Theres a very special anniversary coming up this week that can lay claim to being one of the key events that marked the global birth of todays sophisticated information technology industry.
On the first of October, 1958 - 50 years ago - Americas National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) started operations. While perhaps not exactly the birth of the space age, this comes pretty close to it. NASAs work over the past 50 years nothwithstanding the landing of the first man on the moon in July 1969 has prompted many of the technological advances that we take for granted today.
The critical restrictions on mass and payload, forced by sending capsules into space, prompted NASA to develop micro-processors, which were the ancestors of what makes laptop computers possible today.
NASAs advancement of satellite technology prompted the birth of global information and communications technology, which led to the vast array of satellite services telephony, GPS, networking and more that has shrunk the globe and made us all closer neighbors on planet Earth.
Its said that the average household computer today, vastly surpasses the computing power used on the Apollo missions, famous for their moon landings, but the ultimate courage, in taking the risk of rocketing mankind into outer space, has had incredible technology spin offs for humanity.
Some recent space-generated technologies include a medical diagnostic software tool that measures the thickness of arteries, a non-invasive medical device that improves blood flow to the heart and brain, and a technology that safely removes petroleum-based pollutants from water or soil. The anti-drag suit, worn by US swimming champion Michael Phelps, who won a world-record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games, also stemmed from NASA research.
Technology has now become so commonplace that many people forget that there is a permanent international space station now continually orbiting earth and carrying out a multitude of experiments. Its actually due for completion next year.
Having watched Neil Armstrong place his foot on the moon, on television, in my school hall back in 1969, I have since been fascinated with technology and how it can change lives for the better. Happy birthday NASA!
Ross O. Storey, currently the Managing Editor of Fairfax Business Media Asia, is responsible for the editorial content and production of MIS Asia, CIO Asia, Computerworld Singapore and Computerworld Malaysia magazines.
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