Inquiry question: Based off of technology's past, present and theorized future advances, how could it change the world around us in the future?
Hello Everyone! For this round, we will be looking into the history of some different technologies such as computers and a few others and how these inventions have brought us forward. One of the major ones that we will be looking into will be computers as we have only had advanced computers come around in the past ~100 years. Little known fact though, the oldest computer, called the “Antikythera Mechanism” is actually around 2000 years old, and made by the Greeks at some point between 70 to 200 BCE (1). Other curious inventions I'll be looking into include GPS, Internet and satellites to name a few. Sadly there are way too many things that can be considered technology and so sadly I've decided to limit my self to electronics or things that require circuits to run, so as to keep everything kind of related.
Pictured below is the Antikythera Mechanism
To give a brief timeline of events in terms of the creation and evolution of computers, it all first started off with a loom that used punch cards, these punch cards would also be used in the creation of future computers. About 21 years later an English mathematician attempts to create a machine that can calculate different tables of numbers, sadly though the project was a failure. 68 years later though Herman Hollerith manages to create a punch card system that is able to compute tables of numbers and with his invention, he saves the US government 5million dollars (2). And that is the first computer that can be recognized as being advanced, though to be honest a calculator probably has more power than it. About 46 years later Alan Turing comes up with the idea of a machine that can instead compute anything and everything that is computable and that is the basis upon which modern computers rest; the idea for a machine to be able to most everything imaginable (2). Alan Turing was also the same person who came up with the idea of the Turing test, which is for deciding when AI can exhibit intelligence equivalent to indistinguishable from that of a human, a test to decide when AI has gotten to the level at which we can call them us. Continuing on from our detour, our next stop is 1941 when a computer is created that can solve 29 equations at the same time, the reason why we stop here is that this marks the first time that a computer has stored information on its memory. Only 5 years later the first commercial computer available to businesses and governments is built, but it’s another 18 years till the first computer with a GUI comes out and computers start being sold to people for home use. It takes another 7 years though before the first floppy disk comes out, allowing data to be shared between computers, 2 years after though Ethernet is created allowing multiple computers to be connected together. it’s not till 1983 though that a GUI for personal computers comes along, sadly though it’s a flop at first. 7 years later though HTML is created and we now have the world wide web, allowing computers to connect to others even if they are very far away. 127 years from the creation of the first advanced computer we get the iPhone and many of the functions that were reserved to computers are now brought to phones. (2) By and far the most powerful computers though are quantum computers as they aren't limited to the ones and zeros of a binary computer. It isn't until 2016 though that they become reprogrammable allowing us to change their algorithm after they have been built.(2) The ability to reprogram things is very handy due to the fact that in the case of a lot of codes or algorithms they can be improved or have an error in them where the code could break. It’s even possible that they become outdated and no longer useful, an example of this could be taken from the change/updates of programming languages where new features are added and certain wordings are changed. I know personally that without the ability to reprogram things it would not go well, I remember I was once trying to teach my little brother the times table and I wanted to do with him what my mom did with me and that was she would rate a load of them down 2 pages and id have to answer all of them and then she’d mark them, except I'm much lazier than my mom so I decided to write a program to do it for me; it only took about 5 minutes for me to actually create it I had to run it, find an error and reprogram it maybe 7 times, now imagine you had a piece of equipment that cost more than 100,000 dollars and if the code doesn't work, or doesn't do what you want you to have to scrap it and start over. We use a computer in practically every aspect of our lives at this point, we use it in business, at school, at home and the government. A very important aspect to them is their ability to create databases and keep records allowing hospitals to keep detailed records of their patients that are easily transferable, and accessible (by the doctors). (3) If something is computable or requires the taking of large quantities of input, computers do that, and for that reason and the fact that they can do the same thing a million times and their answer would never change makes them great for being the brains of space ships or for finding the trajectories of different things. Their ability with numbers and input is what makes them so useful to us. Can you imagine your life without computers, cause I know I couldn't. They have allowed us to accomplish so many things, one of which being the very first moon landing. They allow us to have smart cars. They allow us to have calculators and well just about everything has at one point been affected by a computer and it’s system. Drafting software allowing us to better map items and buildings. Computer controlled machinery has allowed us to increase the precision of drilling, building and analyzing data. Without computers, we never would have gotten Oppy, and gotten information about the makeup of Mars. Computers have allowed us to have advanced so much it’s actually amazing.
The reason I have decided to include GPS is that it allows us to map the earth more precisely and keep better track of things around the earth and around it. GPS stands for global positioning system, and was created by the US government for military purposes. It was first released back in 1985 but only accessible to the military, it only became available for public use till 5 years later. GPS has in many cases saved lives due to its ability to pinpoint the location of people and other equipment such as black boxes in planes. In fact with the newest L5 band of GPS, any device with it installed has an accuracy down to 30cm, a major improvement from 2000 when it was accurate to 5 feet. It has also thrown us forward in that it can be used for mapping and can be used for a multitude of programs, one such is for giving directions which I for one know I use a lot. Another fantastic part of it is that it allows us to automate things to a certain region, with full accuracy, instead of having many devices made to communicate dictating barriers we can instead have a range of coordinates in a GPS and have the program compare the two. In the case of flights, GPS is probably one of the most important innovations as it brings along much-improved accuracy, for example in the case of a plane it may use GPS coordinates to make sure that it’s going at the correct angle and track its position in real time. Other uses include commercial air flight, for the case of drone operators GPS allows us to keep track of drones without all the fancy equipment, as well as height and distance from the original start point, direction of movement and more. GPS comes from the triangulation of the device through the one way signals it gets from 24 different satellites over the earth (a device usually receives a signal from 8-15 of the satellites at any given moment, but the more the more accurate it is). While GPS is free to use, the US government retains the right to cut off anyone it wants from using it and has done so in the past. Which has caused other countries to create their own version, but none have been as successful (their main issue has been getting coverage over the entire world). (4)
Packet switching is the main way data is transferred from one source over to another when talking about devices that can be connected to multiple sources (think internet or tethering). The reason why I'm doing this rather than the internet is because the internet is more so a connection of computers that all connect over, well the internet so things not connected to the internet would be excluded, while packet switching is the process by which the data is transferred over the internet or a closed environment. The way it works is that bytes of data are packed and formatted into packets that are then sent through “hops” from one device to the next till it reaches it’s intended destination. (5) You can actually test this on your computer, the number of hops it takes to reach a certain destination, an example of this would be the google website (google.com), which takes about 6 hops to reach from your home computer. One of which would be your router the rest are your internet providers and the sites that you are trying to reach. The one problem with the system is that the more hops a packet must go through the higher the delay becomes between the sender and receiver, as well as the security issue. If packets are not encrypted they can easily be picked up by third party’s and you’ll never even notice, if it was encrypted they could still grab the packets but they wouldn't be able to peace back together what is being sent. (5) More often then not packets are not encrypted, such is the case with the old internet security WEP, which had a major flaw where if you installed some 3rd party software like hydra and allowed it to run for 8ish hours with it being within range of the wi-fi it could grab enough packets to recreate its transmissions and get the WI-Fi password, I've actually tested this one at home a long while back, it was cool but very boring at the same time as I just had to leave it there for 8 hours running in the background. Though it is also what has allowed us to connect all of our devices together so seamlessly.
Pictures, from top to bottom:
Thank you for reading!!!!
Next round we will be looking into how technology seems to be evolving, and what we can look forward to in the future in terms of innovations. See you then!