I’m sure many of you will remember the days of 8-track cassette players, VHS recorders, black and white televisions, server rooms as big as mansions, laser discs as large as dinner plates, floppy discs, green screens, single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras and so on…
I remember growing up in 1960’s Paddington, my dad trained as an Electrical Engineer and was employed by the London Underground as a Senior Engineer. He was one of the first, both amongst his friends and on our street, to purchase a black and white television and a radiogram, both manufactured by Rediffusion. I’m pretty sure that the generation after ours – and even some that grew up in the 60’s/70’s – do not know what a radiogram is, let alone know what it looks likes.
I remember the Rediffusion televisions clearly: brown, wooden boxes on four legs, several knobs and in-built extendable aerials. To get a fairly good picture and sound from the television, you had to strategically adjust the two prong extendable aerial on the top on the box. In the evenings and at weekends, our Paddington apartment was full with my parents’ friends and their children, who would come over to catch the latest news, gossip and TV shows. If we kids were lucky, we got to sneak in and watch a few episodes of Doctor Who, Lancelot Link the Secret Chimp, Batman and Robin, or even Top of the Pops!
Transmission in those days was pretty much residual to both television and radio, with no handy remote controls! One had to physically walk up to the appliances to select the channel from one of three options (BBC1, BBC2 or ITV, tune the frequency, turn the volume up or down, and adjust the aerial. In the years that ensued, indoor and external aerials were manufactured and I could tell many a tale about this, but will reserve this for another blog.
Computers in those days were large caskets with servers as big as houses and several cooling devices. Computer storage capacities we have today – such as megabyte, gigabyte and terabyte – was pure science fiction. In fact, the first hard drive to have gigabyte storage capacity was as large as a refrigerator and this was as recent as the 80’s!
Memory Lane – Storage devices from early computer era
This great website shows the history of computer data storage in pictures. It covers:
- The Selectron tube had a capacity of 256 to 4096 bits (32 to 512 bytes). The 4096-bit Selectron was 10 inches long and 3 inches wide. Originally developed in 1946, the memory storage device proved expensive and suffered from production problems, so it never became a success.
- Punch Cards – Early computers often used punch cards for input both of programs and data. Punch cards were in common use until the mid-1970s. It should be noted that the use of punch cards predates computers. They were used as early as 1725 in the textile industry (for controlling mechanized textile looms).
- Punched Tape – Same as with punch cards, punched tape was originally pioneered by the textile industry for use with mechanized looms. For computers, punch tape could be used for data input but also as a medium to output data. Each row on the tape represented one character.
- Magnetic Drum Memory – Invented way back in 1932 in Austria, it was widely used in the 1950’s and the 60’s as the main working memory of computers. In the mid – 1950’s magnetic drum memory had a capacity of around 10kB.
- Hard Disk Drive – The first hard-disk drive was the IBM Model 350 Disk File that came with the IBM 305 RAMAC computer in 1956. It had 50 24-inch discs with a total storage capacity of 5 million characters (just under 5 MB).The first hard drive to have more than 1 GB in capacity was the IBM 3380 in 1980 (it could store 2.52 GB). It was the size of a refrigerator, weighed 550 pounds (250 kg), and the price when it was introduced ranged from $81,000 to $142,400.
- The Laser Disk – This was a pre-cursor to the CD-ROM and other optical storage solutions. They were 30cm in diameter and were used mainly for movies and had entirely analogue content.
- Floppy disk
- Magnetic tape
As the years passed and technology evolved, computers and gadgets got smaller and could handle larger amounts of data. Now there are storage devices the size of cigarette boxes that are capable of holding terabytes of data. Gone are the server rooms as big as castles; gone are the days of having to walk up to your radio or television to switch them on, change the channel, control the volume or tune the sound.
Our computers are now relatively small and capable of holding vast amounts of data; in fact you can now watch your favourite TV shows and movies on your mobile devices at very high resolution. Can you imagine carrying a 21” television along the high street to watch a program that you missed? Also gone are the days when individuals carried boom boxes or ghetto blasters on their shoulders to listen to their favourite songs.
Today, televisions come with ‘flat’ or ‘curved’ screens with Ultra High Definition, capable of displaying 4K resolution without pixilation. There is no such thing as vertical / horizontal hold to adjust, no analogue aerials to adjust and receive high quality transmission of sound and picture, no mono-sound. We have hundreds of channels to choose from, and a variety of providers to subscribe to like Sky, Virgin and BT.
Credit cards mean we no longer have to carry hundreds of thousands of pounds in a suitcase, and there’s certainly no requirement to wait 4 days for the clearing office to honour your cheque when you can easily do an electronic transfer online via your bank to another account.
In this wonderful world of technology – whatever is next? What is going to be the next gadget or technology to blow our minds away? VR, AR and the Internet of Things (IoT) are certainly leading the way at the moment, but with such fast paced evolution, who knows what the world of technology will look even 5 years from now!
To understand the current trends in the digital marketplace, why not read the Sogeti Studio OmniChannel Market Trends report – you can find it here.