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From Jumbo to Micro and onwards

June 4, 2014

It was Valentine’s Day. It was just one year after the war had ended. People were still recovering from the horrors they were exposed to. This war had given them a raw taste of disease and death. Every family had either lost a hero or gained a veteran. The environment had changed rapidly. What used to be calm and peaceful had come to be replaced by the fear filled stress of agony and death. The agitated minds of the people were slowly simmering down. The war was itself not just an accumulation of all things evil…

Somewhere in Maryland, on the very same day of 1946, the “Giant Brain” was being celebrated by the US Army and the Pentagon alike. The University of Pennsylvania’s very own Electrical Engineering Professors, J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, now offered the world the “Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer”, ENIAC. This was the beginning of a new era in the Man’s life on Earth. Occupying the floor space of that of a large room, the ENIAC was built to solve “a large class of numerical problems”. With 17,468 vacuum tubes, 7,200 crystal diodes, 1,500 relays, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors and around 5 million hand-soldered joints, it weighed almost 30 tons and consumed 150 kW of power. A rumor that lights in Philadelphia dimming whenever the computer was switched on was in circulation. Yes, the computer era was born but it was a heavy baby in the flimsy cradle.

Considering the decade when the computer was born, computers were not known or heard of in the public as commonly as now. A regular man’s work during the last part of the first half of the twentieth century would have been fairly dependent on the radio and cars for entertainment. A typical holiday time lazing would be with friends at a local bar or at hunting game or the beach. But things were very slow then and people didn’t need computers for their everyday activities.

Fast forward 68 years into the future and now we have computers that we can carry on the move. A laptop which can magically transform into a tab on the press of a button (which triggers a decoupling mechanism) may have sounded similar to an alien technology from the future. Considering myself at this point of time, I can’t live without my computer and WiFi connection. Imagining myself with a handheld computer which can change the way I want to work on it gives me that big futuristic fantasy I’ve wanted ever since the day I understood that computers were not meant to be bulky giants on tables. I envision it to simply function as a gaming tablet or an ebook reader without the keyboard and an important executive office desk with the keyboard attached to it. With an incredibly long battery life, life may never be the same as I may keep working on the go without worrying about drained batteries! With an extremely slim body, I might as well have a small pocket tailored into the inner lining of my jacket so that others won’t notice it and I’ll have handy all the time. With a lightning fast processing speed, it may make the ENIAC look like a dragon fly competing against an elephant in a body weighing contest. With a beautifully crafted design, I’d be able to feel the smooth glossy surface with a good grip. It may sound really like a dream from the future. But engineers have never failed Moore’s law and the designers always keep improvising. I personally think it is time for us to get out and check the market for such products too…

Some such products have started showing up out there (for example, ASUS’s T100 (http://asusindia.co.in/T100/) – seems promisingly good). I hope many more products come out.

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