Sunday, June 19, 2005

30 years of technology

I just arrived at ODTUG, and the hotel room has a floor to ceiling window which I thought was pretty neat.  The view looks like this (click on the thumbnail to see the whole thing)

While travelling this morning, I was thinking about all of the technology changes that have taken place in the last 30 years.  The reason this came to mind was due to how I spent the day yesterday.  My 9 year old daughter Megan was in a soccer tournament (they are sweeping the tournament, they are 3 and 0 right now).  She called me to say she scored the only and winning goal in their last game.  Anyway, yesterday was filled with technology, stuff that didn’t exist when I was her age some 30 years ago.

The morning started by entering the destination into the navigation system.  When the kids asked “are we almost there”, we were able to answer “it is 7.1 more miles, estimated time to destination is 11 minutes”.  That is a far cry from when I would ask that question – then the answer was typically “if you ask that one more time, grrrr”.

So, we arrive at the soccer field and I check my email quick on the phone.  Had a couple of followups to the blog but that was about it. So we find out where we are supposed to go and get setup.  My wife had her camera,  my son Alan was doing the video

Alan taking video

and I was using my new camera.  Now – when I was a kid, pictures were a big deal.  You had a 110 camera, with a flash cube (4 flashes, throw out the cube, get a new one).  You had 12 or 24 pictures, each of which was going to cost money to develop and print.  You did not waste a shot.  I’m sitting there with 512meg of ram in the camera, about 250 hi-res pictures or 5,000 lo-res pictures.  And the cost per shot?  Nothing, free.  Take a bad picture?  So what, either ignore it or erase it.  So I was taking pictures left and right.  Very different from when I was a kid, when you might have 10 shots from an event.  I got some good ones – my favorite one from yesterday was this corner kick by Megan:

Megan Corner Kick

Now, in between games, we had some down time — over lunch.  We were not in any location we knew, no idea what fast food restaurants were there, what was available.  But I had my phone.  Quick search on Yahoo and we saw there were lots of Subway sandwich shops nearby.  It was decided we’d eat Subway for lunch.  Megan and my wife Lori wanted to stay and watch some of the other matches — Alan and I went for the food (just like the caveman days, right…). 

Anyway, we knew there was a Subway nearby, but didn’t know where it was or how to get there.  No problem, punch up fast food restaurants on the navigation system and choose the closest ones.  Turned on the satellite radio and away we go.  While getting the sandwiches, my phone rings.  In 2005, that is so normal – where ever you are, there you are with the phone (and now the internet on the phones and so on).  Well, in 1975 – if you were not at home, you were not getting a phone call. 

Imagine in 1975 being in the same situation, you are on a soccer field (it would have been baseball back then), with no idea of what is around you.  I forget what we used to do to find stuff back then!  Probably asked someone for an idea and directions.  So, anyway the phone rang, it was Lori calling from the soccer field (imagine, calling from the baseball field in 1975, people would have laughed at the very idea).  She wanted me to bring the camera bag when we returned.

After Megan and her team won the second game of the day, we got ready to leave.  We needed some money so we pulled up to the automated teller machine (ATM) and got some out.  There we go again.  In 1975, if you wanted money out of the bank, you actually went to the bank when it was open and used a human being to withdraw money.  ATM’s were just coming into vogue in the late late 70’s and early 80’s.  I remember going to college in Pittsburgh – and they were not connected into the national network yet, meaning, I could not use my bank card there and this was 1983.

Anyway, put it all together and we had

  • The navigation system in a car with more computing power than my first 3 or 4 computers put together
  • Digital cameras/video
  • Satellite Radio (listen to the same stations everywhere)
  • Cell Phones
  • Internet Access everywhere, anywhere
  • ATM’s for instant access

And more.  None of this was here 30 years ago, makes me curious to see what the next 30 will bring. (I did have to tell Alan he could not bring the laptop to the games.  He is teaching himself Macromedia Flash and wanted to program on the sidelines, sometimes it is best to leave it behind…)

And thanks to Richard Byrom for suggesting flickr.  That seems to work very well.  I like the thumbnails and you can pick the size picture you want to see.  Suggest the big size for that last shot above.



Blogger Robert Vollman said....

I think all the innovations are thanks to someone being lazy enough to want to automate something.

For instance, even 10 years ago someone could sit at their home PC, and search for the information they wanted on the Internet.

Someone said that was too much work. Not only do I want to have the information no matter where I am, but I don't want to find the information, I want the information to find me!

Now we have blackberries and laptops and wireless so we never leave our information. And now we have RSS and Google tools where we can "subscribe" to the type of information we want, and then the information will come find us.

Of course, we still have to process and act on this information. Maybe someone today is so lazy that they want the information to process itself and act upon itself without us. Maybe all we have to do is click "ok".


Sun Jun 19, 05:14:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Niall said....

So I have two comments.

1, you are showing your age :) I once heard a story that is kind've true and kinda scary at the same time. If a new technology exists when you are born (I guess we should think TV) then it's part of the furniture. If it is invented when we are between, say, 14 and 30 then "hey I could make a living doing that - its cool". Anything invented after we are 30, clearly the spawn of Satan. In that sense I think your retrospective makes a lot of sense helps ground us on where we are.

2, You are showing your culture :) Mine too obviously, even though I'm not american. How many of the 6 billion or so people on the planet could that retrospective apply to, I'd doubt it was much more than a billion or so. Long way to go yet. Indeed most people would probably find the idea of valuing information, choice of food, etc alien in the extreme.

Glad to see your daughter has not only picked the right sport, but plays in Liverpool's colours.



Sun Jun 19, 05:26:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Niall said

Interesting comment about ... could that retrospective apply to ...

I agree, but maybe that is yet another blog all together (to get into it). The thing is, as I interact with more people globally - I'm constantly changing my perspective on things, how I say things, analogies I use and so on.

I'm sure that what was "normal" for me in 1975 would be very alien as you said for most of the world. (It would be cool to here others do the comparision, maybe not here in comments but in their own blogs).

Their soccer uniforms do rock, she is number 99 with the name Kyte on the back.

Yes, showing the age, but aging gracefully I hope. I use all of the new technologies that make sense. Still very much into the gadgets.

Sun Jun 19, 05:39:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Santhosh said....

You know Tom, what makes me wonder is that, where do you get all this energy to be so enthu about the life...

Everyday I read your and since you started this blog, have one more thing to finish for the day. If I don't find any new blogs, makes me feel sad (why didn't he post one) :)

Anwyays, nice photo of Magan kicking the ball. Have you got any interest in getting a bit into the photography aspects?

Good day.

Sun Jun 19, 05:49:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Connor McDonald said....

On the converse, for all of Bill and Larry's pontificating, I read recently somewhere that less than 20% (or something like that) of the worlds population had ever used a telephone...

Anyway, even digital cameras have come a long way. Remember the early ones where you would press the button, Megan would then finish her kick, run to the half-line, play for 3 more mins and THEN the shutter would open-and-close, and all your friends would wonder why you took a picture of a corner post :-)

Sun Jun 19, 07:55:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said.... old are Alan and Megan? [Alan seems a little young to be programming Macromedia Flash?]

Sun Jun 19, 08:51:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Dan Kefford said....

Anyway, put it all together and we had

* The navigation system in a car with more computing power than my first 3 or 4 computers put together
* Digital cameras/video
* Satellite Radio (listen to the same stations everywhere)
* Cell Phones
* Internet Access everywhere, anywhere
* ATM’s for instant access

Aw, come on now... no Nintendo DS or Sony PSP??? ;P

Sun Jun 19, 10:29:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Tony said....

It is interesting, about three months back I asked my grandmother, age 80, what the best technological advance she has witnessed was. She picked TV. I thought that was an odd choice given all that has happened since the 1920's. The eveolution of cars, medical care, computers all came in second to TV.

Mon Jun 20, 12:28:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Richard Byrom said....


Some other useful tips on flickr:-

1.Personalise your flickr URL name. At the moment you have

There is an option to personalise it, so for example I have

Look under "Your Account" and then choose "Your own Flickr web page"

2.Make use of notes to identify specific things on pictures. For example here I added a note to identify Neville Hobson ( podcast) in this group of people that I took a pic of (move your mouse over the picture). Another good example is here

3.Download the uploading tools to allow for mass upload of photos

4.Flick has integration with blogspot so that any photos you post on it can be seen on your blog. Check out

Mon Jun 20, 06:26:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Richard Byrom said....

Forgot to mention Tom, one of the benefits of personalising your flickr URL is that if someone does a search for your name one of the things that will turn up in the search results is your flickr URL.

Mon Jun 20, 06:36:00 AM EDT  

Blogger yas said....

A writer here was talking about the last hundred years that most of the technology we use today has been developed recently. I think that is true. A man's life did not change much between the first and tenth centuries from a technology point of view. All these huge improvements were made in very little time in history. Will we be able to continue with the same speed in the future? I hope so.

Mon Jun 20, 07:18:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Dan Furnier said....

Tom said..
You had a 110 camera, with a flash cube (4 flashes, throw out the cube, get a new one).

Wow this sure brings back memories. Everyone marvels at Oracle ability to store and retrieve data but how about the human brain? When I read Tom's sentence my mind instantly retrieved memories from 30 years back!

I remember those flash cubes. I still remember them being hot after you would use one. I remember when you would take a picture the cube would rotate. I can still see the frosted cube and burned bulb.

Anyway, it took me awhile but I found a picture:


Mon Jun 20, 08:39:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Tim... said....

I think you'll find we are regressing rapidly!

I distinctly remember seeing a documentary in moving picture form that showed space ships, gadgets and aliens etc. I can't remember the name but the opening caption was something like, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."

Progress? Not from where I'm standing!

Mon Jun 20, 08:48:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous denni50 said....

My recollection of the '70's was
the introduction of the Sony Walkman, that was the biggest and
coolest thing to have back then.

Was living in NYC and everyone had
one of those things plugged into
their ears...runners, subway riders, walking to work or shopping...they were everywhere. All this was was a transistorized portable CASSETTE TAPE player.
You had carry all these tapes along.

Those things don't even exist anymore(cassette tapes).

Now it's iPods, download music
store on hard drive, fits in
the palm of your hand.

Give anything to see the world
100 years from now.

Mon Jun 20, 09:14:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous denni50 said....

one more thing...

Bill Gates founded Microsoft with
Paul Allen.

(wish I had purchased stock when it
went public in the 80's...shoot!!)

Mon Jun 20, 09:19:00 AM EDT  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

Digital cameras -- a mixed blessing. I just got back from vacation with 484 photos on 1.5Gb of memory stick, and now I feel obliged to catalog all of them by location, persons, events etc.. See you in a week.

Mon Jun 20, 09:27:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

how old are Alan and Megan?

Alan is 12 and Megan is 9. He went to computer camp last year to learn html and photoshop, this year he wants to self learn flash ;)

Dan Kefford said...
Aw, come on now... no Nintendo DS or Sony PSP??? ;P

Alan plays the video games, we have the PS2 (to me, ps2 still means a proprietary IBM hardware architecture, with the tiniest monitors possible).

Tony said...
She picked TV. I thought that was an odd choice

Given where I live (90-100f/30-35c frequently in the summer with humidity like you wouldn't believe), I probably would have picked... Air conditioning ;)

Dan Furnier said...

Tom said..
You had a 110 camera, with a flash cube (4 flashes, throw out the cube, get a new one).

I love that the person posting it says "I believe it was used in the 50's or 60's" :) It is so clearly 1970's new technology.

denni50 said...

one more thing...

And in 1977 Bob Miner, Ed Oates, Bruce Scott and Larry Ellison founded SDL, Software Development Laboratories, later named RSI (Relational Software Inc) and later still "Oracle"

I remember those walkmans, My camera today is smaller than they were back then, they were huge in retrospect.

David Aldridge said...

Digital cameras -- a mixed blessing.

Yes, but.... Was just talking with my wife, between us we took a couple hundred pictures over the weekend of the soccer tournament. They swept it by the way, 4 in a row, second year in a row they've taken t.

Lori is cutting a CD for each of the parents with the pictures. Yet another thing that not too long ago would have been "not possible"..

Mon Jun 20, 09:39:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

This is a good soccer training DVD.

Really Bend It Like Beckham

Mon Jun 20, 09:49:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

Glad to see your daughter ... plays in Liverpool's colours.

And Oracle's too (i prefer this interpretation, you know, I'm from Milan ;)

Mon Jun 20, 09:54:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Michael Norbert said....

how deep was the snow when you were a kid, was it knee deep uphill both ways to school? I have to laugh at the nostalgia. I remember as a kid about 12-13 I asked my dad what were the big innovations he remembers coming out as a kid. He said tinfoil and ball point pens. I guess for me it will be computers and video games. I sure miss pong.

Mon Jun 20, 09:56:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Aman Sharma said....

hi sir
its always something new to learn from you.
And in 1977 Bob Miner, Ed Oates, Bruce Scott and Larry Ellison founded SDL, Software Development Laboratories, later named RSI (Relational Software Inc) and later still "Oracle"
I knew about RSI Inc,but I didnt know about SDL:-).
with best regards

Mon Jun 20, 09:58:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous denni50 said....


thanks for the tidbit info on Oracle. I thought Oracle came into being circa mid 1980's.

Did you know that Larry Ellison "stole" the RDBMS concept from IBM?....IBM had first developed the concept of a relational database system but never took it anywhere. Ellison took the concept and ran away with it..and as they say...the rest is history.

Mon Jun 20, 10:40:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous martin said....


When can we expect AskAlan to go live
I want to learn some flash myself ;)


Mon Jun 20, 11:00:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....


I’ve gotten some great pictures sitting on the grass off to the side of the goal. I set my camera on manual focus, set the focus to a spot in front of the goal and wait for some action.

Mon Jun 20, 12:06:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Niall said....

Glad to see your daughter ... plays in Liverpool's colours.

And Oracle's too (i prefer this interpretation, you know, I'm from Milan ;)

Can't think what you mean :)

Mon Jun 20, 03:18:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

I had a 1965 Instamatic 100, it came out before the flashcubes. I still have the first pictures I took on it, well, probably, every picture I ever took with it. My best friend had a 104, which was the same thing with flashcubes, must've been 1966. I still have my 1974 OM-1, when I finally accepted that I would only probably get one good shot/36 roll and started bracketing (taking several shots with different settings) my photography improved noticeably.

I was just reading yesterday that people are advocating printing out emails from soldiers in Iraq, because the e-versions tend to get lost. I just bought the wife our first digital camera, and am already confused which way to go, as somehow there is already more than two photo-apps on her new computer, and I haven't even got to Photoshop yet. Got a shot of a Cooper's hawk attempting to bathe in a 1/4" deep puddle in my driveway, this morning.

My brother had a car phone in 1973. If I recall correctly, it used the marine telephone operator.

I have a picture of me as a baby in 1956 in front of the TV - the first color TV in the neighborhood. I'm told the neighbors would come over to see the Kraft commercials, which were the only thing broadcast in color. As a teenager, I learned a lot hacking about in that old Packard-Bell. Now when I think Packard-Bell, I think of that crappy computer I bought cheap for my Allan (now 9). Oddly or perhaps cunningly, I am much more behind the contemporaneous tech curve than my parents. I wait for the shakeouts. Unfortunately, sometimes the advance of technology causes regression:

Unfortunately I haven't been able to find it online, but one of the car mags had a brief item about testing the Ford hybrids. It seems that a new technology at grocery stores locks up grocery carts when you go past "the yellow line." It also locked up the Ford until the engineers figured out what was going on.

Since I turned 30 in 1986, much of Oracle's technology must be evil :-)

Sorry for the long comments, Tom, if we all put them in our own blogs no one would read them!

Mon Jun 20, 03:50:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert said....

Reading your home system setup the other day - I was thinking in just a few years your kids will find all that hw in some dusty garage corner and go "wow! this is OLD !"

yeah flickr has definitely taken away some of my browsing from AskTom.

Man navigation is the coolest thing since auto-tranny i think.
I will never get another car w/o it.
Mine has the voice command (seems only Acura has it right now) so I just go "find near chinese/italian restaurant"

It did screw up me a couple times - one time it insisted taking me thru the ghetto when there was definitely a shorter route.

Mon Jun 20, 05:03:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

robert said...
Mine has the voice command (seems only Acura has it right now) so I just go "find near chinese/italian restaurant"

The Prius has that as well, the kids love to shout out "chinese" and have the icons appear on the map :)

I find it "neat" but not truly real world useful. Other than "screen" to turn off the display without having to lean over to the console, I don't use it (the voice activation).

Mon Jun 20, 05:18:00 PM EDT  

Blogger jimk said....

My kids love the "large black CDs" we have. (snicker, they are 7 and 11)

I remember when I was about 5 years old, (back in the early 1960's) watching The Jetsons. I remember George coming home and Jane, his wife, comiserating because he was tired. George said he was tired because he "pushed that darn button 50 times today." I thought that was very funny at the time.

So what do I do now that makes me so tired at work? I push buttons on a keyboard....

Mon Jun 20, 05:42:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous doug c said....

Speaking of technology - what is the XML link on your blog for? If I click it in Mozilla it just says 'This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it' - then gives me the document tree.. what am I suppossed to be doing with this? Is there an XSL for it?

Mon Jun 20, 06:23:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Jeff said....

Amazing man. The number of hits you get on your blog. I personally don't mind writing a blog, if there is some viewership. Just curious, how many hits do you get daily on an average? Or is it confidential information? :)


Mon Jun 20, 06:42:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Interesting history of SQL, RDBMS etc

Mon Jun 20, 07:02:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert said....

doug c said....
Speaking of technology - what is the XML link on your blog for?...

oh that's RSS feed URL for Tom's "groupies" ;)

Mon Jun 20, 07:17:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous doug c said....

Ok - what's the quickest way to get going on this RSS stuff - I tried HotSheet Reader - had a problem, wrote the author and he wondered why I was using "that piece of .." Someone told me Mozilla has it built in, but that gives me the same 'no style sheet' when I go to the feeds. Would anyone care to recommend a product? Of course Tom you are welcome to respond. Hope you don't mind I'm borrowing your blog for a thread on RSS.

Mon Jun 20, 11:08:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Niall said....


the rss xml document is not intended to be read by a browser, but by a news aggregator or a feed reading client. The no style sheet message you are getting is just a warning to say that the browser will render the raw document because it hasn't been told how to format it. The most obvious solution is to either get yourself an rss reader (I like feed reader myself but others will probably have other recommendations) or else visit/subscribe to a news aggregator that syndicates Tom's feed. Orablogs would be the natural choice for that.

On the other hand you probably aren't the only person with this 'problem' and it just so happens that feedburner which is the service Tom uses to generate the rss feed has an option (I expect its option 42 or something) to generate a stylesheet with the feed so that ornery browsers render it nicely, hence the name of the option browser-friendly burner.

Tue Jun 21, 05:11:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous graeme king said....

imagine a friend was in a coma for the last 15 years, woke up, came to and you sat him in front of a flat screen pc and showed him the internet??? mind blowing :)

you mentioned that the cost of taking pictures using your digital camera is free...well just like 'open source' is not free, neither is digital photography...once you take in the cost of the camera (which is far higher than a standard film camera), pc, software, memory cards, batteries, dvds/cds, printer, ink, paper (if you are printing photographs)..don't forget that like all other fast-paced technology, your camera will be out of date as soon as it leaves the shelf!

saying that digital photography is wonderful, certainly very flexible and powerful but i'm finding myself sitting in front of a pc even more these days because of it!

Tue Jun 21, 06:21:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

30 years? look at the last 6 months. Every 6 months the top 500 supercomputer list is updated. There are 299 new computers on the top 500 list in the last 6 months.

The slowest computer on it is faster than the entire top 500 in 1993.

The new playstation will run at 4 GFlops. I am willing to bet that there was supercomputers in that range in the top 500 list in 1998.


Thu Jun 23, 11:00:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Rahul said....


Thanks to you and Richard for helping me discover Flickr. The first time I heard of it was when I clicked a picture something on your blog.


Mon Jan 09, 01:20:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

thankyou sir for a entertaining read in our science lesson. We enjoyed this blog by reading it in different accents.

From Amelia and Kieren-lea

Wed Jun 20, 07:15:00 PM EDT  


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