We take a lot of our the fundamental aspects of our shiny new world for granted. We’ve invented turnkey pcb, prototype assembly, biometric networks and an internet that spans the entire world but most of us rarely ask ourselves how ended up with the exact type of interconnected world we have today. There is no hard and fast law that states that we needed to end up with a society that now functions entirely on enormous amounts of bandwidth and the free flow of information. Without a few key figures and events in the last seventy years, it is extremely possible these developments would never have come to pass. No matter how much pcb turnkey or circuit board assembly we put would have put together, there was no guarantee of ending up with a free and open internet. It was a matter of luck as much as it was skill. It’s less the reality of the internet itself than it is the story of how we ended up with the internet that we have today that’s so fascinating. It’s a story that goes back farther than you might think and extends to far more places than you might imagine. And it all starts with world war two.
- The necessity of computing in wartime
Alan Turing was the leader of a brilliant group of scientists that were ordered by the British government to perfect a machine that could think. In more direct terms, the British government wanted a machine that could predict German troop movements and win the war with minimal cost to allied lives. So Turing and his team went about this the best way they could, assembling, wiring and constructing a machine that would output information when other types of information was put in. Interestingly enough, their attempts to bring this machine into physical reality weren’t the first time someone had ever thought of this idea. The idea of a thinking, learning machine goes back in fiction to the beginning of the twentieth century when writers began to imagine what life would be like near the end of the millennium. But it wasn’t until the middle of the century that the technical know how was achieved to actually start construction on the device.
The first computers
The machine Turing and his team constructed was marvelous but it wasn’t something that we today would recognize as a computer. It was the size of an entire room and made of many interconnected ports all standing in a loud, brightly lit row. It required someone to physically place paper based information inside of it and it would take days to analyze and synthesize the data into an output that the scientists could use. It didn’t have the help of a turnkey pcb, had no advantage with the help of a turnkey pcb assembly, it didn’t even have the power of a basic calculator but it was still something that had never existed before. It was a real, thinking machine in age that hadn’t yet perfected spaceflight or even basic air flight. After the end of the war, the government discharged Turing and his team but they kept the plans for the computer and gave them to other allied countries for experimentation. By the middle of the nineteen fifties, countries in Europe, Asia and, of course, the United States were already improving upon the original designs of the computer in all sorts of ways.
The spread of the internet
In the beginning of this digital race, it was primarily scientists and the military who had access to computers. There was no use of turnkey pcb or data processing among the general population as the skills involved in inputting the information and managing the data processing were relatively complex. It was only in the mid seventies and early eighties that businesses began to get their hands on computers and use them for competitive market advantage. It was then only in the nineties that the public at large began to have access and exposure to what computers could really do. The rise of the internet soon followed and the world was changed.