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Friday, 08 July 2022


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Don't even joke about Warren even getting near the presidency, let alone getting elected.

I'd say the switch from carburetors to fuel injection was perhaps the biggest single improvement to cars in perhaps ever.

I second Elizabeth Warren. First candidate since Bobby Kennedy that had my complete support (and I was too young to vote for Kennedy). Most amazing development of my lifetime? That a third of the country has a suicide pact to destroy the environment and our democracy.

I think the iPhone is way up there, especially since most folks just assume you have a smart phone.

Note that Steve Jobs just posthumously got the Medal of Freedom from Biden. How many people can claim that they were instrumental (I hesitate to say it was single-handedly) in completely changing *4* industries: the personal computer, the music business, smart phones and computer animation.

The internet!

Having grown up in the later cold war, to me the most amazing (and delightful) development is the positive view of socialism by so many young people. It's truly remarkable, and gives me hope despite all that is going on.

The iPhone is impressive, but every time I see all the people (mostly men) idling in the parking lot, scrolling Facebook while their partner shops, running either the heater or air conditioner, I cringe at the carbon impact. Twenty years ago they would be bored, standing by the magazine racks! Every smart phone has an invisible exhaust pipe.

I recently had a most amazing development of your lifetime discussion with my 93 year old father. He said it was either penicillin or the polio vaccine, and I can't argue with that.

I don't know about amazing, but I've long maintained that the fax machine was the ruination of the world. Before the fax if my "higher headquarters" needed something from me I'd prepare it and put it in the mail. They'd get it in a few days and that was fast enough. After the fax machine suddenly everything had to be taken care of in a matter of hours, if not minutes. Nothing was ever really so urgent that a few days, or a week, or a month, wasn't soon enough...but after the fax machine it had to be immediate. Of course, email has made it worse, but it started with the fax.

Wrt most amazing development of my life time - derived from extended human knowledge foundational to science and technology - nearly ubiquitous, low cost, high speed internet, the NASA Space Shuttle, ISSand Hubble / Webb telescope imagery, and for long term vs impact yet to be fully realized - genetic sequencing and annotation of humans, animals, and plants.

I often think back on arguments, debates and friendly wagers where the hindrance for settling things was, "How do you prove it?" Or watching some old movie, "Who is that guy, what else was he in?"

The smart phone even exclusive of the built in camera is my pick. It is almost like on the '60s Star Trek where they could go to their handy tricorder and get anything answered. The tricorder was the size of a 1960s cassette recorder, not slim and pocketable like the phone.

Think of this: how many terrific movies from the '40s to the '70s would be 5 minutes long if the hero or victim simply had a smart phone. Things that use to be a major problem are solved without too many hassles with a few clicks and swipes.

The whole internet in your palm, navigation problems solved in seconds, ordering anything on a whim, and yes, settling bets on the spot. The phone is the thing that I'd hate to give up more than most things... and I almost never use the camera.

Being born in 1944, I will say "the most amazing thing I've ever seen" was the men on the moon!

“But sometime around 2010, our answers converged: the iPhone.” Did you mean iPhone as in smartphone or iPhone as in the Apple product of that name? I know you usually mean what you write, I was just wondering if in this case you didn’t.

[He and I have only had iPhones; that's the only reason I put it that way. --Mike]

The fact that mass storage, especially non-solid-state mass storage, for computers has evolved on the same growth curve as the rest of computer technology.

Oh, and I had the phones clearly on the path to replacing at least digital point and shoots in 2011. Though admittedly I didn't think they would get quite as good as they currently are.

I don't think thus can be blamed on the iphone,but cellphones have helped hasten society's deep dive into mediocrity. I find that the current phones are lacking. Remember the bell tv commercial where the landlines connection was so good "you could hear a pin drop?" Can't say that anymore. How about a phone that works well? How about looking at the net on something bigger than a postage stamp?

Oh well, all change isn't for the better.

The most amazing development in my lifetime?
I have to say bottled water!
When you consider something that came free into a held-out glass from a kitchen faucet,- is now packed in cardboard and wrapped in plastic, and poured from plastic bottles, only to contribute to land fills and artificial islands of plastic, it’s amazing and troubling all at once!

In answer to the Allan’s question, I’d (randomly) recommend googling “Alan Kay and Dynabook” and also “Ivan Sutherland snd sketchpad” to see what kinds of things were Jobs’s inspiration for the Mac. Not sure what the correct seeds and prototypes of “wireless personal electronic device for communication of text, image, video, voice” were. maybe all the thinkers at Xerox PARC. Someone else can maybe chime in.

I guess it’s always nice to also make a nod to Edwin Land, who had an analog/chemical solution for personal photography and sharing that didn’t quite take hold. Maybe he envisioned the human connections that casual photo-making could lead to, but electronics and computer communication turned out to be a better substrate, for better or for worse.

The most amazing development is/are vaccines but since we are limited to my/our lifetime I'll nominate just the polio vaccine. Many readers (Ok, some readers) may remember seeing children in iron lungs on black and white TV while growing up with friends who wore leg braces.

The results of the field trial were announced 12 April 1955 (the tenth anniversary of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose paralytic illness was generally believed to have been caused by polio). The Salk vaccine had been 60–70% effective against PV1 (poliovirus type 1), over 90% effective against PV2 and PV3, and 94% effective against the development of bulbar polio. Soon after Salk's vaccine was licensed in 1955, children's vaccination campaigns were launched. In the U.S, following a mass immunization campaign promoted by the March of Dimes, the annual number of polio cases fell from 35,000 in 1953 to 5,600 by 1957. By 1961 only 161 cases were recorded in the United States.

(References at the link)

From the Gates Foundation ...
In 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched, polio was present in more than 125 countries and paralyzed about 1,000 children per day. Thanks to immunization efforts that have reached nearly 3 billion children, the incidence of polio has decreased by 99 percent since then.

A: Elizabeth Warren

The presence of more than a half-million beggars on American Streets.* We are now what we were once told India was.

*Wiki: Homelessness in America.

The Threw Stooges< is all you need to know! They exreeplaine everything that has happened from Trump to M4/3.

Amazing Development:
Electric cars.

Culture and vehicle size:
I took a quick look back at the 16? vehicles I’ve owned in my life and after a very quick skim of the internet for specs I’ve listed my top five longest vehicles below. Note that a 2021 Tahoe is 210” long so it seems that some things never change. :-)

1974 Ford Torino (212”, surprised me)
1965 Ford Galaxie Convertible (210”, thought this was longest)
2001 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab (208”, classified as compact)
1969 Dodge Coronet (206”, 117” wheelbase)
1972 Dodge Charger (206”, 115” wheelbase)

The Transistor. It all has to start somewhere and the beginning of modern life begins with the transistor.

Simple enough.


Me, dunno. Probably is the iPhone actually. I live in science fiction now. More importunely, I guess, it has changed the way people behave.

I think about this in relation to my grandmother at times. She was born at the tail end of the 1800s. She grew up without electricity, piped water, vehicles, etc. She had birthed something like four children before her and my grandfather bought their first motor vehicle, and a whopping 10 children before they motorised their farm. In her life she saw (in the personal sense) the arrival of gas lamps, electricity, motorised vehicles, telephones, antibiotics, radios, movies, aeroplanes, vaccines, televisions and a guy on the moon. etc. Not to mention two world wars and a pandemic which left her with a lifelong fear of influenza. Must have been mind blowing.

Peace & all that,

Statin drugs.

I’m biased, I take Lipitor.

Vaccine technology is also amazing.

The internet.

I'd agree with others who have said that the most amazing development of my lifetime has been the invention and continued development of the integrated circuit. Everything we've done with them - personal computers, smartphones, the internet, etc - depends on them.

And they depend on electricity, of course, so for a longer-term view, I'd suggest the steam engine. Its various applications - marine steam engines, locomotives, steam turbines - remade the world and are still heavily in use. Most electricity is still generated with steam turbines, for example. (The steam is produced from a range of heat sources, of course.) And here's a fascinating thought - a nuclear submarine is actually steam ship....

Most amazing development of my lifetime? That's easy, it's the internet. The death of pocket calculators is a long way in the future though. As long as children still do maths exams I think they will continue to be common, even if they aren't popular.

Lots of things have been important and even life changing (antibiotics, vaccines, computers) but for “amazing” in the sense of unexpected and surprising, as opposed to it’s current common usage, I would have to pick the web connected cameras. I remember it was the one thing I had a problem with in Orwell’s 1984! It was just impossible that people could ever be spied on by Big Brother wherever they went and now China is well on the way to doing it and we are not far behind but using more diffuse methods.

Unravelling DNA, except that we don't yet fully appreciate its significance.

Most Amazing Development: Duct tape.

Mike: I am shocked that your brother, as a physician, didn’t cite more of the many medical treatment technologies developed during the past 50 years! Truly miraculous developments.

For me, I’d have to choose a trifecta of developments that have now merged for all practical considerations. Communications technologies, computing technologies, and display technologies. Together they are changing everything in the world…for better and worse.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons and the growth of the military industrial complex. My entire life an all societies either live with a constant threat or benefit from the research from defense research. One could make an argument that today’s electronics, optics, medical and political structures have certainly changed because of that WW II effort. Tye list and depth of that nuclear effort reaches into every aspect of this world’s daily life.

Ten years ago I was working in a photo lab (remember those?) and as the cameras in phones got better our work started drying up. After I made a very nice 16x20 enlargement from an iPhone 5 I told my boss that our industry was toast. We were out of business the next spring.

The internet - what a magical thing. It moves tiny slivers and huge amounts of data, from anywhere, almost instantaneously, to individual devices with precision and, usually, privacy. For 2/3rds of my life we could not do that. Almost all of the computing technology wonders we enjoy today depend on, are enabled by, a fast and reliable internet.

Mallory Mcmorrow for president. Her speech before the Michigan senate was amazing. I might be jumping the gun but only by a few days. The James Web Space Telescope.

I’m going to interpret “in your lifetime” to refer to the original invention of something, rather than its broad development throughout society.

Since the transistor pre-dates my birth by (all too few) years, I’ll jump forward to the Internet. I’m a Computer Scientist by training, and I remember my skepticism when I met the guys involved in creating its predecessor, Arpanet. But it has changed everything. The smartphone would be a nice pocket phone/calendar/calculator/phone book toy without the Internet. The extraordinary connectedness and access which the Internet affords us makes our daily life different in so many profound ways that we can no longer remember the pre-Internet world.

We started building a new house in January 2021, the height of the pandemic. It simply would have been unimaginable to do so with the Internet. Instead, we proceeded mostly on a normal schedule while adhering to a reasonable degree of separation from other human beings. Zoom, email, text, shared databases, access to building & zoning codes, permit applications, shopping, … . The list of ways we used the Internet during this project is endless. All of which would have been possible, if less convenient without smartphones.

Well, smartphones of course: Double-edged sword there offering a combination of all-purpose tool/toy, but with addictive qualities.


I watched a recent Apple keynote presentation where Watch's sleep-enhancing features were touted, but thought it more than a little ironic that they only work if you wear the device in bed.

Artificial Intelligence. It's only in its infancy

The “tool” that I enjoy the most is the iPad; I have an iPhone 13 Mini but don’t want to use it for anything other than the very few ‘phone calls that I make: I see it mainly as an emergency item. I deplore the idea that people can catch me at any old moment that they imagine I’m going to be delighted to be interrupted by them. Maybe the ability to see who’s calling you is a major step ahead.

The Internet is handy, but there is no doubt in my mind that the technological advances since the 80s have led to a massive dumbing down of the population, a weakening of the pleasure we now derive from most things, a sort of ennui, where nothing really surprises me (or probably anyone else) anymore, and excitement has mainly drifted away… when everything seems possible, nothing amazes anymore. I guess it’s that when you can access everything, you actually access less and less because there seems no particular point and you can always do it later, if you can be bothered, that is.

Maybe that’s why so many people eat out: spend too much time in your own kitchen and by the end of it, you hate the sight of that thing you just cooked for yourself. Photography, of course, peaked with Kodachrome 64 Pro. It has been on a slide down the populist drain ever since.

On the social front what has amazed me is the acceptance of gayness. I had a family member that was gay (deceased now), and even though he received the Bronze Star for heroic duty at age 20 in WWII (did not talk much about it), and lived a fairly successful life, he could not live fully as he was. I loved him dearly and wish he was here today to see the acceptance.

Technologically, as many have stated, it is the internet, communications, and computing power. Especially available storage and price as I grew-up in the graphics business, starting a few years before my MAC 512k showed up, and the prices along the way for storage and speed was incredibly expensive and today, very affordable.

On the domestic front, it amazed me after switching from a wired home alarm system to a wireless one and the ability to spy on my pets when I am out of town. It is always comforting to see them happy and resting while mom's away.

All technology developments of the post WWII period are remarkable and in one way or another changed the face of the world, but if freedom is the most cherished right, and to me it is... the most impactful development is the personal car.

[But that didn't happen in your lifetime, did it? --Mike]

Just a minor correction regarding Rich Beaubien’s Featured Comment: That first transistor Shockley, Bardeen, and Brattain built was not a FET, but a point-contact transistor. The first FETs were built a bit later, although they were, indeed, the first hypothesized transistors. As is often the case, Wikipedia has good explanations at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transistor and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_transistor.

Admittedly, very few will care about this small technicality.

Gotta go with the Internet.

The invention of the Internet is roughly analogous to the invention of the printing press with movable type by Gutenberg.

One of the reasons for our current social disruptions is that we are at Gutenberg + 50, or because our pace of change has increased, maybe +75.

Think about it: one hundred years ago we had roads, municipal water and sewer, mass communications in the form of radio and newspapers, the beginnings of commercial agriculture/green revolution (nitrogen fertilizers), urbanization, telephone communications, powered flight, we had the germ theory and vaccines, if not as many as we have today, the world map was more or less what it is today. The notion of modernity was alive and well. I am not saying that then was the same as now. But all the seeds of now were all already firmly planted.

But the Internet will change, has changed, everything, across all boarders. And the iPhone would really be nothing without the Internet connectivity underpins our society. Remember, a human alone can accomplish almost nothing. It is our genius as a species to be able to problem-solve together. And the Internet has juuuust started to show us what it can do in that regard.

For me, the realisation that global warming is is incontrovertibly real and that humanity doesn’t have the sense to deal with it meaningfully. The consequences of this failure will have greater long term ramifications than anything else I can think of.

Well, I'd say the IC chip. Because that covers so much! Basis of computers and the internet and GPS, and CAT scans and better weather prediction and CGI effects in movies and of course digital photography.

I don't think air travel is it. When I was 4 we took a ship from New York to England (I think; might have been France, we went to both that trip) and it only took a week and was very calm and scheduled. Air is faster, hours rather than days -- but the big difference was sailing ships that only sometimes got there and took a month or so, highly variable, to steamships that got there much more reliably and much faster. Similarly, the railroads improved so much on covered wagons that it was a difference of kind, not just degree, but changing a few days to a a few hours, while significant (see how many people take trains in the US now!), isn't world-changing.

Internet dating platforms. Never participated myself, but this has opened the world up for so many people who simply don't have the right personality to initiate dating the traditional way. Transformed lives everywhere, and not just teenagers but all walks of life, all social situations, all physical circumstances. Yes it has its own risks but IMO the transformative power has been vast.

the dumbing down of large populations of the 'west' by 'social' (anti social) media and how it has facilitated the spread of hate to all corners of the world. much against its original expectations.

to add to my previous post. I used to be proud of working for the plastics industry now not so much but am a little consoled that at least i did not work for Facebook.

"Most amazing development of a lifetime" is apt to change at the drop of a hat with the pace of technology being what it is.

For today, ignoring fundamental science as per Mike's rules (so ruling out the semiconductor transistor and DNA sequencing), I'd have to say the James Webb Telescope is probably the most amazing thing of my lifetime. It's due to start publishing images and science data in a couple of days on July 12th.

I suspect that even the wildest dreamers of the Apollo era would have struggled to foresee such a device being launched into space, let alone what it's going to study (imaging the origins of the universe, dark energy, exoplanets etc).

Amazing by any criteria, and, for a bonus point, heavily linked to cameras & imaging.

One development that has made a huge difference to my life is the anterolateral free flap.

In a lengthy operation, a large piece of muscle was removed from the front of my right thigh, and joined to my wrecked left foot. It means I can walk and use fairly normal, though Orthotic, shoes.

Although my range is slightly limited, I can still walk around and (for example) take photos.

My consultant had gone to Japan to learn how to do this complex procedure.

Upon further review ...

Having read all of the comments, obeying the constraint of "in my lifetime" and bringing in my personal experience, I nominate solid state electronics, semiconductors.

I was born in 1942. The first realization of a semiconductor occurred a few years later. I fooled around with vacuum tube electronics as a teen. I was schooled in real working electronics while in the USAF, in the early 60s. Everything was vacuum tube. Back into civilian life, I applied to IBM, where their current digital computer employed gates that were modules using a vacuum tube.

About then, the floodgates opened. Smaller and smaller transistors. Many semiconductors embedded in an IC, integrated circuit. Ever greater packing into a small footprint. CPU chips. Shrinkage of the form factor moved exponentially.

Without this foundation, were we still using vacuum tubes, neither the internet nor personal computers nor smartphones would have been possible.

Smart phone is the Swiss Army knife of today. It can do a lot of things but for just about anything, there is a better tool for serious work.

"who would you like to be President if you could appoint anybody you wanted?"

Harry S. Truman, the last president with balls and moral honesty. Ike also qualifies but he was too cautious to denounce McCarthy. What an astonishing decay in this nation: Harry or Ike and, a few decades later, Trump.

This one got me going around in circles about what is “amazement”. Surprising? Personal impact? Least predictable? I am inclined to nominate the internet, especially if I can include social media under that heading. IMO the internet really has been the engine for the era of the information revolution that we are now living in. It’s not that it happened - it was an obvious invention even before it was invented - but the speed of its spread, its ubiquity and its enormous impact in such a short time is what I find truly amazing. I started legal practice in an era where the only knowledge not to be found on paper was on microfiche - yet today, many of my colleagues run legal practices almost entirely without printed books - or indeed paper. I spent forever learning how to avoid chequing fraud on a trust account; yet today - in OZ - it is not possible to open or operate a cheque account with most banks. All money transaction are online, immediate, and even more susceptible to fraud. After allowing for the internet, the most amazing developments for me personally were the word processor- at the expense of the skilled typist / secretary as - in an information production business - it meant that one person could do the job of what otherwise took many. That was followed by the iPhone 3GS, at which point my whole of my business would be moved from a fixed location into the palm of my hand wherever I chose to be - it was imperfect and inconvenient to be sure (and I did use predecessors such as the palm) - but the 3GS was the first truly portable computing device meeting real world needs, and that it was a combined voice and text communication device was a major bonus. Lastly, the digital camera (however implemented) - whihc allowed me to practice photography again, and is why I’m here…

PCR (aka the Polymerase Chain Reaction). I had the luck to be in the right place at the right time with the right skills to be one of the scientists that invented and developed of this key technology at Cetus Corporation in the 80s. My colleague, Kary Mullis, had the concept of PCR, but could not get it to work; I was assigned that responsibiity by our R&D VP Tom White, and spent the next 18 months reducing the core invention to practice, as they say in the patent world. We soon developed other key technologies, including Taq polymerase (which was cloned my friends David Gelfand and Suzanne Stoffel, both outstanding scientists), a thermostable DNA polymerase that did not require adding the polymerase every PCR cycle, and PCR product detection technologies, including non-isotopic detection chemistries.

Once we had automated DNA Thermal Cyclers, we were off and running and much like the invention of the transistor in electronics, molecular biology and world have not been the same since.

The other co-inventors on the original PCR patents were Randy Saiki, Glenn Horn, Fred Faloona, and my manager, Henry Erlich.

I was also fortunate to be the first person ever to use PCR for molecular cloning and it was also breakthrough for that application, as we could drop the PCR amplicon of the genetic target directly into M13, rather than spending months cloning into phage libraries and having to do a sh*tload of screening to find the target.

It was a pretty amazing time to be a molecular biologist and I feel fortunate to have played a part. One of the most gratifying applications I developed with PCR was using it to amplify VNTRs to be able to do quantitative assessment of allogeneic bone marrow transplant (BMT) engraftment. This was a big help to bone marrow transplant recipients and surgeons, as we could quantitiavely monitor how the degree and success of the bone marrow transplantation procedure.

Heady times, indeed. ;-)

The development that most impacted my life was becoming a single parent of two toddlers. Both girls.


I was born a couple of decades after the first computers and a few years after the first integrated circuits and the beginnings of space exploration, so in my lifetime it would have to be the internet. If we're taking the internet off the table, the microcomputer and the mobile phone are right up there, along with maybe GPS, space habitats and reusable space vehicles.

P.S. I'm sidestepping the smartphone question by saying it's the inevitable merging of microcomputer and mobile phone (OK, and camera ;)).

P.P.S. I also forgot about PCR, and cloning, and CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing (thanks, Stephen Sharp, for reminding me of an entire field of research). CRISPR is revolutionary, but I think so recent that it's still under the layperson's radar.

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