This weekend is a long weekend for the UK, as it celebrates the 70th Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
We thought it would be fun to take a quick look at a timeline of how technology has changed over that 70 years – it’s quite a startling change!
The end of the 1940s – 1952
In 1947 the transistor was publicly demonstrated for the first time. So much smaller than its predecessor, the vacuum tube (seen in the image below), it was the cornerstone of small electronic devices for years to come. Not yet though. Early computers were being built, to run tables and calculate powers of numbers – and they were the size of large rooms.
1953 – 1954
Some early programming languages were developed. In 1953, Grace Hopper developed a computer language which eventually becomes known as COBOL (COmmon, Business-Oriented Language). It’s still in use on some mainframes today!
In 1954, a team of programmers at IBM published a paper describing a new language, FORTRAN. (FORmula TRANslation).
Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October. It actively orbited for three weeks before its batteries ran out, then continued to orbit for two months before falling back through the atmosphere on 4th January 1958. The Space Race had begun!
The first look at a newly invented integrated circuit – known as the computer chip. Transistor technology had made this possible, but don’t be fooled – it would still be many years before a circuit as sophisticated as is shown in the picture would be possible! Take a look at the National Museum of American History’s site to see what the first one looked like.
1974 – 1983
In 1974, the Internet started taking its first baby steps. TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) was developed, which defines a flexible way for data to be passed through a web-like network. It’s still used today. 1974 also saw the first purchase of a grocery item coded with a barcode.
In 1976, the Queen beat most of the world in sending her first email.
The first personal computers were starting to be developed, but would remain inaccessible to many for a few more years yet. Early contenders were the Altair, the Apple I, II and Lisa, the Commodore PET and the IBM Acorn. The Altair helped Bill Gates on his computing journey and the formation of Microsoft, and the IBM Acorn would become familiar to him with its MS-DOS operating system. From a world of greenscreen, the Apple II even had color graphics, and the Apple LISA had a GUI! Spreadsheets and word processors were born with VisiCalc and Wordstar respectively.
The computing world was still more about the large mainframes. When our CTO, Annie was a child, her mum used a dedicated telephone line and terminal in her home to talk to one of these early computers, EDSAC 2. A remote style of working we’re entirely used to now, it was unusual enough to warrant an article in the Sunday Times in those days. The machines used paper tape and punch cards as their program input, and Annie remembers running around on a windy day when her mum’s punch cards for her program got blown across the car park – they needed some careful reordering once retrieved for the program to work. When Annie went to visit the mainframe with her mum, the machine was terrifying to a small child!
Finally, The world’s first cellular telephone service started in Japan in 1979 as a carphone only service and CDs were used to store music on.
1984-1985: A tale of two rivals
In 1984, the Apple Macintosh is launched; Microsoft’s first version of Windows is released in November 1985.
Tim Berners-Lee submits an academic proposal for what would eventually be the World Wide Web and HTML.
The 1990s saw the innovations of the 80s moving on at a rapid pace. Intel produced the Pentium processor, and graphics, music and videos started to be possible to play on a PC. The Google search engine was developed, and in 1999 Wi_Fi was created – hard to imagine life without this existing today. The first version of Linux was created.
By now, the Internet was accessible from home if you had a home PC. In the 1990s though, you had to be off the home phone to use it – and plug in your dial-up cable. Remember these noises of it connecting? Broadband would only appear in the 2000s – no unplugging required, and no squealing!
2016 – today
It’s pretty difficult to summarise all of the technology innovations happening today, and a bank holiday weekend is not the time to try it!
Quantum computing is being developed, with fast, powerful computing power. The cloud is ever-present in IT strategy discussions. Machine learning and artificial intelligence allows computers to learn from data and spot patterns. In 2017, the artificial intelligence program AlphaGo practised playing the strategy board game Go, learning and improving until it was better at the game than a human.
The technical innovations of the world are considering how to combat climate change. The human genome has been sequenced in full, and advances in biomedical technology allow vaccines to be created to control the COVID pandemic. During lockdown, the whole world is forced to consider working from home if they are able to, and they are more able to than they would have been only a few years before.
Looking back through the timeline here, it’s a reminder of how far, and how fast, technology is changing. Enjoy the Platinum Jubilee celebrations if you’re taking part – and take a moment to ponder on where technology will be in the next 70 years.