"To see a World in a Grain of Sand… Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand and Eternity in an hour."
To the Romantic poet William Blake, who penned the lines above in 1803, the computer on which you’re reading this essay would have seemed nothing less than a miracle.
And the metaphor is quite apt too: essentially made of specially-prepared sand, computer chips enable us to perform complex calculations at inhuman speeds, enabling us to grasp, albeit tentatively, the infinite and the eternal.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Around 30,000 laptops and 1 million smartphones can fit inside the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), arguably the world’s first general purpose computer. The ENIAC was used in the 1940s to 1950s — not that long ago in the scale of human history. Those who built the ENIAC (incidentally, neither for email nor Facebook) could not have imagined the deluge of convenient computing devices that we now have. In the same amount of time that ENIAC could add two numbers, your computer could have evaluated tens of thousands of chess moves (not to mention your computer is 9000 times lighter!).
This piece is not about the history of computing, it is about (what could be) the future of computing. I warn you, it will seem crazy in some places, at which point I invite you to think of the ENIAC and be inspired to read on some more!
To read more and view the video, click here.