You might appreciate modern technology for how it has simplified your life, but most people don’t consider the fact that plenty of trial, error, and weirdness circles around the tech world. For example, in order for the iPhone to become what it is today, it had to go through some trial and error — and have a little bit of an odd backstory.
Technology is the collection of techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation. Technology can be the knowledge of techniques, processes, and the like, or it can be embedded in machines to allow for operation without detailed knowledge of their workings.
The simplest form of technology is the development and use of basic tools. The prehistoric discovery of how to control fire and the later Neolithic Revolution increased the available sources of food, and the invention of the wheel helped humans to travel in and control their environment.
Developments in historic times, including the printing press, the telephone, and the Internet, have lessened physical barriers to communication and allowed humans to interact freely on a global scale.
Technology has many effects. It has helped develop more advanced economies (including today’s global economy) and has allowed the rise of a leisure class. Many technological processes produce unwanted by-products known as pollution and deplete natural resources to the detriment of Earth’s environment.
Innovations have always influenced the values of a society and raised new questions of the ethics of technology. Examples include the rise of the notion of efficiency in terms of human productivity, and the challenges of bioethics.
Here are some interesting facts about technology:
1. Wikipedia needs an army of anti-vandal bots. Wikipedia’s mission is to make knowledge freely available to anyone with access to the Internet. However, anyone with internet can also sign up and edit pages – which results in what they call vandalism (someone purposefully altering facts with malice).
There is a very robust moderation system but there’s only so much that a person can do, in terms of actively monitoring changes and correcting changes that vandals make.
That’s where the bots — essentially computer programs — come in. The bots (like ClueBot-NG) keep a track of all changes made to any page and instantly revert back to the ‘correct’ version if a vandal decides to change things. About 1,941 bots are authorised for use on the 38,818,162 Wikipedia pages at last count.
2. Thomas P. Hughes stated that because technology has been considered as a key way to solve problems, we need to be aware of its complex and varied characters to use it more efficiently.
What is the difference between a wheel or a compass and cooking machines such as an oven or a gas stove? Can we consider all of them, only a part of them, or none of them as technologies?
3. The use of basic technology is also a feature of other animal species apart from humans. These include primates such as chimpanzees, some dolphin communities, and crows. Considering a more generic perspective of technology as ethology of active environmental conditioning and control, we can also refer to animal examples such as beavers and their dams, or bees and their honeycombs.
4. Technology is properly defined as any application of science to accomplish a function. The science can be leading edge or well established and the function can have high visibility or be significantly more mundane, but it is all technology, and its exploitation is the foundation of all competitive advantage.
5. Email existed before the World Wide Web. You probably don’t even think before composing a one-line email message and sending it. But it wasn’t always so easy. There’s an interesting clip on YouTube: “How to send an Email – Database – 1984”. This was from a tech TV show called Database and the presenters demonstrated what it took to actually send an email back in those days.
You had to use a computer and a rotary telephone to connect to a service called Micronet. This was pre-WWW, so there were no URLs, just numbered webpages. For emails, the webpage number was 7776.
6. In 1956, 5 megabytes (5MB) of data weighed a ton. It was 1956 when IBM launched RAMAC, the first computer with something like a hard drive that we use today.
By hard drive, we mean something that used magnetic disks – a moving head was used to access and write that data. At the time, it was considered a massive leap in mass storage technology because it signified a shift: from punch cards and magnetic tape (which stored data sequentially) to randomly accessible hard drives.
RAMAC itself stood for Random Access Method of Accounting & Control. The whole cabinet weighed over 1000kg and the 5MP data was spread over 50 huge aluminium disks, coated with magnetic iron oxide. The disks rotated at a speed of 1200rpm and the machines were leased for $3,200 per month back in the day.