Antiques and Computers - Part II
International Business Machines introduced their first portable computer on September 9, 1975. It was slightly larger than their electric typewriter weighing about 50 lbs. The IBM 5100 offered 64K of main storage memory, programming in ALP and Basic, a 1024 character screen, and a tape cartridge for storing programs and data. Twenty-two years later, this revolutionary machine is more antique than tool. Children would look at such a device and say, "Mom and Dad, did you guys really use stuff like this?" Most of us would have to answer no. The cost could exceed $10,000 and such computers required extensive knowledge and training to operate. I know what you're thinking. Don't pull your slide rule out of that bottom desk drawer. Such a device might throw anyone under the age of 16 into culture shock.
Have you ever heard of one of the most important predictions of our time, Moore's Law? Neither had I until reading "The Road Ahead" by Bill Gates. He describes how, in 1965, Gordon Moore who later co-founded Intel with Bob Noise predicted that the capacity of the computer microprocessor chip would double every year-exponential improvement! Moore didn't believe this rate of improvement would last long. Amazingly, ten years later his forecast proved true. He then predicted chip capacity would double every two years. To this day, his prediction's have held up. The thinking power of one the major driving engines of world economy-computers and information technology-has been doubling every 18 months since 1975! If we had found a way to similarly improve the efficiency of oil over these last twenty years, a single gallon of gas would suffice to heat your home and propel your car until the year 2000. It is no coincidence that during these two "decades of the computer" the Dow Jones Industrial Average has increased tenfold.
Now, here's the good news. Moore's Law is expected to hold for another twenty years! That means, according to Gates, "A computation that now takes a day(that once took a year) will be more than 10,000 times faster and thus take fewer than ten seconds." What does this have to do with antiques? Everything. Combined with new fiber optic cable the "information highway" is on its way to your door. We'll talk about how this new technology is revolutionizing our access to antiques and history next week.