It’s Not What You Think
In recent years, all of us have become aware of the unprecedented pace and degree of change in modern life. For example, the ﬁrst electronic computer was built in 1946, weighed 30 tons, and had 18 000 vacuum tubes. Its entire memory could hold just 20 numbers and ten letters. The ﬁrst desktop computer was built in 1974. Its footprint was no bigger than a large television.1 For the past three decades, computer power has doubled and its costs halved every 18 months.2 In the 20 years from 1978 to 1998, computer power has increased by a factor of 10 000.3 Some computers today will ﬁt in your shirt pocket, yet possess more power than those that ﬁlled entire rooms 50 years ago. The ﬁrst telephone was invented in 1861.4 It enabled people to speak to one another, ﬁrst across town and later around the world. The combined technology of the telephone and the computer, however, has enabled billions of people to chat or send letters instantaneously to a million others all over the world for a fraction of the cost of one telephone call. These inventions each represent a unit of change from an object that can do one thing into an object that can do something else. Each unit represents a change in content. By themselves, these technological changes are important, but their signiﬁcance can be understood only in terms of their context. In the 1960s, the technology existed to provide consumers with telephones that could transmit...
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