The Disappearing Trick of HiTech



We couldn't do without technology. It shapes our lives and makes them better for the most part. And yet, we must look at what is lost as much as we celebrate what is gained. Thankfully, what is lost often comes back later. Let's take the example of Vannevar Bush's differential analyzer - a real gem of a machine, whose purpose was to solve differential equations. And yet, it is how it solved them which made all the difference (pun intended). Here is a photo of the wheel and disc integrator from the MIT museum. This column is too short to discuss how it works, but once you see it, integration becomes child's play. It makes sense.  At the top of that web page, there is a prophetic quote from Warren Weaver (of the Shannon-Weaver communication model) about exactly what was lost in the way of understanding once the analyzer was decommissioned and faster equipment took center stage. Something gained; something lost. And yet, we now have the technologies in human interaction to have our cake and eat it too -- we do not have to give up on our human interfaces as we make progress toward faster processing speeds with smaller components.

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