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Shall we need a computer?” You’re unlikely to hear that question, or indeed that grammar, today, but in 1959 it was pressing enough forin the 12 February edition of The New Scientist just to ask it. In a reserved style and wordage unimaginable in contemporary media, E.M.I. offered to advise company movers and shakers struggling with the questions raised by a technology that was then barely a decade old. As proof of its good intentions, the ad has a footnote explaining that the use of transistors “cuts installation costs, saves space, increases working life, minimises cooling and maintenance problems”. Surely there should have been a catch, but as we now know there wasn’t.
Of course, you need a computer
By 1974, advertisers like the tech pioneer Digital were far more confident that all businesses would need computers, and their copywriters had developed more attitude – “Many manufacturers offer low-priced CPUs. Digital included” – and we at New Scientist had lost a word from our title. Digital’sappeared in our 31 January edition. “Here’s what you get,” the company announced: “A new 16-bit CPU with 16K of 980 nanosecond core memory.” There was also a cassette with 150,000 bytes of storage. Admittedly, this was in the cheapest model, but even that would set you back £11,840 – more than £100,000 today. All an operator needed was to learn BASIC and Fortran, and make space for a machine the size of a fridge.
Twenty-five years later and it wasn’t enough for companies to own computers. With the dawn of the internet age every cool corporation had to have a website. Our 15 February 1997 issue carried an advert for New Scientist‘s award-winning, the ancestor of this website. That was also the era of , our weekly column educating readers of paper about what was out there on the internet.
Thehelped readers find their way to a live video about astronauts fixing the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s sad to reflect that few probably knew or cared about the properties of transistor
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