Technology

IBM 5100

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Hattip to Ann Althouse.  A trip down tech memory lane.  The IBM 5100 came out in 1975, the year I went off to the U of I as a freshman.  I was fascinated by computers, so I would hang around the Foreign Language Research Building until 11:00 PM and play Space War on one of the main frames until the administration put a stop to that the next semester.

Note in the commercial that IBM says the computer cost is “reasonable”.  In 1975 dollars you would pay 11,000 for the 16kb version.  For the 64kb  version the cost was twenty grand, which was the entire annual income for my parents at that time.  When I started practicing law I earned 16,000 my first year out.  The IBM 5100 was definitely only for businesses, the rich or the truly crazed tech heads.  I didn’t obtain my first computer, a Commodore 64, until 1987, and that cost my wife and I $1,000.00 for 64kb  ( Fortunately my wife loves computers as much as I do).  The next year we picked up an IBM with the same memory for a grand.  We then did an upgrade almost immediately so we would have two, count them!, two floppy drives.  An IBM with a harddrive had to wait until 1991.  That first harddrive had 20MB and I recall wondering how we would ever fill up that space. Continue reading

The Age of Innovation

Good post from Carl Olson on Steve Jobs that casts a different light on the man than some of the hagiography that we’ve seen.  What caught my attention and what I wanted to post about, however, was another article that he linked to which was written by Vaclav Smil.  It hits upon a subject I’ve been meaning to blog about since Jobs’s death.  The long and short of it: Steve Jobs was no Thomas Edison.

I have no desire to disparage or dismiss anything Jobs has done for his company, for its stockholders, or for millions of people who are incurably addicted to incessantly checking their  tiny Apple phones or washing their brains with endless streams of music—I just want to explain why Jobs is no Edison. Continue reading

TAC Links Up and Running

Dear TAC readers,

Last night we moved all of our databases over to a bigger server in order to prevent delays or crashes from occurring.  We have done this due to the increase of visitors to The American Catholic that have stretched the limits of our servers.

When we moved over to these bigger servers we were successful in this endeavor.  These changes, though, come with unforeseen problem(s).

The problem we experienced, as soon as it was identified, was quickly fixed and resolved.  In laymen terms, some links didn’t work properly so many (or some) of you were unable to navigate to certain links or pages without encountering a “server error” message.

Again, this problem has been resolved.

If anyone experiences any such errors still or some other issues, please leave a comment so we can address them promptly.

We here at The American Catholic thank you for your loyal patronage!

In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,

The Editors

Science and Technology in World History

Technological history is a unique point of view that always caught my eye.  David Deming of the American Thinker gives us a brief synopsis of his latest contribution in this genre.  Keep in mind how integral Christianity was to the recovery of Europe after the barbarian invasions and the safekeeping of knowledge by the monastic system that allowed Europe to recover and blossom into what we now call Western Civilization:

Both Greece and Rome made significant contributions to Western Civilization.  Greek knowledge was ascendant in philosophy, physics, chemistry, medicine, and mathematics for nearly two thousand years.  The Romans did not have the Greek temperament for philosophy and science, but they had a genius for law and civil administration.  The Romans were also great engineers and builders.  They invented concrete, perfected the arch, and constructed roads and bridges that remain in use today.  But neither the Greeks nor the Romans had much appreciation for technology.  As documented in my book, Science and Technology in World History, Vol. 2, the technological society that transformed the world was conceived by Europeans during the Middle Ages.

Greeks and Romans were notorious in their disdain for technology.  Aristotle noted that to be engaged in the mechanical arts was “illiberal and irksome.”  Seneca infamously characterized invention as something fit only for “the meanest slaves.”  The Roman Emperor Vespasian rejected technological innovation for fear it would lead to unemployment.

Greek and Roman economies were built on slavery.  Strabo described the slave market at Delos as capable of handling the sale of 10,000 slaves a day.  With an abundant supply of manual labor, the Romans had little incentive to develop artificial or mechanical power sources. Technical occupations such as blacksmithing came to be associated with the lower classes.

Continue reading

Delayed Adulthood: Preliminary Thoughts

I have written a bit over the last year about my problems with technological progress and consumerist ideology. One of the most serious consequences of these trends that I have yet to touch upon is delayed adulthood.

Commentators and social theorists are observing that my generation is not growing up. Young adults now take five years on average to get a bachelor’s degree. Marriage, children, home ownership, and a career that can support them all are each coming much later. In the meantime, my generation is living at home with mom and dad, if not all the time, at least some of the time – I myself have had to move in and out of my parent’s home a few times since I graduated.

Only in modern day Western societies, where the struggle for daily existence has been abolished for the majority of the population, could the phenomenon of delayed adulthood arise. It isn’t just that there are too many college degrees and not enough jobs, though that plays an important role. Prolonged education is a part of delayed adulthood. Millions of young people have absolutely no idea what they want to do, what sort of goals they should set for themselves, or what it is that makes life worth living. Meaningful religion has been scrubbed from most of their lives, replaced with some version of Cafeteria Christianity, New Age occultism, or far more frequently, agnosticism, cynicism, relativism and nihilism.

Continue reading

The Future of American Elections: Online Voting?

It seems that technological development has made its mark on all sectors of daily life. Why not the democratic process?

The arguments seem reasonable.

The city of Honolulu, Hawaii implemented an “all digital” election in recent local elections, i.e. the ballots were cast either on the Internet, or by phone. This experiment hasn’t made a statement either way for other levels of government. But what would it mean, if millions of people voted from the comfort of their own home — how much hassle and money, in terms of state and federal spending, could be saved if we employed a “digital democracy?”

There are more than 500 million units of fixed-line and mobile telephones in a country of about 305 million. And some 223 million Americans enjoy internet access, the majority of which is broadband.

Continue reading

Res & Explicatio for A.D. 3-20-2009

Salvete AC readers!

Here are today’s Top Picks in the Catholic world:

1.  Seems like priests and their habits have been ruminating around the blogosphere as of late.  Now Fr. Z has followed up this with insight concerning those for and against this trend.

For the link click here.

2.  Speaking of religious, after enduring the many innovations following the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, vocations have rebounded:

“Nearly 70 percent of Catholic religious communities have seen a jump in vocation inquiries in the past year”

The vast majority of those entering the religious life are tradition-minded adults under the age of 40.

For the link click here.

Continue reading

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