Monday, August 31, 2015

Advancing Technology

As a new school year begins, it makes me think back to my first year at Virginia Tech (which by the way was called Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University at the time).  It was the first year that the slide rule was not used anymore and it was required to have an electronic calculator.  I had an approved Rockwell that could do amazing things like sine, cosine, and tangent without the use of a CRC table of values.  I’m sure some of the professors were grumbling about the introduction of calculators.  

We were exposed to that new-fangled machine, the computer.  We had to type out key punch cards to develop our exciting program that would count from 1 to 10.  In order to do this we had to find a key punch machine on campus, type our program in Fortran, and hand the cards to our professor.  He would then take the cards to a compiler to get our results. Usually on the first pass there was a card punch error, a hanging chad, and we would have to retype the card.  Later in my college career we befriended some physics students who had a compiler in their building, this allowed us to bypass the crowded compiler in the computer center.  

As I reflect back on those days, it amazes me how far technology has come throughout my career. Now there is a computer on every desk and my phone has more computing capacity than all the computers combined in my days at Tech.  It has sped up the design process and allowed us to be more efficient in our work.  The models we create are far beyond anything we dreamed of in school.  Some people miss the good old days, but I am glad to be where we are and to have this technology at our fingertips.  Engineering has benefited greatly from the advances and I wonder what the next generation will have at their disposal for producing exciting designs.

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