Tools are objects other than the parts of our own bodies that we use to help us do our work. Technology is nothing more than the use of tools. When you use a screwdriver, a hammer, or an axe, you are using technology just as much as when you use an automobile, a television set, or a computer.
We tend to think of technology as a human invention. But the reverse is closer to the truth. Stone tools found along with fossils show that our ape-like ancestors were already putting technology to use. The clever rather than the strong inherited the earth.
Most of the tools we have invented have aided our bodies rather than our minds. These tools help us lift and move and cut and shape. Only quite recently, for the most part, we developed tools to aid our minds as well.
The tools for communication, from pencil and paper to television, are designed to serve our minds. These devices transmit information or preserve it, but they do not modify it in any way.
Our interest lies with machines that classify and modify information rather than merely transmitting it or preserving it. The machines that do this are the computers and the calculators, the so-called mind tools. The widespread use of machines for information processing is a modern development. But simple examples of information-processing machines can be traced back to ancient times. The following are some of the more important forerunners of the computer.
The Abacus.The abacus is the counting frame that was the most widely used device for doing arithmetic in ancient times and whose use persisted into modern times in the Orient. Early versions of the abacus consisted of a board with grooves in which pebbles could slide.
Mechanical Calculators.In the 17th century, calculators more sophisticated than the abacus began to appear. Although a number of people contributed to their development usually are singled out as pioneers. As manufacturing techniques improved, mechanical calculators eventually were perfected; they were used widely until they were replaced by electronic calculators in recent times.
The Jacquard Loom.Until modern times, most information-processing machines were designed to do arithmetic. An outstanding exception was jacquard’s automated loom, a machine designed not for hard figures but beautiful patterns. A jacquard loom weaves cloth containing a decorative pattern; the woven pattern is controlled by punched cards. Changing the punched cards changes the pattern the loom weaves.
Tomas Edison is a great American inventor. He had over 1300 inventions to his name. Many of them, like the light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera were brilliant creations that have a huge influence on our everyday life. But his favourite one was the phonograph.
While working on improvements to the telegraph and the telephone, Edison figured out a way to record sound on tinfoil-coated cylinders. In 1877, he created a machine with two needles: one for recording and one for playback. When Edison spoke into the mouthpiece, the sound vibrations of his voice would be indented onto the cylinder by the recording needle. "Mary had a little lamb" were the first words that Edison recorded on the phonograph. In 1878, Edison established the Edison Speaking Phonograph Company to sell the new machine. Edison suggested other uses for the phonograph, such as: letter writing and dictation, phonographic books for blind people, a family record (recording family members in their own voices), music boxes and toys, clocks that announce the time, and a connection with the telephone so communications could be recorded.
However, not everything he created was a success; he also had a few failures. One concept that never took off was Edison's interest in using cement to build things. He formed the Edison Portland Cement Co. in 1899, and made everything from cabinets (for phonographs) to pianos and houses. Unfortunately, at the time, concrete was too expensive and the idea was never accepted. Cement wasn't a total failure, though. His company was hired to build Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
The Internet is the worldwide, publicly accessible network of interconnected computer networks that transmit data by packet switching using the standard Internet Protocol (IP). It is a ‘network of networks’ that consists of millions of smaller domestic, academic, business, and government networks, which together carry various information and services, such as electronic mail, online chat, file transfer, and the interlinked Web pages and other documents of the World Wide Web.
Contrary to some common usage, the Internet and the World Wide Web are not synonymous: the Internet is a collection of interconnected computer networks, linked by copper wires, fiber-optic cables, wireless connections, etc.; the Web is a collection of interconnected documents and other resources, linked by hyperlinks and URLs. The World Wide Web is accessible via the Internet, as are many other services including e-mail, file sharing, and others.
Aside from the complex physical connections that make up its infrastructure, the Internet is facilitated by bi- or multi-lateral commercial contracts (e.g., peering agreements), and by technical specifications or protocols that describe how to exchange data over the network. Indeed, the Internet is essentially defined by its interconnections and routing policies.
Through keyword-driven Internet research using search engines, like Google, millions worldwide have easy, instant access to a vast and diverse amount of online information. Compared to encyclopedias and traditional libraries, the World Wide Web has enabled a sudden and extreme decentralization of information and data.
The Internet allows computer users to connect to other computers and information stores easily, wherever they may be across the world. They may do this with or without the use of security, authentication and encryption technologies, depending on the requirements.
This is encouraging new ways of working from home, collaboration and information sharing in many industries. An accountant sitting at home can audit the books of a company based in another country, on a server situated in a third country that is remotely maintained by IT specialists in a fourth. These accounts could have been created by home-working book-keepers, in other remote locations, based on information e-mailed to them from offices all over the world. Some of these things were possible before the widespread use of the Internet, but the cost of private, leased lines would have made many of them infeasible in practice.
An office worker away from his desk, perhaps the other side of the world on a business trip or a holiday, can open a remote desktop session into his normal office PC using a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection via the Internet. This gives him complete access to all his normal files and data, including e-mail and other applications, while he is away.