Technologies May Come and Go, but Knowledge is Forever

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  • Author: Gary Breed
Today’s dominant technology is guaranteed to be replaced by something else in the future—sometimes the very near future. For example, in historical terms, analog cellular technology existed just for an eyeblink, even less for most of the early digital formats. Now we have various technologies for high data rate 4G competing for a place in the wireless market, but even as the first LTE and WiMAX networks are being built, there is already talk about how the next generation of wireless may merge the technical strengths of both. The displacement of past technologies isn’t always so fast. We just completed a transition to digital broadcast television that has been in the works since the early 1990s. The analog NTSC technology it replaced was developed before World War II, with color capability added in 1953. Our AM broadcast technology goes back more than 100 years, although an overlaid digital system is now used by some stations. FM is operating similarly, but the technology developed by Armstrong isn’t quite as old as AM, dating to the 1930s. The slower change in radio broadcasting can be attributed to entrenched commercial interest by the broadcasters, the monetary and social cost of change, and by a low level of interest in those particular frequency bands by competing wireless technologies. Still, despite the long lifetime of radio broadcast technology, it is now changing to digital transmission technologies.