World Of Technology Changes At An Ever-Increasing Rate

photo of John Michael Pierobon By: John Michael Pierobon

I have just returned from a two-week trip to London and Washington.

While in London, I was reminded of the fact that Florida was never part of the British empire. Florida was a part of the Spanish empire for over 100 years before the English came to America. Back then the world changed very slowly.

In Washington, I had Sunday afternoon off, so I went to the National Air & Space Museum. While there, I was reminded of the fact that today Americans have more computing power on their desk than NASA had when they sent a man to the moon. What was rocket science equipment 30 years ago, today is just another household item.

Today's PC, which you can buy for under US$1,000, comes with more than 2,000 times the amount of memory I had when I was working in the computer graphics laboratory as graduate student less than twenty years ago. Where will technology be 20 or 30 years from now?

No one can accurately predict that, but here are some undisputed facts to help answer the question.

Moore's Law states that the computer chips will double in processing power every 18 months. This has been holding true ever since Gordon Moore came up with his law about three decades ago. Moore is one of the founders of Intel. Eventually the laws of physics will bring an end to Moore's Law, new chip manufacturing techniques will postpone this fact until well into the next century. Who knows what will be invented then to prolong Moore's Law.

The U. S. Patent & Trademark Office is bigger than it ever was before, and downsizing government is not going to stop the ever increasing number of patent applications. Today, the U. S. Patent & Trademark Office occupies parts of 12 different buildings in northern Virginia and has 5,000 employees. In 1998, they trained 728 new patent examiners.

Over the past decade, IBM, has been awarded more patents than anyone else. IBM is the world's largest computer company. In 1996, IBM spent US$4.7 billion on research and development, which is greater than the GDP of Belize, Guyana and dozens of other third world nations.

But IBM is only one of the 30 Dow Jones Industrials. How much did the other 29 companies spend on research and development? And what about Intel, Cisco, Dell, and the other high technology companies that are not part of the Dow? The fact is that corporate America spends hundreds of billions of dollars in research in development each year. And the government chips in too. So do universities.

NASA has a staff of talented people dedicated to help companies bring to market all the neat technology that gets developed as part of the space program.

Sun Microsystems and Silicon Graphics got their start from Stanford. (Sun really stands for Stanford University Network.) Netscape got its start at the University of Illinois. Lycos came from Carnegie-Mellon University.

Given all the time, money and effort being spent on new technology today, and the fact that it is increasing, reassures me that the pace of technological innovations will only increase in the future.

John Michael Pierobon is an Internet consultant based in Fort Lauderdale.
John Michael may be reached by sending electronic mail to

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