In fewer than 70 years, the twentieth century went from debuting the horseless carriage to putting a man on the moon. Such rapid development was made possible by many new technologies that were not so much refinements on previous inventions but were wholly new creations.
In the decades since then, we have continued to refine those technologies, making them smaller, faster, and cheaper. In doing so, have we lost the ability to create and innovate?
One chess grandmaster thinks so. Garry Kasparov, who held the title of World Chess Champion from 1985 to 1993, recently pointed to the Apple II as the last technological revolution , marking our country's technological developments since then as indicative of a "culture of optimization." Wrote Oliver Chiang of Forbes:
… humans are still using many of the same fundamental technologies invented in the past couple of centuries, like the internal combustion engine or the airplane. "Call it lack of courage or complacency, but to a certain degree we lost this passion for the sweeping changes," Kasparov said.
I agree with Mr. Kasparov. In 1977, the Apple II was a machine heretofore inaccessible to the average consumer. It was not only a new medium in which to perform existing tasks, such as painting and accounting; the personal computer represented a new way of working and playing. Since then, the function of the personal computer has greatly expanded in scope , thanks in no small part to both the Internet and multimedia capabilities , which have revolutionized such concepts as communications and filmmaking. But the computer itself has not changed much in the last thirty years. Computers have gotten smaller, from mainframes to desktops to laptops to netbooks to smartphones — but they're still counting in ones and zeroes, just more of them than before. When are we going to stop working within the limitation of bits and start tapping the potential of quantum computers and qubits ?
Maybe these developments aren't just in the future; perhaps we already had the right idea but got sidetracked. Is it a coincidence that Mr. Kasparov's reign ended the same year the last Apple II rolled off the production line?