Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Technological Plateau or Plat OH



Last Tuesday evening I, Marcus was running late for a meeting by the lake with the darling wife Agata.

So I scrambled my Bike equipment together (Water bottle, Heart Rate monitor, gloves etcetera...)  I also of course grabbed my trusty OnePlus phone which I primarily use as a Cycle computer with Runkeeper.

But disaster ...  I had not made my daily update of the Beta release of the Android 5.1.1 Operating System (based on Linux Kernel 3.4.67)



Oh well,  I can do that whilst cycling!   So the download was kicked off, paused whilst I was in the Bomb proof basement   (Swiss law you know) retrieving bicycle and resumed as I flew past our Aldi supermarket at about 30Km/h.

At the traffic lights I was able to reboot into the TWRP recovery utility,  apply the update and reboot.

By the time I was in central Lausanne a few minutes later the update had applied and the phone started Android 5.1.1

I made the meeting with Agata and with the phone now fully operational I was able to cycle back with Runkeeper monitoring the cycle ride as well as my Garmin sportswatch, which was the only record on the way down.



What's my point?

I can remember the old way to compile and install a Linux kernel using make and the C compiler 

- It was fairly automated
- But had to be done on the home computer
- Needed an edit of a Configuration file or menu based update
- Not whilst cycling!
- Backouts were not so trivial

Today 


Monty Python: Four Yorkshiremen

Actually,  I am not saying that /We had it tough/ in the old days,  in fact I am saying we had it exciting because the technology was just in its infancy:


Difficult
Without the Internet a monthly magazine or meeting of like minded souls was you entire contact with the community.  You did not search Google for a problem you had to literally ask around.

Not a Commodity
(who was doing it)
Not many people had any idea what you were doing. Writing a program or debugging a compiler error:  people had no idea what you were talking about.

Hardware Pretty Lacking
Hardware was 8bit or 16 bits even at the Mainframe level 32bits. Unreliability meaning just don't power it off or move it was commonplace meaningful advice not a superstition.

Software Lacking
Software just did not do enough. In early word processors for example proportional spacing of text on paper and on screen was just a dream, you wrote in a tagged language that was formatted, you could not see the formatting mistakes until printed, and colour, well again a dream.

There was no Graphical User Interface  (GUI)

Applications were so slow that software optimisation had to make best use of resources like memory


Concrete Examples (vs old skool)
Today in 2015:Bittorrent Sync some 10GB of research papers to a friend 6000Km away in just a few hours  (vs post papers or a hard disk taking weeks)

2015: Install a new OS kernel in 5 minutes  (vs make -compile one in about one hour)

Today: Cloud Sync 10TB data in weeks (vs get on a plane with 10, 1TB hard disks and take to the offsite datastore every few months, oh and bring the old disks back)

Then: QHD resolution on my PC 10 years ago (vs QHD resolution today on my flippin Smartphone)

Then: UNIX running on my Server in 1980 inside 256KB memory (vs Linux running on my phone using  3,145,728 KB memory)

Then: GPS portable navigator in 1997 qualifying me as a space alien, vs today GPS with maps on every Smartphone in the house with turn by turn navigation and Adaptive congestion routing.




Summary
It used to be a continual battle getting the technology I had to work fast enough.  Plus at the time few people even knew what the technology was.

Today, my Computer and Electronics technology is commodity based, relatively cheap, and often so fast and capable that any Upgrade would seem to be just ridiculous.

On the flip side I don't see great new Technology chasms opening up for youngsters to grapple with.  Sadly today it is more like polishing the car than re-inventing or creating it.

Today, by my old skool standards:

Everything works more than just fine.  

Fantastic.