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    Flashbacks

    Sometimes taking a look at the past helps to put things in perspective.

    By Ned Bardic

    Sometimes taking a look at the past helps to put things in perspective.

    This past weekend I watched War Games, the 1983 Sci-Fi thriller in which a high-school student, David, (played by a pre-Ferris Buhler Matthew Broderick) finds a back door into a NORAD computer. Thinking it's a gaming site, he starts playing a game titled, "Global Thermonuclear War" and almost accidentally starts World War III.

    The last time I watched this movie was in the theaters just about 27 years ago, and it was amazing seeing what was high-tech back then, and in comparison just how far along we are now.

    First, David used a computer that took 5 1/4-inch floppy disks, used the "green screen" operating from a command line prompt (there were no Windows interfaces back then on home computers). For his modem, he took the receiver of his home phone and placed it into a carriage that served as a modem.

    One item he was particularly proud of was his speaker that he rigged to "speak" the text that showed up on his screen.

    When he stumbled onto the NORAD computer, he brought a printout to his friend's high-tech computer lab, which was filled with giant mainframes that recorded information on endless rolls of magnetic tape.

    Then, when his geek friend suggested that, in order to find the back door password to the system, David research everything he could on the system's creator, which he did via several trips to the public library and its card catalogs.

    Jump ahead a quarter of a century. Now our phones are no longer modems, they practically are the computer systems. (Indeed, an iPhone packs more computing power in the palm of your hand than was used to put a man on the moon). And you can fit 20,000 floppy-disks worth of information on a USB flash drive that fits into your pocket.And our phones are not just reading texts to us, but they are letting us talk to them. In fact, rather than running to the library to find out information on a topic, we can just ask Siri. Indeed, one of the functions we use the least on our phones, is the function to make actual phone calls.

    To go back a little further in history, I have my uncle's old reporter's typewriter in my office -- one of those shiny black typewriters with the flat round keys, which locks into a small travel case. I call it the first laptop, because it was what reporters would take on the road with them to report from the field.

    At one time, that was high-tech.

    Nowadays we get frustrated when an Internet seearch doesn't come up on our screen in a half-second, or when our email storage gets full, or because our cable can't record more than two channels at once (I don't have a hopper). These small things cause us so much stress.

    When this happens, think back to how it was just a decade or two ago, and you should feel much better.

    And if you really want to feel good -- just think of all of the wonderful things we can expect over the next quarter-century!

     

     

    By Ned Bardic
    • About Ned Bardic

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