Where technology brought us 

John Deere Store
1300 River Drive Suite 100
Moline, IL 61265

Birdsell Chiropractic
1201 5th Ave
Moline, IL 61265

2484 53 St
Bettendorf, IA 52722

17th St and 5th Ave
Moline, IL 61265

2132 E 11 St
Davenport, IA

1422 5th Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Teske Pet & Garden Center
2432 16 St
Moline, IL 61265

Teske Pet & Garden Center
2395 Spruce Hills Dr
Bettendorf, IA 52722

Moline Welding Inc
1801 2 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Barnett's House of Fireplaces
1620 5th Ave
Moline, IL 61265

DeGreve Oil Change
2777 18 St
Bettendorf, IA 52722

DeGreve Oil Change
3400 State St
Bettendorf, IA 52722

DeGreve Oil Change
3900 N Pine
Davenport, IA

DeGreve Oil change
2125 53 St
Moline, IL 61265

DeGreve Oil Change
1618 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

DeGreve Oil change
3560 N Brady St
Davenport, IA

1305 5 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Pratt's Antiques
125 E Main St
Aledo, IL 61231

Main St Antiques
114 E Main St
Aledo, IL 61231

Conner Co
PO Box 888
East Moline, IL 61244

Kimball Cleaners
308 SW 5th Ave
Aledo, IL 61231

Williams Studio
New Windsor, IL 61465

Andalusia, IL 61232

Hideaway Plastics
1801 17 St
PO Box 379
Viola, IL 61486

Deer & Co Credit Union
3950 38 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

2018 4 Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Walcott Trust & Savings Bank
101 W Bryant St
PO Box 108
Walcott, IA 52773

Mississippi Laser
7700 47 St
Milan, IL 61264

Longs Carpet
4200 11 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Roth Pump
Box 4330
Rock Island, IL 61201

Hughes Telephone
1117 Blackhawk Rd
Rock Island, IL 61201

ASAP Equipment
4730 44 St

Taylor Garages
Airport Rd
Milan, IL 61264

Michael Warner, Attorney
1600 4th Ave, Suite 410
Rock Island, IL 61201

Kansas City Life
5019 34 Ave B
Moline, IL 61265

Dr. Romeo
1705 2nd Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Morton Building
Highway 6
Atkinson, IL

Pathway Hospice
500 42
Rock Island, IL 61201

QC Carbide
1510 17 St
East Moline, IL 61244

Lyss Chiropractic
5500 30 Ave
Moline, IL 61201

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Computers: Who'd want that contraption?

By Tory Brecht, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

``Six computers should be sufficient for all the world's requirements,'' said an IBM executive in the mid-1950s.

In the wired modern world, where continents are separated by milliseconds via modem and first-graders navigate the Internet, the notion we could get by at work or home without the ubiquitous machines seems quaint.

However, the explosion in computer technology is a very recent phenomenon. Even in the mid-'80s, most people who had home computers were hobbyists and tinkerers, said James Bladel of Davenport, a computer science graduate of the University of Iowa.

``In the beginning, people had to write their own programs,'' said Mr. Bladel, director of technical services for Crystal Group, an Iowa company that manufactures telecommunications computers. ``If you wanted a word-processing program or spreadsheet, you had to write it yourself.''

It should be remembered, Mr. Bladel said, that throughout computers' development, only a few visionaries saw their full potential. In fact, when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak designed some of the first small, personal computers in a California garage in the late 1970s, no one was willing to market them. The pair went on to found Apple Computers.

``The thinking was, `Who would want one of these contraptions in their house?''' he said.

Although the computer did not become a common household tool until the 1990s, its origins date to the 19th Century.

Charles Babbage, an English mathematician and inventor, is considered the father of modern computing. He was the first person to realize a computing machine must be composed of an input device; a memory, which he called The Store; a central processing unit, which he called The Mill;, and an output device.

Mr. Babbage's machine was designed to make mathematical calculations mechanically. The theory was, you could enter numbers and turn a crank and it would generate a result, said Mr. Bladel. Unfortunately, though the theory was sound, fabrication techniques at the time made the machine impossible to build.

In 1991, though, the National Museum of Science and Technology in London built a working machine using Babbage's plans and parts available to him at the time. Weighing hundreds of pounds and operated with a hand crank, it has never generated an incorrect answer.

The next breakthrough occurred in 1890, primarily due to the miserable results of the 1880 U.S. census. The nation's growing population made traditional counting inadequate. Results from 1880 weren't completed until 1887. The census bureau needed an automated counting machine. German immigrant Herman Hollerith came up with the design.

Mr. Hollerith had seen how weavers attempting complicated patterns on a loom used a long roll of paper with instructions punched in holes that directed the loom's shuttle, rather than doing it by hand. He decided if he could encode each U.S. household into a series of punch dots and then build a machine to count the dots, he would have a census-counting machine. Called the Punch Card Tabulating Machine, it was a smashing success.

``He went on to form a little company now called International Business Machines,'' said Mr. Bladel, ``which we know as IBM.''

By World War II, it was obvious something was needed for organizing large amounts of information and performing complex calculations quickly. Targeting for bombing, artillery and naval torpedoes was all done by hand, on paper, by servicemen adept at fast trigonometry, said Mr. Bladel.

Seeing that the new war technology was becoming too complicated for even the quickest mathematicians, the U.S. military commissioned IBM to develop an electronic tool to do the math for them.

It wasn't until three years after the war ended, 1948, that the army's math machine, called ENIAC, was finished.

``It took up a whole room, an army of vacuum tubes and could only perform the tasks of our current desk calculators,'' said Mr. Bladel.

The military continued to be the primary market for computing machines into the 1950s. The NORAD system, an early warning defense radar system covering North America was developed, with far-flung stations tied together through a computer system.

According to IBM's Website, the new room-sized computers began to catch on for business applications, such as billing, payroll and inventory control.

The airline industry was one of the first to see the benefits of computers in a business setting. American Airlines used technology similar to NORAD's, called SABRE, to computerize routing and ticket reservations. The rest of the airlines soon followed suit.

In the late 1950s and early '60s, the switch to digital systems from analog allowed computers to be made smaller, cheaper and faster, said Mr. Bladel. At the same time, the transistor and the binary numbering system were developed, which further speeded computer processing.

``At this time, IBM takes its success with the airlines and starts to develop machines for other large companies like banks, corporations and government agencies,'' said Mr. Bladel. ``This lasts through the '60s and '70s. Universities also started organizing computer science programs as an extension of math and engineering.''

As students started learning computers and taking that technology home with them, tinkerers and innovators like Mr. Jobs and Mr. Wozniak started designing personal computers, computer operating systems and software.

One of the big watershed moments came when IBM decided to make their technology public domain, rather than keeping it in-house, said Mr. Bladel.

``It was the smartest business move you could make, because people started developing business applications and programs,'' he said. ``This was highlighted in the mid-'80s when IBM chose a company called Microsoft to provide its operating system. This is when you started to see computers in many, many businesses.

``They were inexpensive and powerful to the point where everyone could have them on their desk. Businesses became automated.''

It was also in the 1980s that a company called Novell developed the hardware and software to link these new desktop computers together in networks. The military had developed a linked CPU network in the '70s called ARPANET, which linked military installations, defense contractors and universities doing military research together.

As the ARPANET became less dedicated to military uses and was used more as a research tool, businesses also began using the network as a means for communication and reference. This was the birth of the Internet.

``Businesses then began to realize they could market themselves using this medium,'' said Mr. Bladel. ``At first, it was limited mostly to people in the computer industry, but it eventually became more mainstream.''

One reason for the slow initial growth of the Internet was because it was a text-only system. However, a computer program called MOSAIC, developed in the early '90s, was the first browser capable of displaying images.

Internet usage exploded.

``By the late '90s, the computer geeks became mainstream,'' said Mr. Bladel. ``Now, companies are finding ways to offer goods and services directly online. People can buy a car or secure a mortgage or buy a new computer without talking to a sales rep or going to a store.''

This is only the beginning, predicts Mr. Bladel.

He believes the Internet will begin to replace standard telephone systems as the primary means of communication for individuals and businesses as computers migrate from text and pictures to real-time voice and video.

``People will begin to demand of telephone and cable companies faster and faster Internet connections to their homes,'' he said. ``Homes with computers will become almost universal, and more homes will have multiple computers.''

As computers become standard, online shopping will become a much more acceptable and viable way of doing business, Mr. Bladel said. He also predicts more people will get their news, weather and sports by electronic means.

``Computers will become more mobile,'' he said. ``People will have access to the Internet in their cars, in public kiosks and airplanes.''

The modern lament of too much information flooding us in too many forms -- fax, e-mail, voice mail -- also will be addressed.

``One of the latest trends is unified messaging,'' Mr. Bladel said ``This will intercept your fax, e-mail and voice mail messages and put them in one place that can be reached from a single point of contact.''

Perhaps with faster Internet access and unified messaging, we'll reap all the time-saving benefits computers promised us in the first place, Mr. Bladel said.

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.