Radio Boxes

As a quick follow up to my previous post on cloud computing predictions for 2015, here’s something that seems amusing and quaint today, but certainly gives us something to think about when we’re looking at technology forecasts.

I was reading the Toronto Globe and Mail on Saturday January 3, 2015 when I noticed the flashback page from 100 years ago (see page R3).  What caught my eye was an article by Archibald S. Houpt, entitled “Radio Box.”  The full text is as follows:

“In this weary time of war, we are wary of optimism, it is true, though there is one development on the horizon that, in our desire for distractions within our domicile, we must admit piques our interest. For many years, we have listened with much eagerness as seamen and amateur enthusiasts have evangelized on behalf of wireless communication, and now we have heard that the radio box, as they call it, may become more widely available in 1915.  Imagine, if you will, receiving weather reports in Morse code in your very own sitting room!  In time, we are told, we may even hear music played from afar!  Some more eager enthusiasts foresee a day when the device might enable citizens to hear directly for the leaders of this great country, or even His Majesty, King George V!  Naturally, we are cautious, but the edifying potential of the medium seems to us to be great indeed.”

Looking back 100 years certainly adds a new perspective to my attempt to predict one year ahead.

You can certainly say that today’s wireless “radio boxes” have surpassed all expectations when viewed from a 1915 perspective!  No need to have been cautious or to be wary of optimistic expectations.

To be fair, I cannot imagine receiving weather forecasts in my “sitting” room via Morse code when today I can get full colour, full motion weather on my phone, tablet and perhaps soon my watch.  I even tried learning Morse code 50 years ago and was a definite failure at it.

Hearing music from afar and hearing the King speak has certainly come true as well.  Our ability to see the Queen delivering her annual Christmas message on television and over the Internet validates the enthusiast’s eagerness.  No doubt even the most enthusiastic seamen and amateurs would be astounded by the oceans of data we are now drowning in!

The jump from the possibility of receiving Morse code in the domicile (1915) to room-sized mainframes and 1200 baud modems (1965) to super-computers in our hand held phones, cars driving themselves, and the Internet of Things (2015) illustrates just how far we have come in such a relatively short time.

It’s also interesting to identify the underlying assumptions in the article:

  • Fixed reception (in the sitting room)
  • Digital communications (via Morse code)
  • Wireless (radio boxes)
  • Need for information and distractions (in the domicile)
  • Existence of enthusiasts (now called early adopters)
  • Need for caution (i.e., keeping user expectations in check)

This begs the question: Looking forward 100 years from now, what will people think about the “SMAC” technologies we are so enthusiastic about today…….

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Don Sheppard
Don Sheppard
I'm a IT management consultant. I began my career in railways and banks after which I took up the consulting challenge! I try to keep in touch with a lot of different I&IT topics but I'm usually working in areas that involve service management and procurement. I'm into developing ISO standards, current in the area of cloud computing (ISO JTC1/SC38). I'm also starting to get more interested in networking history, so I guess I'm starting to look backwards as well as forwards! My homepage is but I am found more here.

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