The the same time.Space flight: Americans from 50 years

phones: The idea for cellular
phone service dates back at least to 1947, but the first call was made from the
sidewalk outside the Manhattan Hilton in 1973 by Martin Cooper, a Motorola
researcher who rang up his rival at AT&T Bell Labs to test the new
phone.  Thirty years later, more than half of all Americans own one and
cellular networks are beginning to serve Internet access at broadband speeds
through thin air. Cell phones have brought a whole new meaning to the term
multitasking. Twenty years ago, it was not possible to talk to the office while
you were at the grocery store picking up some necessary items. You could never
have had a three-way business conference while you were fixing dinner or been
able to deal with a business client from home while caring for a sick child.
Cell phones have enabled us to do various tasks all at the same time.Space flight: Americans from 50 years ago would be disappointed to learn we
never went further than the Moon — no Mars colony, no 2001 odyssey to Jupiter,
no speed-of-light spaceships.  Even the Shuttle is in trouble.  But
the space race against the Russians that dominated the national psyche (and a
good chunk of the budget) in the ’60s and ’70s pushed the development of
hundreds of enabling technologies, including synthetic fibres and integrated
computer circuits, necessary to fly men to the Moon and back.  And the
astronauts brought back a lesson from space: “We saw the earth the size of a
quarter, and we realized then that there is only one earth. We are all brothers.
“With the revolution of space flight launching network satellites that has
enabled global connections that has enabled global communication.Personal computers: Before IBM recast the desktop computer from hobbyist’s
gadget to office automation tool in 1983 followed by Apple’s people-friendly
Macintosh a year later a “minicomputer” was the size of a washing machine and
required a special air-conditioned room.  But the trained technicians who
operated the old mainframes already knew computers were cool: They could use
them to play games, keep diaries, and trade messages with friends across the
country, while still looking busy.  Today, thanks to the PC, we all look
busy. Digital media: “The camera doesn’t lie” went a saying not heard much since
the release of Photoshop 1.0 in 1990.  Digitized audio, pictures, movies,
and text let even an amateur edit reality — or conjure it from scratch — with a
keyboard and a mouse.  A singer’s bad notes, a model’s blemishes, or an
overcast sky in a movie scene can be fixed as easily as a spelling error. 
Just as important, digital media can be copied over and over nearly for free,
stored permanently without fading, and sent around the world in seconds. 
It rightly worries the movie and music industries, but how do you put the genie
back in the bottle if there’s no bottle anymore?The Internet: This one seems like a no-brainer, but the Net’s unique strength
is that no two people will agree on why it’s so important.  The world’s
largest and most unruly library, it’s also a global news channel, social club,
research archive, shopping service, town hall, and multimedia kiosk.  Add
to that the most affordable mass medium ever, and a curse to anyone with a
secret to keep.  Three-fifths of Americans now use the Net, but it remains
to be seen whether the connections to one another will transform us, or prove
that we’ll never change. TV: Barely
20 years after radio shook the entertainment landscape, broadcast television
sent out another temblor in the 1930s and 1940s. Television changed everything
from the way people got their news to how advertising was done.Despite being
blamed for everything from our sedentary lifestyles to societal violence, TV
isn’t going anywhere, and in fact an incredible number of waking ours are spent
in front of the boob tube. Last year, a Nielson report estimated that Americans
watch more than 5 hours a day, on average. The Consumer Electronics Association
(CEA) recently estimated that, recession be danged, ownership of
high-definition TVs in U.S. households has doubled in the past two years.Radio: When
Guglielmo Marconi patented his radiotelegraph system in 1901, he envisioned it as
a way for ships to wirelessly communicate with one another. But by the 1920s,
regular broadcasts of music and news exploded, ushering in a new era of mass
media. From baby monitors to military radar, radio is now firmly entrenched in
everyday life. The ability to harness radio waves eventually made possible all
forms of wireless networking, from cell phones to Wi-Fi. 

 The Printing Press:
The original game-changing gadget was too big to fit in your pocket, but it
revolutionized literacy all the same. Around 1450, German goldsmith Johannes
Gutenburg transformed printing with his press, a table-sized machine modelled
after the wine presses of the day. The invention used thousands of movable
metal letters to quickly and cheaply copy text. Gutenburg’s press took the
spread of ideas out of the hands of elites and paved the way for the Protestant
Reformation and the Enlightenment.

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