1955 was without a doubt a bumper year for information technology. Bill Gates (Microsoft), Eric Schmidt (Google), Tim Berners – Lee (World Wide Web) and Steve Jobs (Apple) all emerged into an analogue era with digital ideas. The fifties saw the start of two international super powers flexing their technological muscle in the space race. Technology was moving fast which led to circuit boards being used for things other than nuclear missiles. The sixties represented a decade of change for many countries as millions of children from the post-war baby boom became adults and cultures shifted from a conservative to revolutionary way of thinking. As communication and engineering improved an information age was growing.
1964 was the year of the Programma 101, the first desktop computer. In today’s money it would cost a cool £14,000 and it didn’t even have Solitaire. What it did have was a calculator and a brand new programmable magnetic card. In fact, it only had a calculator and a programmable magnetic card. It’s selling points would of been the fact it came with addition, subtraction, division AND multiplication. The Apple fan boys of the day would of no doubt lapped it up. Before 1964, computers would take up whole rooms and were only used by a minority. After 1964 many people with a few thousand pounds could of had a thirty five kilogram calculator sitting on their desk. You can see why forty four thousand people bought one, can’t you?
The March of Progress is one of the most famous illustrations ever produced. It’s the one representing human evolution over twenty five million years starting with a hunched over primate progressing into an upright modern man. You’ve probably seen it on The Simpsons. I like to think it actually represents our struggle with the weight of carrying technology from the sixties to the present day. It’s no wonder our parents were bent double if the first calculator weighed thirty five kilograms. Inventors and scientists also carried the weight of expectations as people dreamt of flying cars, roast dinners in a pill, living on the moon and household robots. We might think that we are no longer weighed down with thirty five kilogram calculators and endless possibilities without the tools to develop even the simplest of them but how far along the timeline are we?