The calm before the storm

 

From IBM

That enormous piece of equipment is a 5MB hard drive in 1956.  Produced by IBM, it was a technological marvel of its day.  That chip in my hand below is a 1TB SSD card for my computer.  For those keeping score at home, my SSD card holds not twice as much data, and not three times as much data – no, it holds 209,715 times as much data, and I can lift it with my fingers rather than a forklift.  And my SSD card uses A LOT less electricity, as well.  And is much faster and much more reliable.  If you were to stack 209,715 of those IBM hard drives to store the same amount of data as my chip, that stack would be nearly 300 miles tall.  My chip is more convenient.

Amazing, really.  1956 was only 68 years ago.  Of course, 68 years sounds like a long time to us kids who are only 55 years old.  I was born in late 1968, so 1956 seems distant.  1968 was recent.  On the other hand, the time from 1968 to 2024 is exactly the same as the time from 1968 to 1912.  In 1912 there were two horrifying disasters – the sinking of the Titanic, and the election of Woodrow Wilson.  One of those disasters is still discussed frequently today, and the other one is still impacting us today.

55 years from now will be the year 2079.  I wonder what the world will be like then?  It’s an interesting thought, but I suspect that the world will be very different 10 years from now, and maybe even 5 years from now.  A lot of things are changing very quickly, all in the same direction, in a lot of different places.  Changing in ways that Woodrow Wilson would approve of.  And I would not.

That gentleman in the top picture – the one in the coat and tie, operating the forklift (Quick side note:  How many forklift operators today wear coats and ties?) – he would be astounded by the chip I hold in my hand today.  I suspect that we may be astounded what’s coming, as well.  And it may be coming sooner than 68 years from now, or 55 years from now, or perhaps even 10.

It may be good.  It may be bad.  But I strongly suspect that it will be very different.

Not everything will be all that different, of course.  For example, the airplane he’s loading that hard drive into hasn’t really changed all that much over the past 68 years.  There have been improvements, of course.  But aviation hasn’t seen changes like that – nothing remotely like the changes from his enormous hard drive to my tiny little SSD card.

So I suspect that parts of our world will remain comfortably familiar.  For example, I suspect we’ll still be watching the Masters every April.  Gosh, Augusta National is so beautiful.

But parts of our world are about to be utterly transformed.  It’s happening in front of our eyes.

It would be fascinating, if so much of it didn’t appear to be nearly as horrifying as the election of Woodrow Wilson.  Iran, China, Islam, Russia, the UN, the World Economic Forum, and American Democrats all seem intent on creating centralized control systems which will be difficult to dismantle.

There’s some friction between those groups.  But they’re all moving in the same general direction.  So away we go.  Carried by the current of international events.

I often hear people remark upon how crazy the world feels, right now.  I see it a different way.  To me, this feels like the calm before the storm.

Illustration ID: 2005471187 (Samrit Pholjan/Shutterstock)

I wonder what’s coming?

I’m not sure.  But I think it’s coming sooner rather than later.

Whatever is coming next, I don’t think it’s going to take 68 years.

The guy with the forklift would be astounded.

So will we.

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  1. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    That airplane has not changed much because government got involved. We would have flying cars by now if it was not for government interference. Government stunts innovation.

    • #1
  2. Chuck Coolidge
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    1974 – Sitting next to an IBM computer engineer on a plane back from Tokyo, he told me the floppy disk would not last.  After about 40 years he was correct.

    • #2
  3. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    That airplane has not changed much because government got involved. We would have flying cars by now if it was not for government interference. Government stunts innovation.

    Flying cars are a ridiculously bad idea.  Will never happen, at least not at scale.

     

    • #3
  4. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    I can’t remember what it was I was reading, but it’s always stuck with me.  People overestimate change in the short term, and underestimate it in long term.  It’s the nature of exponential curves.

     

    • #4
  5. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Does anyone remember John Walker’s Saturday Night Science episode on The Victorian Internet? Wikipedia link below. So one-hundred-plus years ago we had near instantaneous communication, but it was restricted to short messages and occurred among the rich and powerful (<– pretty much the same thing). Today, we have instantaneous communication everywhere. Even those on public assistance/welfare have new iPhones. What did that change? Well, for one thing some entrepreneurs decided to use smartphones and social media to organize “smash and grabs” and get away before the police could act. On the up-side, anyone with a smartphone and a social media account can be a documentary film maker or a reporter. 

    I still am a bit amazed that I can catch an early plane to CA and arrive in time for lunch, but I’m getting used to that. Still, that is just a quicker way to do what had always been done by human, i. e., travel to distant places. I wonder if the big changes in the next decades will be just improvements in what we do now, or if something revolutionary will take place. 

    My recent fantasy involved how a future society could do an improved version of SETI. What would we do if we made contact? That would be a real mind-[redacted]. 

     

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Victorian_Internet

     

    • #5
  6. Fractad Coolidge
    Fractad
    @TWert

    What a great point you make in this post.

    When I was an undergraduate at Vanderbilt, the entire campus used one mainframe computer – a DECsystem-10. I would type some lines of FORTRAN on a teletype terminal and wait for a response. We thought it was an amazing leap forward when we could use CRT terminals. They were so popular I would wake up at 2 or 3 am to try to snag one. Back then, I would never have imagined what I can do now with my smartphone.

    I hope we don’t become the surveillance society England has become. I used to think Americans naturally desired liberty; after the 2020 lockdowns, I’m no longer sure of that.

     

    • #6
  7. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Fractad (View Comment):

    What a great point you make in this post.

    When I was an undergraduate at Vanderbilt, the entire campus used one mainframe computer – a DECsystem-10. I would type some lines of FORTRAN on a teletype terminal and wait for a response. We thought it was an amazing leap forward when we could use CRT terminals. They were so popular I would wake up at 2 or 3 am to try to snag one. Back then, I would never have imagined what I can do now with my smartphone.

    I hope we don’t become the surveillance society England has become. I used to think Americans naturally desired liberty; after the 2020 lockdowns, I’m no longer sure of that.

     

    Ours was a VAX 11-780. 

    • #7
  8. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Django (View Comment):

    Fractad (View Comment):

    What a great point you make in this post.

    When I was an undergraduate at Vanderbilt, the entire campus used one mainframe computer – a DECsystem-10. I would type some lines of FORTRAN on a teletype terminal and wait for a response. We thought it was an amazing leap forward when we could use CRT terminals. They were so popular I would wake up at 2 or 3 am to try to snag one. Back then, I would never have imagined what I can do now with my smartphone.

    I hope we don’t become the surveillance society England has become. I used to think Americans naturally desired liberty; after the 2020 lockdowns, I’m no longer sure of that.

     

    Ours was a VAX 11-780.

    Ours too.  Everyone on campus (Denison University 1980/1981) had an account with 2000(!) blocks of storage.  That’s about 1 Mbyte.

     

    • #8
  9. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Django (View Comment):

    Fractad (View Comment):

    What a great point you make in this post.

    When I was an undergraduate at Vanderbilt, the entire campus used one mainframe computer – a DECsystem-10. I would type some lines of FORTRAN on a teletype terminal and wait for a response. We thought it was an amazing leap forward when we could use CRT terminals. They were so popular I would wake up at 2 or 3 am to try to snag one. Back then, I would never have imagined what I can do now with my smartphone.

    I hope we don’t become the surveillance society England has become. I used to think Americans naturally desired liberty; after the 2020 lockdowns, I’m no longer sure of that.

     

    Ours was a VAX 11-780.

    Ours too. Everyone on campus (Denison University 1980/1981) had an account with 2000(!) blocks of storage. That’s about 1 Mbyte.

     

    They called it “the baby VAX”, and I believe it was an 11-730. It was for an upper division operating systems class. We all had system privileges and got the occasional assignment to write kernel mode code that duplicated the simpler VMS System Services. There was an elaborate cone-shaped hat labeled “Dunce Cap” that tradition dictated was worn by the last student to crash the system. They called it “The Gold Room”. That was the room where the “mental edit” joke was played on freshmen CS students. 

    • #9
  10. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    Denison University 1980/1981

    I graduated from Denison in 1991.

    Very different computer system, just 10 years later. 

     

    • #10
  11. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Dr. Bastiat: Iran, China, Islam, Russia, the UN, the World Economic Forum, and American Democrats all seem intent on creating centralized control systems which will be difficult to dismantle. 

    Centralized power is worthless. I suppose if you can trap all of your citizens in a total surveillance system, that might be different, but it’s not going to make things better. I can’t believe people fall for this crap. Don’t centralize any power unless there is no other option, like the military. 

    • #11
  12. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    That Doc was a shocking comparison. Computer technology has skyrocketed. Along with the amazing expansion of digital capability has come mercantile achievement. Companies like Amazon can put nearly anything the consumer wants on our front stoop within three days, if not quicker. These are positive advancements in civilization. But you are right to feel uneasy. The rapid onslaught of government centralization could make all of mankind’s advancements null and void. If we lose our freedom, the only use for all of that digital advancement will be the government using it to control and enslave the human race.

    • #12
  13. DonG (CAGW is a Scam) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Scam)
    @DonG

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    That airplane has not changed much because government got involved. We would have flying cars by now if it was not for government interference. Government stunts innovation.

    We don’t have flying cars, because people are crappy drivers in what is essentially one direction in one dimension.  Give people 3 axes of freedom and they will be falling from the sky like a tropical downpour.

    • #13
  14. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: Iran, China, Islam, Russia, the UN, the World Economic Forum, and American Democrats all seem intent on creating centralized control systems which will be difficult to dismantle.

    Centralized power is worthless. I suppose if you can trap all of your citizens in a total surveillance system, that might be different, but it’s not going to make things better. I can’t believe people fall for this crap. Don’t centralize any power unless there is no other option, like the military.

    • #14
  15. DonG (CAGW is a Scam) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Scam)
    @DonG

    Dr. Bastiat: I often hear people remark upon how crazy the world feels, right now.  I see it a different way.  To me, this feels like the calm before the storm.

    Wow.  That is a black-pill.  To me, it feels like we are in the storm and forecast is for more of the same.   More grey-pill than black-pill.

    • #15
  16. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: Iran, China, Islam, Russia, the UN, the World Economic Forum, and American Democrats all seem intent on creating centralized control systems which will be difficult to dismantle.

    Centralized power is worthless. I suppose if you can trap all of your citizens in a total surveillance system, that might be different, but it’s not going to make things better. I can’t believe people fall for this crap. Don’t centralize any power unless there is no other option, like the military.

    Look at those two words. Fascism and Fascinate. I would never have associated those two words. Yet they are nearly the same.

    • #16
  17. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    cdor (View Comment):
    That Doc was a shocking comparison. Computer technology has skyrocketed. Along with the amazing expansion of digital capability has come mercantile achievement. Companies like Amazon can put nearly anything the consumer wants on our front stoop within three days, if not quicker. These are positive advancements in civilization. But you are right to feel uneasy. The rapid onslaught of government centralization could make all of mankind’s advancements null and void. If we lose our freedom, the only use for all of that digital advancement will be the government using it to control and enslave the human race.

    Everything you are talking about represents deflation. More for your money. Fewer workers. So what does the Fed try to do? Gee, let me think. They go blah blah blah about supposed 2% inflation making everybody’s life better, but it doesn’t really. Then they lose control of it. Then they aren’t even measuring it right. 

    If everybody just sucked it up and lived with a half a percent deflation, everybody would have more personal power and wouldn’t need the government for anything but actual public goods. Can’t afford a home? Too bad. Can’t afford any shelter of any kind? Too bad.  Can’t afford procreating more W-2 slaves? Too bad. Can’t get a percent over the inflation rate in a savings account? Too bad. Sign up for “The Life of Julia” instead. Get  free everything including abortions, if you’ve got too many W-2 slaves already.

    They put a gun to your head and stick some of your income into Social Security and Medicare and it’s going to blow up anyway. It’s a real genius system we have. You have to work to survive, but they steal some of it, and you’re going to get screwed on what they steal from you. 

    No more inflation and no more non-public goods. The End.

    • #17
  18. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    This is the life of Julia if you’re not familiar with it.

     

     

    Centralized power is only for the top 4% or something.

    • #18
  19. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Fractad (View Comment):

    What a great point you make in this post.

    When I was an undergraduate at Vanderbilt, the entire campus used one mainframe computer – a DECsystem-10. I would type some lines of FORTRAN on a teletype terminal and wait for a response. We thought it was an amazing leap forward when we could use CRT terminals. They were so popular I would wake up at 2 or 3 am to try to snag one. Back then, I would never have imagined what I can do now with my smartphone.

    I hope we don’t become the surveillance society England has become. I used to think Americans naturally desired liberty; after the 2020 lockdowns, I’m no longer sure of that.

     

    Ahh, DECsystem-10.  I had a few of those, when I was working on starting a computer school.  They came from Intel in Hillsboro.  Also a 2065 from Columbia University, and a 2020 from Oregon State.  Then I developed IBD, couldn’t work, and lost it all in storage.

    At Willamette University in Oregon, they had an HP-2000 setup with mostly Texas Instruments “Silent 700” printing terminals, plus a few Hazeltine 2000 CRTs.  The TIs printed way faster than a Teletype (which I used on a PDP-8 and remotely to a CDC-3300 at OSU, in High School) but the CRTs were very popular.

    • #19
  20. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Django (View Comment):

    Fractad (View Comment):

    What a great point you make in this post.

    When I was an undergraduate at Vanderbilt, the entire campus used one mainframe computer – a DECsystem-10. I would type some lines of FORTRAN on a teletype terminal and wait for a response. We thought it was an amazing leap forward when we could use CRT terminals. They were so popular I would wake up at 2 or 3 am to try to snag one. Back then, I would never have imagined what I can do now with my smartphone.

    I hope we don’t become the surveillance society England has become. I used to think Americans naturally desired liberty; after the 2020 lockdowns, I’m no longer sure of that.

     

    Ours was a VAX 11-780.

    Still hoping to get a VAX 4000 one of these days.

    • #20
  21. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    DonG (CAGW is a Scam) (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    That airplane has not changed much because government got involved. We would have flying cars by now if it was not for government interference. Government stunts innovation.

    We don’t have flying cars, because people are crappy drivers in what is essentially one direction in one dimension. Give people 3 axes of freedom and they will be falling from the sky like a tropical downpour.

    Yes, and one of my usual replies to wishes for flying cars includes the value of gravity and friction in limiting damage with ground vehicles.

    With flying cars, gravity INCREASES damage.

    • #21
  22. She Member
    She
    @She

    Wonderful post.  One after my own heart.

    The first “shared” system I ever encountered (1981) was an NBI System 8.  (Full disclosure: I worked for the company.) It was basically a server designed to support up to eight users/workstations typing long documents, an arrangement in businesses at the time that was known as “the word-processing pool.”  It had a 2 megabyte hard drive (which could store about 800 pages), and we marveled at its magnitude.  The server was about as big as a washing machine, and the disk occupied a considerable proportion of the space inside it.  It cost many tens of thousands of dollars at the time.

    Years later (1984 and following) I was in at the start of PC sales, in the days when IBM PCs had only floppy drives, very little RAM, and a puny 35-WATT power supply.  Businesses craved the ability to upgrade their original PC purchases to larger, hard-drive, storage, but there just wasn’t the space inside, or the oomph in the power supply to support such expansion.  Enter the Quantum/Plus Development “Hard Card,” a hard drive which fit in a PC expansion slot and required very little power beyond what could be passed through the motherboard.

    I sold hundreds of them.  They were considered to be marvels of miniaturization at the time, and they retailed for $895 for 10 megabytes of storage.

    I’ve often done the math since. Such that, if a megabyte of storage in–say 1985–cost $89.50, how much–all being equal, and without even worrying about the value of the dollar in the intervening 39 years–would a terabyte of storage cost in 2021?  (Answer, about $89, 500,000.  And yet a terabyte drive on Amazon today seems to cost about $60.) 

    And vice versa: if a megabyte of storage in 2021 costs this many thousandths-of-a-penny (six), what does that mean for the price of a Plus Hard Card today? (Not much, trust me.)

    I really can’t think of a any other product comparison to surpass it.  And who knows what the next forty years will bring?  Hang onto your hats.

     

     

    • #22
  23. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: Iran, China, Islam, Russia, the UN, the World Economic Forum, and American Democrats all seem intent on creating centralized control systems which will be difficult to dismantle.

    Centralized power is worthless. I suppose if you can trap all of your citizens in a total surveillance system, that might be different, but it’s not going to make things better. I can’t believe people fall for this crap. Don’t centralize any power unless there is no other option, like the military.

    I saw that Russell quote being circulated at FB…but, in reality, highly intelligent people have been at least as susceptible to the lure of totalitarian ideologies as are people of more ordinary or even lower intelligence.

    • #23
  24. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    This is the life of Julia if you’re not familiar with it.

     

     

    Centralized power is only for the top 4% or something.

    Surprised you found it!…this awful thing has largely been scrubbed from the Internet.

    • #24
  25. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Flying cars: the problem of collision avoidance with a large number of airborne vehicles, especially in dense areas, is a very difficult one, not something just made up by government bureaucrats.

    • #25
  26. Globalitarian Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    cdor (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: Iran, China, Islam, Russia, the UN, the World Economic Forum, and American Democrats all seem intent on creating centralized control systems which will be difficult to dismantle.

    Centralized power is worthless. I suppose if you can trap all of your citizens in a total surveillance system, that might be different, but it’s not going to make things better. I can’t believe people fall for this crap. Don’t centralize any power unless there is no other option, like the military.

    Look at those two words. Fascism and Fascinate. I would never have associated those two words. Yet they are nearly the same.

    I’ve got dibbies on Defascinate.

    • #26
  27. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: Iran, China, Islam, Russia, the UN, the World Economic Forum, and American Democrats all seem intent on creating centralized control systems which will be difficult to dismantle.

    Centralized power is worthless. I suppose if you can trap all of your citizens in a total surveillance system, that might be different, but it’s not going to make things better. I can’t believe people fall for this crap. Don’t centralize any power unless there is no other option, like the military.

    I saw that Russell quote being circulated at FB…but, in reality, highly intelligent people have been at least as susceptible to the lure of totalitarian ideologies as are people of more ordinary or even lower intelligence.

    DING DING DING 

    It’s madness.

    • #27
  28. Globalitarian Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Flying cars: the problem of collision avoidance with a large number of airborne vehicles, especially in dense areas, is a very difficult one, not something just made up by government bureaucrats.

    Man.  You guys have never seen The Fifth Element.  It works.

    • #28
  29. EJHill Staff
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    I bought my first memory stick at Best Buy – 256k for $80. A couple of years ago a vendor of tv graphics machines gave me two 8GB flash drives as a freebie. 

    • #29
  30. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    The awfulness of Wilson and his administration is not as well-understood as it needs to be.

    When conservative commentators say that no administration before this one has sought to put its  political opponents in prison, it tells me that their historical knowledge is lacking.

    The combination of the remarkable technological advances of our times, combined with the disturbing political and societal trends, makes me think of Leonard Cohen’s lines:

    One eye filled with blueprints
    And one eye filled with night

    • #30
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