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Thursday, 04 April 2019


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Just an aside about the joy of living in this age of amazing transformation: my Dad is 95 years old. He was a high-school physics teacher and had home computers since the early 80's. He once told me that he had always thought that intercontinental jet travel was the most amazing thing that was invented during his lifetime, until "smartphones" came along. Although he has decided he's too old to bother learning how to use one himself, he is continually amazed by the things we can do with the handheld super-computers that we carry in our pockets.

You are so right! I met my first computer in 1960. It was purchased by the lab where I worked, and took up several racks, in a room by itself. I learned Fortran 4, so I could get my I/O heavy programs to run, which the regular batch oriented programmers couldn't. Then in the '70s, in the lab where I then worked, some one brought in a small handheld HP calculator which made the Friden desktop calckulator with 3 "roll over" memories, an instant antique. The rate of technological change is often in spurts, and I think we are near the end of one. If so, the rate of change will slow, while gaps are filled in. Then there will be another spurt, but I have nno idea what it will be.
And does anyone remember analog and hybrid computers??

Ok! My first Apple was a II plus in 1979; came with 48K and I paid $100 for an additional 16K. No hard disk; two 160K floppies. I gave it to Goodwill last year after several decades in the garage.
My first hard drive was a network server for 4 Apple IIe's. 20Meg. Not even a single raw image today would fit on it (the server!).

I got mad at Apple when they wanted $3000 for a license to use a C compiler on the new Mac... but I do love my iPad retina for photos!

I did some mainframe programming with punch cards, but that is another set of stories.

I completely agree with your main points about feeling lucky and grateful to have gone thru these changes - computers and photography. And the almost inconceivable increases in speed and capacity. (The Apple II had 4 colors and one was black.)

While I'm now an "Apple Man", my early computer building and repairing life was centered around XT and AT compatible clones. The first hard drives I installed were 10 to 20MB's. Then came a massive 30MB model - I can't remember really but I think it was more than $ 600. But the one thing I do remember was how fragile they were. Set one down on a table top a little too firmly and chances were it was toast. Many arrived DOA. I told customers their hard drives were likely going to be reliable since they had already passed the UPS drop test!

The earliest Apple hard drive was the Profile (Get it?), made for the ill-fated Apple III. At $5,000 for 5MB, its cost per MB was even worse!

My grandmother's were both born before the Wright Bros. flew. One died after the 747 was in service, the other after the Concorde was flying the 1%ers across the Atlantic. To me, that's truly amazing.

Everyone loves lower prices, except working/middle class people. For the plebs, lower prices equals lower wages. You can't win for losing 8-(

I always make sure to show my father the latest gadgets in my collection. The very latest being a mobile phone with storage in the 100's of GB, and multiple terabytes on the desktop. He never fails to remind me he was responsible for running the payroll for a large university in the UK in the 60's in 8 kbytes (count 'em) of mainframe memory.

It's fun waxing nostalgic about the rapid pace of IT development since the 1980s.

I started with my current employer in 1985, working as a library assistant in our corporate library. We had the only personal computer in the organisation, aside from a handful of BBC B micros.

The machine was called an ACT 1 Sirius and it was a near IBM PC clone. Used MS-DOS and almost identical hardware but it wouldn't run native PC software - we had modified versions of Wordstar and some other popular business software.

One fact of the hardware sticks in my mind. It had an internal hard drive but it also had an external hard drive unit in a huge tin box that connected with the widest ribbon cable you ever saw. The external unit cost £2600 GBP in 1985 and had a capacity of 10MB.

A couple of years later, I transferred to our computer audit support team as a programmer. We used IBM and ICL mainframes to do our processing and we leased half of a 4GB hard disk unit at the data centre. The rental on this 2GB of space was £40,000 GBP per year...

Mind you, you could fit a lot more in 2GB in those days - like all the transactions of the Inland Revenue's general account for a financial year.

I must admit being amazed yesterday at the ability to send and receive email with a 1.5-pound laptop from a 777 over the North Atlantic. If I'd plumped for the high-speed package, I could have watched live-streamed kitten videos.

I think I can top the HD20 reference, but I'll have to email you the photo separately.

I’m really pleased you bought the 2TB SSD
More and more with Apple’s stingy & expensive hard drives, and the speed of the Tbolt 3 buss , an external SSD is almost a necessity.
A second Ssd Inside the machine would be ideal, and Apple used to allow that, but no more.
Your system should really hum.
My first Mac was the SE 30 (it had the 030 chip, and a “processor Direct Slot “ I used it for a second display-color!)

Not only the drive capacities, but the interface system as well has undergone extensive and welcome improvements over the decades. I suspect that few lament the passing of the SCSI connectors and adaptors. Sometimes they only seemed to work after a prayer (or oath) or two.

In 1997? I paid @$1000 for a 1gig SCSI drive for my PPC . My friends mocked me hard. I never did fill it before I had moved onto something else. But a grand for a drive. I also just bought that same little drive
you did.

Ah yes, memories.
Learning to program in machine language on an IBM 650 in 1962. Did my early astronomy data work on 1100s. Both had TUBES! Before transistors.
Programmed the first IBM transistor computers like the 1620
Programmed early DEC PDP-8 minicomputers.
Early PCs running DOS with 64kB of memory and 5.25" floppies. Yes I owned early 10 and 20MB hard drives. And tape backups.
My favorite $$$ story is being invited to a press event held by a company that was a customer of my fiber optic company - this was only about 20 years ago. They were introducing the first terabyte storage system for mainframe computers that cost under $1,000,000! So prices are down by 10,000X or more in 20 years.

And if Apple overcharged for their products then, like today, the cost of the Samsung is even more amazing :)

It's been one heck of a ride, but I have to admit that I liked computers better before the Internet. I guess its because I'm a less is more kind of guy and the unlimited possibilities of todays phones, cameras and computers are overwhelming. In many respects it was more fun to play Snake on the Apple II and Digger on my first IBM PC than any of the amazing games made today. Also, as good as Adobe Lightroom is, it doesn't compare to the exitement I felt when getting Fuji Velvia 50 slides back from the lab and seeing them on the lighttable for the first time.

Damn, I'm getting old...

I’ll put my dad forward for a different set of technology changes - he was born between WWI & II.
His family background was cattle on small-holder land in Australia (couldn’t afford the early steam engines) and he grew up with horses and bullocks, manual ploughs, buggies, cross-cut saws, forge, various axes, scythe etc.
He and his father had to learn how to use early vehicles and machinery on the land without killing themselves - jeeps, small tractors, chain-saws and welders.
He learned to enjoy working with machines over animals, and did an early fitter & turner apprenticeship. Eventually ended up teaching welding at TAFE (technical college, originally aimed at apprenticeships - but I won’t go into it’s sorry history).
He got into the early IBMs when floppies came out. I remember a 286, a 486 etc. the first one might have been an 88.6, though I can’t find a google reference from a quick search. He was amazed when mobiles came out with more capabilities than his early PCs.

I used a 1GB Hitachi Microdrive in my Olympus E-1. At the time, it seemed to be quite a luxury.

‘“I wish Moore's Law applied to printer ink.” Made me laugh. Thanks, I needed that.

A long way?

I had a 20MB hard drive in my old 286 computer. I thought I'd NEVER use all of it. Look at us now. If I did the math right, I have 1600 times the memory in my iPhone, and it feels like I should have purchased one with more memory.

As a contracted writer for Apple in the 198os, I remember Apple employees would set up Mac Plus computers with those cumbersome hard drives in their hotel rooms at conferences. (Time to invent the laptop, yes?) I got one or each as part of my contract and am on perhaps my 10th Mac. Wish they'd given me a few shares of stock as well.

I thought your first Mac was in 1984. :)(https://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/

[It was. I used the 128k Mac--among the first ones shipped to Washington DC--in a computer graphics course taught by a local gallerist, David Adamson, at the Corcoran. He bought six of them for the school. (I was the only student who used one to write, not draw!) The 512k "Fat Mac" model that came after the 128k was the first one I owned. It was a graduation present from my mom in 1985. --Mike]

Quibbles aside, I remember going from the first computers at our high school with either cassette or floppy drive storage to punch cards at the university and thinking, "This is progress?"

It took the university "computer goons" about 10 years to change from a punch card/reader/printer output system to a terminal input/terminal output system.

The university must have saved entire forests of trees without the wide-carriage printer spewing forth the program output onto paper. Woe to the beginning programmer who got his or her program in a loop and wasted paper until he or she paused the printer and killed the program.

Those old printers were pretty fast in their time. Every single piece of computer ware had an IBM nameplate. The old computer peripherals would cost a small fortune today. Punch card (typing) machines were solid, all-metal chunks that probably weighed hundreds of pounds. There was beauty in the hum of the machines and the staccato sound when "typing" the punch cards.

When I bought my first PC, back in the mid-'80's (I think also 1985), it came with a 20MB HDD. Yes, that's an "M", not a "G".

At the time I was told that I could upgrade to 40MB HDD for a thousand dollars or something absurd, but that there was really no need because "no-one will ever need that much storage!

A couple of weeks ago I read a similar blog post about technical change over the 20th century and somebody wrote how they had once asked their grandmother (who was born in around 1910 in the UK) in the 1980's what the biggest change she had seen was. The answer " All the kids have shoes now"

My father was convinced that the cellphone was the greatest piece of tech that he’d seen (he was born in 1920).

He recalled that in the mid 60’s the TV series “The Man From Uncle” was popular in the UK and everyone laughed at the idea of the pen “communicators”. How could a tiny hand held device enable you to talk to someone on the other side of the world, in real time?

30 years later phones became small and light enough carry in a jacket pocket. 10 years after that we got the iPhone.

A few days ago, quite by accident, I happened to watch "Logan's Run," a sci-fi movie from the 70s. (I don't recommend it.)
Folks in the movie all carried a device that I think they called a "portable computer." It was about 3"x 5" and about half an inch thick. They could look up information on it and even use it to speak to each other.
That's just crazy.

I started my IT career in '92, working on the staff of an academic computer science dept. One of the boons of the job was having free quota on the university laser printers, fabulously high end output devices with beautiful legibility - I used to get a thrill from seeing every freshly printed document, even the humdrum ones. It blows my mind that within ten years, you could go out and buy a laser printer for your home for a comparatively small sum. No use for photo printing, of course, but still.

If I'd started my film photography just a few years earlier, it would probably have foundered on the lack of reasonably priced and capable negative scanners and inkjet printers. (I was never going to build an analogue darkroom.) The technology is amazing, yes, but the fact that it became readily available to most people at home is the greatest gift. (Of course, one of the downsides is that the technology has moved on so quickly that devices like my old Acer scanner and HP inkjet with the special mono ink cartridge are no longer readily available at the low end.)

This weekend, I upgraded my PC. When I took out the new CPU from its packaging, I almost called the kids to admire how much advanced microelectronics were packed into a small one-inch square. (I didn't call them, because nothing is notable to a generation raised on smartphones.) Btw, I chose the new motherboard purely because it had a slot to fit my old SCSI card, so I can still use that film scanner if the need arises. ("few lament the passing of the SCSI connectors"?? I do!)

South Korea on-line stores have been offloading 1TB Samsung T5s as low as US$135 in the past month. Sorely tempted to pick a couple up...

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