The first mobile phones weighed a few pounds, sported an awkward antenna, and were the size of a small briefcase. Today’s mobile devices tout the ability to quickly upload photos while on vacation, verify owner identity by fingerprint or facial recognition, or make a purchase while simultaneously streaming a movie. These features and technologies are so ingrained into our daily lives, we often take them for granted.
A few small sensors and a Raspberry Pi control the watering system in Taweesak Phuengprasit’s family’s farm in the Ang Thong province in Thailand. Phuengprasit, who has been working as a technician in Western Digital’s hard drive manufacturing plant for the last 10 years, picked up his smart farming skills at the factory.
The most-played game of the 2000s was not Wii Sports, Grand Theft Auto, or The Sims. It was Minesweeper. The boxed minefields came preloaded on Windows starting in 1992, when the game was so mesmerizing that Bill Gates used to sneak into his friend’s office just to play. The original function of Minesweeper was to teach players how to use right- and left-click, but it was beloved decades beyond providing mastery of this skill. Microsoft didn’t remove Minesweeper until Windows 8 was released in 2012, at which point another game had taken the throne: an intriguingly purposeless indie sandbox called Minecraft.
The assumption that every technology will continue to get faster and better has become second nature much in thanks to Moore’s Law. As Moore’s Law predicted, the number of transistors on an integrated circuit have doubled at a steady pace since 1965 (initially every year, later adjusted to roughly every two), bringing exponential increases to computing power. For more than half a century Moore’s Law held true with stunning precision, helping turn brick-sized telephones into handheld supercomputers.