You used to own one of these:
If you showed this “slide rule” to most people nowadays they would have absolutely no idea what it is, what it might be used for, or during which Jurassic period of evolution it came into being. But I had one, possibly still do, hidden away in a box somewhere.
I’m not old enough to have worn one out though, and so I only ever had the one and even that had limited use due to the very timely introduction of something like this at an affordable price:
Sadly, these arrived too late to help during my A-level maths lessons, but then as most of those were held down the pub I didn’t really need electronic help to work out what five pints were going to cost me!
Technological progress has been a rabid dog hounding me since my late teens. Prior to the mid seventies it seems, to me at least, that progress was being made at a very genteel pace. In terms of my life, the only noticeable progress was from black & white to colour TV and the introduction of that ping-pong tennis game you could play on the TV! Not sure when Space Invaders hit the pub scene, 78-80 at a guess, but that was about as exciting as it got back then. Who remembers the glass-top table versions they had in pubs? :)
Since those halcyon days though it has just been one mad wooosh from one cutting edge to the next. I’m guessing at the relative dates but, aside from calculator & arcade game progress (Asteroids, Missile Command..), I think video recorders and the earliest mobile phones were the next things to arrive. My first mobile phone was not actually called a mobile phone because it was only mobile if you drove your car around. It was called a car phone and consisted of a giant handset fixed between the front seats and an even gianter battery pack under the seat, in the boot or whatever. There were some truly mobile versions around but they were more suited to GI Joe than a businessman as they involved carrying around a small suitcase sized device to which a handset was attached. Well; videos became DVDs became Blue Ray and hard discs, car phones became mobile phones became smartphones became iPhones, cassette players became CD players became walkmans became iPods became iPod Touch, arcade games became PC games became Playstation 1 became Nintendo Wii, calculators became better calculators became organisers became PDAs…………… and I’m still trying to keep up with it all!
I will remember forever that sunny day in Richmond-Upon-Thames that I discovered the world of computing. Or I should say the day I realised that I might actually be able to work one of these things. A guy called Ian Jones, who was the IT guy for my employer at the time (IT guys being a whole new invention themselves back then) called my office (yes, I had an office AND a secretary, both extinct concepts these days) and said “Hey! Come over to my office I’ve got to show you this!”. I walked down to his place and there on his desk was a computer running Windows 386 (forget the exact version). At a glance I could see this was going to be a hell of a lot easier than a black screen with DOS commands which I had been struggling with for a short while trying to open WordPerfect or whatever. I wouldn’t confess to be anything like good with computers but I’m quite impressed with how I’ve managed to keep up with things since that day. Whatever I may have to say about Windows products, if it wasn’t for Windows, I wouldn’t be here today.
So, as I sit here with my Dell laptop, Blackberry smartphone and digital desk phone I wonder whether they actually allow me to get more done than when I “only” had a typewriter, a turn-dial phone, a calculator, an office and a secretary?