ginsburg, the VTR converted “live” images into electric impulses and stored them on magnetic tape. Five years later, Ampex sold the very first video recorders on the market. The original price, $50,000. Not surprisingly, they sold mostly to businesses for commercial use.
It wasn’t until 1963 that Sony developed a more public-friendly video recorder. Competition soon drove the prices of these early units down to around $1,000 and made them more accessible to everyone. By 1970, Sony left the old reel-to-reel recorder behind and released the Sony U-Matic, the first commercial videocassette recorder. The Sony U-Matic was capable of recording video for a ground breaking 90 minutes.
From there, the battle raged over what format would lead the video recording world. VHS stood strong against the Betamax format, and even bested the exciting Laserdisc. VHS finally lost to the DVD player. The DVD player is losing to Blu-ray, which is falling behind DVRs, like TiVo. And now, DVRs are losing ground to a generation in love with instant, on-demand delivery of streaming video.
BTW, in case you missed it, claiming that she was pregnant with his baby as a result of their affair, it was Kristin Shepard who shot J.R.