Our incredible shrinking electronics

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I used to talk about all of the incredible improvements in technology my dad had seen since he was a boy. And this was in the 1970s, when he was in his fifties. Now that he’s in his nineties, and I’m in my sixties, I marvel at what I’ve seen myself.

What a marvelous invention is the smartphone, for example. When I first broke into the real world and became a radio news guy, I was commissioned a cassette tape recorder that weighed about 10 pounds that I slung over my shoulder and plugged a microphone into – and that had replaced a reel-to-reel tape recorder that earlier news guys used and probably weighed 35 pounds.

TV needed teams of at least two people, one to handle the interviews and reporting and one to lug and operate the equipment. Notes were taken with pad and paper. If we needed to do research on a story, it involved a trip to the library, a phone call to an expert, or a trip to the newspaper archives.

Now, thanks to the folks who developed the smartphone, there are no cassettes, microphones, recorders, or cameras to lug, the information is right here – it’s all done with a 5-ounce device that fits in the palm of your hand.

Oh, yes, and it makes phone calls, too, and sends short telegraph-style messages or transfers money without driving down to the Western Union office. Oh, and you can watch TV or listen to the radio and/or special programs produced just for consumption on the device.

And oh yes, anyone can produce your own radio-style or TV-style shows that can look pretty darn professional.

Oh, and – you get the picture. It’s all because someone looked at all the electronic devices we were using and realized that with miniaturization we didn’t need many devices – all of those functions could be performed by a single device.

It all happened not when someone decided to think outside the box; it was when they realized there is no box.