Arthur C. Clarke Predicts the Internet, PCs

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Back in 1974, in a TV interview, the legendary science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke predicted, in a fashion, the Internet, home computers, working from home, and other online activities that we take for granted today.

In this YouTube video, courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Mr. Clarke is in the midst of a 1970s era massive computer data center with mainframe equipment, tape drives and monochrome CRT consoles. He talks about how in 2001, you'll be able to, for example, use a home console to check your bank statements or confirm theater reservations. This network will allow businessmen to work, say, out in the country, instead of in a big city. It's a remarkable video showing the remarkable mind of Arthur Clarke 39 years ago.

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9 Comments Leave Your Own

GrahamExton

I wonder how much computing power is in that room? How much more do we carry round with us now?

John Martellaro

Graham: It’s not too hard to figure that out.  Somewhere I have some numbers on 1970s era mainframes like the CDC 7600 and Cray.  Maybe soon, I can get to that.  Meanwhile, an educated guess is a few megaflops for that room.  Today’s i7 iMac at 3 GHz is, VERY roughly, in the 100 gigaflop range. I’ll check on that too.

xmattingly

I remember hearing that Arthur C. Clarke predicted all this stuff, but up ‘til now hadn’t heard him actually describing it. If that’s not the definition of prescient, I don’t know what is.

wab95

The man was a true visionary. Note the complete lack of hesitancy and the clarity with which he describes the future that is now, even the level of detail about the monitors, keyboards, speech access and services. He was an inspiration to many working in science today, present company included.

John, I haven’t crunched the numbers (nor do I have time at the moment; truth be told, I should be doing other things) but I am confident that the MBP Retina Core i7 with its 0.75 TB SSD sitting on my desk outguns, in terms of speed and storage, all the hardware in that room. In fact, for that matter, my iPhone 4S gives it a run for its money.

Those who keep dismissing the iDevices as non-computers and toys don’t appreciate the technological achievement that these devices represent. Indeed, as computers, they run circles round the first mainframes that put man on the moon, let alone the first desktop boxes that saw popular uptake. Better still, they’re not even 10 years old; they’re only getting started.

dmuzzy

I would also recommend reading the short story, The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster. I found it amazing that it was written in 1909. The text is available online (legally, I believe), and should probably be a must-read.

grim

didn’t he also predict geosynchronous satellites? a true genius and visionary.

iJack

@GrahamExton ~ I have frequently read that there is more computing power in an iPhone, that the computers that were used by NASA to send men to the moon.

John Martellaro

iJack.  I believe NASA was using IBM 360 mainframes & Fortran to do the orbital calculations.  The Command and Lunar modules had CPUs that were, as I recall, on the scale of the Apple II or perhaps even less.

iJack

John ~ Isn’t that just amazing?  As far as this old pilot is concerned, that still qualifies as seat-of-the-pants flying!

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