In 1965, Gordon Moore predicted the number of transistors the industry would be able to place on a computer microchip would double every year. He was pretty much right on with his prediction for some time. Nowadays, we know there is a theoretical maximum, but humans are clever and have found ways around even that limit. The doubling has slowed to about every 18 months, but we’re still going strong.
Using these leaps, real world inventors have followed in the footsteps of science fiction writers. Over the past 30 years, consumerism in one form or another has really driven technology development. Here are a few examples:
The Motorola DynaTAC was the first commercially available handheld cell phone. A full charge took about 10 hours and it sported a beefy 30 minutes of talk time. It had a fancy LED display for dialing and recall, and could store 30 phone numbers in it’s “phonebook”.
It retailed at $3,995 then (a modern day cost of about $10,000). Motorola continued to sell these right through to 1994.It became associated with 1980’s pop culture and has been used extensively in film and media set in that period.
Smartphones are the “de rigueur” for cell phones now. Flip phones were popular through the start of the millennium, but Apple introduced the first massively adopted smartphone in 2007. It quickly replaced a large number of previously common devices: walkmans, still and video cameras, memo recorders, and pagers. Exactly how good is this phone? Paul Ledak poses this:
# of transistors – iPhone has 130,000 times more than Apollo
clock frequency – iPhone is 32,600 times faster than Apollo
instructions per second – iPhone is 80,800,000 times faster than Apollo
overall performance – iPhone is 120,000,000 times faster than Apollo
or 1 iPhone 6 could theoretically guide 120 million Apollo rockets at the same time
Almost everybody has used, or at least seen a laptop computer. While the Powerbook 100 isn’t the first laptop, it was on one the most popular of the early models. The Powerbook 100 boasted a Motorola 16 MHz processor, two to eight megabytes of memory, a 20 Mb hard drive, and a 9-inch monochrome monitor. It was released in 1991.
It was considered one of the 10 best PC’s of all time by PC World in 2006, almost 15 years later. And as we are seeing, 15 years in technology time is an eternity.
So that we are comparing apples to apples (HA!), here is the newest offering by Apple. The MacBook (2016). The MacBook has a 2.4GHz processor, two Gigabytes of memory, 250 Gb hard drive, and a 13.3-inch display capable of high definition video. It is one of the most popular laptops in the world, and is commonly seen in TV and Film.
Comparisons are difficult as there are many other peripherals that the MacBook has over the Powerbook. Webcam, 5.1 audio, WiFi, Ethernet, and Bluetooth to name a few.
In 1984, Nintendo released “Duck Hunt”. It was a single player game that had a pistol controller to allow you to shoot ducks as they flew up. It was designed for the Nintendo Entertainment System. While not the first home console to hit the markets, it was one of the most popular and is recognizable to all and helped revitalize the video game industry. Over 60 million units were sold world-wide.
The system it was played on was an 8-bit console that had 2 kilobytes of ram. Games came hard coded into cartridges that were inserted into the deck. It could show up to 25 simultaneous colors.
In 2016, Ubisoft released Tom Clancy’s The Division. The Division is classed as a online only open world third person shooter game. It has photo realistic graphics, 7.1 surround sound, and an extensive in-depth plot that develops as the player progresses through the game.
It is available to play on all three major platforms: PC, Xbox, and PlayStation.
EDIT: I found a gallery of video game graphics evolution over the past three decades. Check it out!
As we progress into the future, Cell phones, laptops, and video games will continue to push the envelope. A newcomer to the technology race is Virtual and Augmented reality headsets. The technology is relatively young, but has a strong backing by consumers to move forward.