Sputnik I left Earth in 1957–the first Space Shuttle, Columbia (STS-1) had its first orbital test flight in 1981.
Twenty-four years. That sound like amazingly fast progress, from a polished metal sphere 58 cm (23 in) diameter, massing 83 kgs, to the first re-usable orbital launcher weighing over 2030 tons, and standing 56.1 m (184.2 ft) tall.
Sounds amazing is exactly right. What is more amazing is how much the same duration of time changed in the computing field. Twenty-four years.
Twenty-four years ago, my alma-mater, METU, connected their IBM ES3090/180S, running the VM/XA operating system to EARN-BITNET, which meant I got access to the internet, although that was not exactly what we called it at the time. The ES3090/180S was a uniprocessor machine with a whopping 128 MBs of memory and boasted an incredible 22.5 GBs of disk storage, and we accessed it from one of 135 green-and-black dumb terminals in the terminal room at the Mechanical Engineering, Department. The water-cooled mainframe was housed in a huge, climate-controlled raised floor environment specifically built for it.
I am writing this blog on a four year old notebook computer with dual-core CPUs, 4GBs of memory and a modest, 240 GB SSD drive for disk storage, and it fits on my lap. As the joke goes, if space travel technology matched the speed of advances in computing, we’d be commuting to the Moon for work and taking vacations on Mars by now. Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction–having youtube videos in your handset to endlessly distract yourself seems to have triumphed over the needs of the minority of us who are yearning for new frontiers to explore. C’est la vie–that’s why we continue to read, and write science fiction, I suppose.
Back in the twentieth century, we had to slug through plain html, connecting to the internets via dial-up modems whistling 2400 baud, and at that time, I used to have a webpage, hosted on http://www.panix.com/ an internet service provider offering the rare command line access to your account even though I had to fax my credit card number all the way from Turkey to New York and then call them long distance at a considerable cost for them to verify before I got my account. But somehow I managed, and maintained my website all the way until 1998, when I moved to Canada. Paradoxically, after that, my web presence faltered, updates ceased even when I got my very own domain name–life, as they say, intervened.
That was the twentieth century me. Now it is time for the twenty-first century me to resurrect my web presence à la the phoenix, and join the rest of mankind in the blogging world.