More technology advances

When I reflect on technologies which have been at the center of my professional career as an electrical engineer, I recall the HP 7908 disk drive I helped design back in the early 1980’s.  16MB of storage, at a retail price of several thousand dollars.  The drive itself was the size of a shoebox, which was small for its time.

Disk drives got larger in capacity, smaller in size, more reliable, and less expensive year after year.  Today you can buy a 3.5″ 10TB drive for $350.  That’s nearly a million times more capacity, at maybe 5% of the price, and 10% the size.  And now you can buy solid state drives which are much more reliable and 10x faster.  It all boggles the mind.

When I was at college in the mid 1970’s our engineering building had a DEC-10 computer that filled most of a large lab.  To run programs on it we had to create punch cards to feed it, and come back later for a printout of the program results (which often just said there was a programming error, so we had to try again).  Later, we could get on terminals for real time access, which was quite a treat.  In many ways, I think my iPhone in my pocket has as much computing power as that DEC-10 did.

I remember not too long ago carrying a cell phone, a Palm Pilot PDA, a GPS device, and a camera.  And thinking how miraculous it would be to combine all these in one device.  Hello smartphone!

In our married student housing apartment at BYU our phone was a shared party line (to save money).  So sometimes we’d pick up the phone to make a call, and our other party line might be using it.  Plus, phones back in those days had rotary dials.  So you’d put your finger on the dial at the digit you wanted, and rotate the dial, and it clicked back to the starting position.  0 was the longest path, then 9, 8, 7, etc.  When we lived in Meridian, ID, our phone number was 888-7381.  So many 8’s, and took so long to dial.  When touch tone phones came out it was so nice.


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