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Design classics aplenty

An amazing visit to the Computer History Museum, where the evolution of the Digital Age is carefully and thoroughly explained. Every conceivable widget is included too, making for an epic retro-design encounter too.

Computing is rapidly becoming simply too mind-boggling to truly comprehend, and yet at the same time it is something that we take for granted and just expect to work. The great thing about this museum is the way in which it shows how such complexity evolved through a series of incremental steps going way back further in time than you might have thought. Mathematical short-cuts have been around since the abacus, and log tables and slide rules were early attempts to systematise complexity. The invention of the telegraph led to undersea cables long before the internet, and Morse Code provided a sequence of binary pulses that would not be out of place in early computational thinking. Throw in punch cards to control weaving systems and other such pre-digital innovations and you can see how, actually, the building blocks for computing had been laid long before the invention of the silicon chip. Systems of enormous complexity really do come into being through a series of small increments.

Change happens through small increments

What the museum did not tackle in such detail is where all of this might be heading. (There was a closing montage of talking heads offering predictions and aspirations). It was somewhat taken for granted that technology is a good thing, and yet the true picture is surely more nuanced than that. Perhaps I am being unfair: it is probably not the role of a museum to look forwards into the future (though it might be fun if they did), but the question of where tech is heading is one of the questions that I shall be investigating as part of this project. This visit was a fascinating scene-setter.

But where is it all heading?

Fun fact: PhotoShop is comprised of around 10 million lines of code.