Would you go back to pre-computers?

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Our Connected Planet

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Would you go back to the time to when we did not have computers? I was asked this a few weeks ago and it piqued my interest. I think it’s a great question that deserves some thought. As time goes on, there are fewer of us who remember those days. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s when computers were a rare and expensive commodity. Computers were found in the corporate domain and not in every house as it is today. In fact the closest you would get to a computer at home back then was probably an Atari games console. Now they are everywhere and are involved in all aspects of our lives. I think we are in a golden age of discovery, and computer technology is helping us all to move forward faster.

Can you imagine living today without the internet? Without a computer? Computer games were once only found in arcades. Now they are in most households. Can you imagine not being able to access information via your phone? How about no access to web sites like YouTube for information and entertainment? Would life be better or worse? Are we really living a better life because of the computer? So, if you have a few minutes, please read on while I cast an eye and compare modern living with how we lived before IT and the internet came into our lives.

I remember when…

I left Ireland in the eighties to find my way in the big smoke of London City. In those days, computer technology and the internet were not freely available to all as it is today. Nor was the technology as powerful. We all know the Sinclair, the Atari and the Commodore computers of yesteryear. But they were nowhere near as comprehensive as what we have today, nor as accessible. And we have all seen the IBM with the green MSDOS type on the old 70’s films. I was a big Star Trek fan back then and I was fascinated by their communicators and how they were able to talk to each other with no wires attached. Was this where the idea came from for our mobile phones?

The technology we have today was a fantasy we saw on TV or read about in books. George Orwell predicted the “Big Brother” scenario many years before our current network of street cameras. He also wrote about a world governed by propaganda, government surveillance and manipulation of the masses. Isaac Asimov mentioned robots, machines replacing human workers, mobile phone technology and satellites in his writings.

“Vehicles with ‘Robot-brains’ … can be set for particular destinations … that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver.”

All fantasy then, but a reality in today’s world.

Everyone’s gone to the moon.

I heard a statistic that compares the Apollo 11 space mission technology with modern day mobile phone technology. Apparently, we now have more processing power in our mobiles than in the spaceship that completed that historic first moon landing. And that was an amazing feat of engineering when you consider this. I heard one of the engineers talking about it and they said that getting back to earth was akin to trying to throw a pebble from one end of a football pitch to the other and trying to get it through one particular hole in the net. Now I know also that there are a lot of conspiracy theories about whether they went there or not. I for one would like to believe they did. But that could be a debate for another day.

Today we are not only talking about moon colonies as Asimov also wrote about, but we are now sending robots to Mars. We used to muse about little green Martians coming to take over our world. We now know that this is not possible. The mars rovers that we have sent there have increased our knowledge of this planet immensely. And of course, there are plans afoot to send a manned mission there in the foreseeable future. All this was science fiction in the 70s. But with the constant development of computer technology, we can now learn and develop so much quicker.

The Last 50 years

Michio Kaku portrait

Michio Kaku

Professor of theoretical physics, futurist and string theory specialist Michio Kaku made an incredible statement in one of his many documentaries on TV – Visions of the Future. He said:

“we have learned more in the last 50 years than we learned in the whole of the previous time that humanity has existed. And this is mostly due to the development of computer technology”.

That for me is an amazing statement. And the best thing about it is that people love to put that new information out there for us all to read, learn and comment on.  Apart from anything else that we can do with computers, the power that information puts in our own hands is immense. Finance, legal problems, buying and selling, keeping in touch with people and finding old friends is all there. General knowledge, science, music, film, learning a new language or musical instrument, thesaurus and dictionaries all available with a click. Finding a new job, learning a new skill and university courses are all there and readily available.

I do not believe the statement “I don’t know” can be given any credence anymore. No matter what you want to do, or what you want to know, there is now enough information available online to be able to get to grips with most if not any subject. In fact, there is so much information that it is difficult sometimes to siphon what is true and what is false. Which begs another question. Where does it go from here? And what will computers give us in the next 50 years?

So, would you go back in time?

There are people today that would say that we are worse off. Most of these people are probably going to be in the older age bracket. If you asked a younger person, would we be better off without computers and the internet then I think they would look at you like you have two heads. Life without the internet for our younger generation is alien. There are many alive today who have not experienced life without computers and the internet. And I believe that section of our society would not even be able to comprehend what life would be like if we were computer-less.

There are negatives as there is with everything. Online abuse, data farming, disingenuous and unscrupulous people committing fraud. Inappropriate websites, social network and gambling addiction are the negative side of this. Political interference, cyberattacks, military applications and misinformation are all rife. But would these scenarios exist even without the internet and computing? I think they would to some degree. As in all walks of life, good intentions can always be turned to bad where there is a will to. Even with all the bad sides of computing and the internet, it is my opinion that we are still better off.

What would I do without a computer?

Here We Sit Album Artwork opt3I have to say I think I would be lost. I go online several times a day to research something or find out some information. It is or can be an education in itself. Who sang that song, who played that character in that film, who made a particular comment? All the questions that occur day after day and all answers available online if you know where to look. And the more you use it, the easier it is to find the information you are looking for. And it also makes day to day living easier. Banking, shopping, music, film, communication and research is all there and readily available. Leaving us free to do the things that make life a pleasure to live.

The internet has also given me the freedom to release my music to the public. In the 70’s, to do that, one needed a record deal with a record label. Now, I can do exactly that and reach people though my website. It has given me the freedom to reach people, gain new friends and rekindle old relationships. And I am not the only one doing this. In 2019, artists selling direct to fans was a huge growth area for the music industry. This increased in 2020 by a huge 34% and broke through the billion dollar mark. Considering this is still only 5% of the whole music industry, I believe this is only the start. There is a long way and a lot of changes to go over the next few years. 

So in answer to the question “Would you go back to to the time to when we did not have computers?” – I would have to be honest and say no I would not.

The next 50 years?

Server room - would you go back

Photo by imgix on Unsplash

So where will we go from here. We have gone from floppy discs with storage capacity of 1.4mbs to online storage in the multiple terabytes. In the 60’s we needed a building to house a computer with any processing power worth talking about. Now we have buildings dedicated to storing information generated by billions of computers around the world. The original home computers with 256mb ram processors are now useless. Today we need gigabytes of ram to be able to keep up with our demands.

In fact, I have seen articles about a new quantum computer which apparently will dwarf the processing power of what we know today. Just imagine how that will assist our learning of the world and worlds beyond. Just imagine how that will affect our lives and the way we interact with technology going forward. Whether you are a fan or not, we cannot get away from computer technology. No matter what you think, society today is controlled by computer technology. We can only hope it is used for the betterment of humanity rather than the negative.

So, would you go back in time to no computers? Would you go back to a time without internet connectivity?

I hope you enjoyed my article. If you did then please subscribe to my site and get access to new articles as and when they are posted live. You can also download my free album “Reflections” by clicking here, or via the sign-up form above. You can also buy my first independent studio release Here We Sit from my store.

Thank you for reading all the way though and I hope to hear from you in the future. Stay well and stay safe.

Noel.

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