IBM Simon Personal Communicator

IBM_Simon_Personal_CommunicatorThe IBM Simon was the first portable phone that combined modern telephone features with PDA capabilities. It could make cellular calls as well as send/receive faxes, email, and pages. The prototype was unveiled at the 1992 Comdex show and generated a lot of buzz, landing a picture on the front page of USA Today’s Money section. It’s often considered one of the first true smartphones.

It was available for $899 with a two-year contract, and included several apps that are now staples of the modern smart phone. This included a calendar, appointment book, a world clock, and it supported hand written notes on an electronic notepad. It was available with optional accessories such as an RJ11 adapter and a slot for a pager card. The proprietary file system ran under a custom OS dubbed Navigator.

Although it was popular, it was soon eclipsed by other devices beginning to appear on the market and disappeared after only six short months.

Xerox 914

xerox914Introduced in 1959, the Xerox 914 was the first commercially available paper copier. This completely changed the document copying industry and was shown on national television in a live demo. So named because it could print originals up to 9×14, the 914 was so successful, the company that created it changed it’s name once the word Xerox was associated with copying. From there, the Xerox Corporation went on to pioneer a lot of other tech that changed the world, including the modern GUI, desktop copiers, and some of the earliest faxing technology.


programming2Electrophotography, or xerography, was Invented by Chester Carlson in 1938 using an originally cumbersome dry photocopying process. Awarded a patent in 1942, it was later renamed to xerography by the Haloid Photographic Company (later Xerox Corporation) who had agreed to jointly develop a commercial product with Carlson. The new name was meant to differentiate Xerox’s products with competitors and to emphasize it didn’t use any liquid chemicals.

Carlson’s method combined electrostatic printing with photography but it was tedious in that it used flat plates and was mostly a manual process. It would take another 18 years for a fully automated process to be developed with the breakthrough of using a cylindrical drum instead of plates. This would lead to the first commercial copier, the Xerox 914.

Photocopying and the xerography process launched a million scanners, printers, and copiers decades later into the present day and is still in use in most major photocopiers as well as laser and LED printers.


Printed Circuit Boards

memPrinted circuit boards were originally invented in 1936 by Austrian engineer Paul Eisler while working on a radio set. The PCB as it later became known, would revolutionize electronic circuit design and assembly a few decades later. By World War II they were secret technology being used in proximity fuses on bombs, mines, and other munitions by the U.S. military, resulting in a patent that remained classified for nearly forty years.

Providing connections to electrical components via paths etched in copper sheets and then laminated with non-conductive materials, this simple formula was arrived at through a combination of different applications by different scientists in the early 20th century.

The proximity fuse technology was released to the public after the war but it wasn’t until the 1950s when the U.S. Army devised the Auto-Sembly system, eliminating the need for multiple wire leads and reducing the connections to the board. Later advances in lamination and etching pioneered the electronics explosion that began in the 1980s. This was a crucial advancement in electronics, putting this invention in the pantheon of tech that changed the world.


playstationOriginally conceived in Japan in 1986, the first PlayStation was the result of Nintendo trying to work with disc technology. With the invention of CD-ROMS in 1985 by Sony and Philips, Nintendo approached Sony to develop a cd-rom addon to the SNES. For the next few years the two companies worked on the system and planned to announce it in 1991, but after realizing  their contract with Sony gave them control over any titles produced in the format Nintendo secretly cancelled all plans for the system.  In May of that year the chairman of Nintendo, Howard Lincoln, went on stage at the Consumer Electronics Show and announced a partnership with Philips instead of Sony.

Sony ultimately decided to keep working on the system and created a stand-alone console to compete with Nintendo. By 1992 Nintendo and Sony had worked out their differences after a federal lawsuit over the original contract, and Sony moved forward with developing the system on new software and hardware in 1993. The first PlayStation was released in Japan on December 3rd, 1994 and in North America September 9th, 1995 with an original price of $299. A successful launch was fueled by titles such as Battle Arena Toshinden, Warhawk, and Ridge Racer. The original PlayStation production run lasted over 11 years. The longest in the video game industry.

Apple iPhone

iphoneAnnounced and introduced by Apple CEO Steve Jobs in Jan. 2007 after rampant rumors and speculation, the Apple iPhone went on sale June 29th, 2007 to much fanfare. It featured an innovative touch screen interface that launched the multi-touch revolution in mobile phones and spawned a slew of similar devices from competitors. The iPhone was named Invention of the Year by Time Magazine in 2007.

Apple spent an estimated $150 million developing it  under heavy secrecy with Cingular Wireless, which was later bought by AT&T. In 2008 the 3GS version was released, with long lines at retail outlets nationwide.

Both versions of the phone garnered high sales, with the original selling 6.1 million units over five quarters, and by the end of 2009 over 33 million had been sold. The success of the device briefly made Apple the third largest mobile phone manufacturer, eclipsing rival RIM. Today, the phone is still wildly successful, with future plans for a 4G version to come.

GPS Bombs

gpsbombsCNN article; February 9th, 1998
Military researchers have developed a new bomb that is guided by satellites instead of lasers so pilots can hit their targets even during cloudy weather.

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, pilots couldn’t always hit their targets with laser-guided bombs in cloudy weather because clouds interfere with the lasers. If pilots flew beneath the cloud cover to guarantee a hit, they risked exposure to Iraqi anti-aircraft fire.

So the Pentagon ordered researchers at Eglin Air Force Base to develop a solution to the problem. The scientists say they have.

“We’ve capitalized on the ability to use the Global Positioning System,” said scientist Frank Robbins. “We can strike the Earth where we want, in all weather, day or night.”

The Global Positioning System, or GPS, is a series of orbiting satellites developed by the military to pinpoint specific locations on the Earth’s surface.

DVD Burners

dvdrwShort for DVD-Rewritable, a re-recordable DVD format similar to DVD+RW. The data on a DVD-RW disc can be erased and recorded over numerous times without damaging the medium. DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM are supported by Panasonic, Toshiba, Apple Computer, Hitachi, NEC, Pioneer, Samsung, and Sharp.

Quantum Computing

quantum“Quantum computing begins where Moore’s Law ends — about the year 2020, when circuit features are predicted to be the size of atoms and molecules,” says Isaac L. Chuang, who led the team of scientists from IBM Research, Stanford University and the University of Calgary. “Indeed, the basic elements of quantum computers are atoms and molecules.”

Quantum computers get their power by taking advantage of certain quantum physics properties of atoms or nuclei that allow them to work together as quantum bits, or “qubits,” to be the computer’s processor and memory. By interacting with each other while being isolated from the external environment, theorists have predicted — and this new result confirms — that qubits could perform certain calculations exponentially faster than conventional computers.

DDOS Attacks

virusIn early 2000 and 2001 and the late 90s, hackers were becoming more sophisticated in their attacks, moving from traditional methods such as SYN flooding to more malicious attacks like Denial of Service. The first well known attack was against the University of Minnesota in August of 1999, when thousands of machines flooded the school’s network with UDP packets.

In February of 2000, massive attacks were launched against prominent corporate websites such as Microsoft, Amazon, E-bay and many more. These sites suffered complete loss of connectivity to the internet or massive slowdowns. See one of the original news stories here:

Short for denial-of-service attack, a type of attack on a network that is designed to bring the network to its knees by flooding it with useless traffic. Many DoS attacks, such as the Ping of Death and Teardrop attacks, exploit limitations in the TCP/IP protocols. For all known DoS attacks, there are software fixes that system administrators can install to limit the damage caused by the attacks. But, like viruses, new DoS attacks are constantly being dreamed up by hackers.