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Communicate

It is curious how today, 70 years after the appearance of the first computers, millions of internet-connected computer devices that are the descendants of those electronic dinosaurs continue to astonish us with each new generation of products (laptops, tablets, smartphones, digital watches, etc.), and how we continue to fear the control we may end up being subject to as users of these tools.

The telecommunications, radio and television systems that preceded the first computers and contributed to their emergence are now fully digitised and operate based on computer systems. Traditional analogue telephones (VII-1) and telephone exchanges operated by long rows of young women (VII-4) are now objects of nostalgia that have been superseded by digitised systems. The security systems companies use for their transactions have also evolved, with the progressive digitisation of what were once rudimentary commercial protection systems (VII-2). More recently, we put away our film-based still and movie cameras (VII-3) in favour of their digital descendants. And the same fate has befallen the analogue devices we once used to play music or copy and print information (VII-5).

In a very short time, all these analogue technologies have been digitised, miniaturised and integrated. In other words, they have been turned into individual computerised systems (phones, televisions, watches, computers, etc.) that are connected and synchronised by means of other, large-scale computerised systems that remain out of sight (servers, server farms, the cloud, supercomputers, etc.) – all operating and communicating with each other at unimaginable speeds.

What is paradoxical and at the same time romantic about all these interconnected computer systems operating at light speed is that deep inside, in their processors and memories, they continue to translate all the data they handle into long strings of zeros and ones, lists that they ultimately subject to innumerable binary sums.
In this light, if we look beyond speeds and interfaces, sizes and forms, perhaps computing has not changed that much since the emergence of the first modern computers seven decades ago, or travelled so far from the earliest inventions and concepts related to mechanical calculation – at least not in its essence.

Photo album

1.jpgVII-1-1 / Analogical telephony


2.jpgVII-2-1 / Protectograph

 

3.jpgVII-3-1 / Kodak photographic camera

 

4.jpgVII-3-2 / Brownie mechanical filming camcorder

 

5.jpgVII-4-1 / Phone central switching board

 

6.jpgVII-4-1 / Headphones