Future technology will be magical

Nov. 15, 2019
by Mark Ollig

In 2007, my late aunt asked me what I thought future technology would be like in 50 years.

Back then, I was more worried about the future in terms of remembering if three months or 3,000 miles had passed until I needed to change my car’s motor oil.

My aunt’s question became the subject of a Feb. 19, 2007 article, which I refer to in this week’s column.

When considering the future of computing technology in the year 2057, I think it makes sense to see what technology looked like in the past.

Looking back 50 years gives us a perspective on how far we have progressed.

One prediction about the future of computer data processing from 1957, was from the editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall.

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year,” the editor said.

Well, we know how inaccurate this prediction turned out.

There were a large number of technological breakthroughs from 1957.

In January 1957, IBM announced an electronic computer data processing system called the Type 709.

This mainframe computing system included a lot of blinking indicator lights and switches on its front panel, along with metal cabinet bays containing magnetic tape drives and processing circuitry.

The IBM 709 was used to answer business, scientific, and engineering problems. The mainframe computer could solve 42,000 additions or subtractions, or 5,000 division or multiplication calculations per second.

Its memory consisted of a magnetic-core, storing up to 32,768 10-digit-length words.

The 709 could locate an individual unit of stored information within 12 millionths of a second – which is not too bad for 1957 computing technology.

The software programming language, FORTRAN (Formula Translation), was released in 1957, and used in the IBM 709.

“A new phase in the evolution of the electronic computer and its application in business and industry” is how IBM’s L.H. LaMotte accurately described the 709.

The first digital hard drive, the IBM 350-1, began shipping in late 1956, and early 1957.

The 350-1 housed (50) 24-inch disks resembling a 5-foot stack of 45 rpm records. The hard drive had an access time of 600 milliseconds, with a storage capacity of 3.75 megabytes.

In December 1957, the first commercial calculator, using all-solid-state transistor circuitry, became available to the public.

The first electronic calculator I used was in 1977. It was called the TI-30 made by Texas Instruments.

Those mainframe computers from 1957 were enormous, dissipated a lot of heat, used a lot of copper wiring, and took up a good deal of floor space.

The Soviet Union caught the attention (and fear) of the world Oct. 4, 1957, when they successfully launched the Sputnik I satellite atop an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile.

Sputnik 1 became the world’s first artificial satellite. It was about the size of a basketball, weighed 183 pounds, made a beeping sound, and took 98 minutes to orbit the Earth.

I found some 2057 predictions by Isaac Asimov, who published a 1950 book called “I-Robot,” about the society he envisioned in 2057.

Asimov foresees our society dominated by robots, which by 2057 might come to pass given the current advances in artificial intelligence and autonomous robotic technology.

A few more predictions for 2057:

• Nano-tube ribbon-like technology will be used to build a permanently-tethered space-elevator to lift payloads into Earth orbit without using rockets.

• We will be wearing micro-encapsulation clothing capable of sending updated medical information to our health provider.

• Quantum computers equipped with qubit processors will have replaced the supercomputers of today.

• And, by 2057, if current trends continue, 9G wireless communications will be used.

Granted, we really won’t know what 2057 will bring until we get there.

For now, we can only speculate about future technologies the world will have 50 years from today.

I do hope our grandchildren and their children will have access to technology that allows them to live a fulfilling quality of life.

Advanced technology in 2057 will provide future generations with a variety of ways to succeed in their chosen careers.

As Arthur C. Clarke said in his 1961 book, “Profiles of The Future,” “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

If we could transport ourselves 50 years into the future, the advances made in technology would appear to be magical, which is what I told my aunt.

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