I previously posted about Hal Draper’s delightful mathematical science-fiction story – the only one he ever wrote – about the challenges of storing and indexing data in ever smaller spaces, requiring ever-larger retrieval indices. But back in 1966, librarians were taking stock of their growing inventories of information, and turning to computers to lend a helping hand… uh, transistor.
1966. “To the rescue. Many librarians believe computers are the only means to effectively cope with their bulging bookshelves.” New York World-Telegram and Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Library of Congress. Found at Shorpy.
This photo was taken three years before I took my first FORTRAN class, on a Univac 1108. The advances I have seen in technology in my lifetime rival what my grandparents experienced moving from horse-and-buggy days to the advent of commercial jets, from radio to television. My smartphone has more processing power than the IBM 370/138 I worked on as a graduate student; I always wonder with white-hot curiosity what my grandchildren will be experiencing.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
I currently carry with me a number of computers here on this very bus home from work: A tablet, on which I’m currently typing this, two smartphones, a digital SLR camera, a digital compact camera, a digital camcorder and a digital wristwatch. NASA delivered and safely retrieved twelve men on the Moon with the help of computing power less than what you’ll find in the cheapest pocket calculators that modern money can buy. By comparison, I alone ought to have been able to successfully and safely send a dozen people on a roundtrip mission to Alpha Centauri.