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FASCINATING FACTS AND FIGURES
ABOUT ALL ASPECTS OF
THE INFORMATION SOCIETY
Bits & Bytes
Newspapers & Magazines
The World Wide Web
The Information Age
BITS & BYTES
- At the heart of the information technology revolution is digitalisation : a process of converting information in all forms into the 0/1 on/off digital language of the computer. Each 0 or 1 is known as a binary digit - or bit - a term first used by Claude Shannon in the July 1948 issue of "Bell System Technical Journal".
- A byte is eight bits. The term was invented by Werner Buchholz in the 1950s. Originally it stood for the smallest amount of data from which a computer could make a calculation
- A kilobyte (KB) is 1,024 bytes.
- A megabyte (MB) is 1,024 kilobytes.
- A gigabyte (GB) is 1,024 megabytes.
- A terabyte (TB) is 1,024 gigabytes.
- A petabyte (PB) is 1,024 terabytes.
- A exabyte (EB) is 1,024 petabytes.
- A zettabyte (ZB) is 1,024 exabytes.
- Bandwidth - the amount of information which can be carried on an electronic transmission system - is measured in terms of bits a second (bps) or (the same thing) baud, a term derived from the scientist Emile Baudot.
- A lot of information needs to be converted from analogue form to digital signals (modulation) before it can be transmitted digitally and then, at the end of the network, reconverted from digital to analogue (demodulation) and, for this purpose, a device called a modem is used.
- In the same way that a bit is the basic element of information, so a pixel - a term which comes from the words picture and element - is the basic level of graphics.
- A typical screen with 1,000 x 1,000 pixels in full colour needs 24 million bits of memory.
- In the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), the letter A is represented in binary terms as the number 65 which is expressed as 01000001.
- The transistor - the origin of the semi-conductor or microelectronics industry - was invented in 1947 by Bell Laboratory scientists William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain.
- The silicon integrated circuit which is more commonly known as the chip - a device containing many interconnected transistors - was invented simultaneously in 1959 at Fairchild Semiconductor by Robert Noyce and at Texas Instruments by Jack Kilby.
- Moore's Law - first conceived in 1965 by Gordon Moore, later co-founder of Intel - predicts that on average the number of transistors on a microchip will double every 18 months and so far the 'Law' has proved valid.
- Moore's second law - much less quoted - is that the cost of chip manufacturing doubles with each generation of chip.
- The microprocessor - a special kind of chip that includes the functions of the central processing unit (CPU) of a computer - was first made by Intel in 1971 from a design by Marcian Hoff.
- The first microprocessor in 1971 had 2,300 transistors.
- The 1978 Intel 8086 microprocessor had 29,000 transistors and ran at 5MHz.
- The 2003 Intel Pentium 4 microprocessor has 55 million transistors and runs at 3GHz (which is more than 600 times faster than the 8086).
- The physical limit to the addition of transistors on a chip is expected to be reached in about 2010.
- The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. He called his assistant Thomas Watson in the next room and announced: "Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you".
- Bell disliked the telephone and refused to have one in his study; when he died in 1922, every telephone served by the Bell system in the USA and Canada was silent for one minute.
- In 1876, a Western Union internal memo noted : "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is of no value to us" .
- In 1879, W. H. Preece, then Post Office Assistant Engineer in Chief, testified to a House of Commons Committee that, whatever the situation in the USA, Britain had little use of the telephone because : "Here we have a superabundance of messengers, errand boys and things of that kind" .
- The automatic exchange was invented in 1889 by Kansas undertaker Almon B. Strowger as a means of preventing telephone operators from advising his rivals of the death of local citizens.
- Optical fibre was invented in 1966 by two British scientists called Charles Kao and George Hockham working for the British company Standard Telecommunication Laboratories ("Power of Speech", Peter Young, 1983).
- Optical transmission systems use miniature lasers smaller than a grain of salt which generate signals which pass down glass fibre as fine as human hair and travel at the fastest speed known to physics, the speed of light which is 186,281 miles per second.
- Most satellite communications systems utilise transponders circling in a geo-stationary orbit which is 22,240 miles above the earth's surface and, at this height, these satellites appear to be stationary above the earth's surface - such satellites can cost $60 million to build but only three of them are needed to cover all of the earth's surface.
- The Samaritans' telephone service for potential suicides was introduced in 1953 following an article in "Picture Post" by the Rev Chad Varah on the subject of sex; a number of those who subsequently wrote to him wanted to end it all.
- A "hotline" between the White House and the Kremlin was not instituted until 1963; even then, it was only a teleprinter link and not until 1984 was a telephone connection installed.
- The NASDAQ stock exchange in the USA - a world centre of capitalism - was totally disabled in December 1987 when a squirrel burrowed through a telephone line.
- The mobile phone was invented by a team led by Martin Cooper at Motorola in 1973. It weighed two kilos and the battery life was a mere 20 minutes.
- In 1998, for the first time worldwide the number of new mobile telephones exceeded the number of new fixed telephones.
- Sometime in 2003, the total number of mobile telephones worldwide exceeded the total number of fixed telephones.
- The first text message to be sent by mobile telephone was sent on 3 December 1992 when messaging engineer Neil Papworth of British technology company Sema sent the (premature) greeting "Merry Christmas" to Richard Jarvis, a director of mobile company Vodafone.
- Each short message service (SMS) text can be up to 160 characters in length when Latin alphabets are employed and 70 characters when non-Latin alphabets such as Arabic and Chinese are used.
- Before Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1438, there were only about 30,000 books throughout the whole of Europe, nearly all Bibles or biblical commentary.
- The printing press was introduced to Britain by William Caxton in 1468.
- By 1500, there were more than 9 million books on all sorts of topics.
- All material published prior to 1501 is known collectively as incunabula.
- Today there are over 24 million books in the US Library of Congress alone.
- The world's libraries now store well over 100 million original volumes.
- Iceland publishes more books per head of population than any other country in the world.
- The world's biggest book store is a virtual one : amazon.com holds some 2.5 million titles.
- Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French journalist suffering from 'locked in syndrome', wrote the book "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" by blinking his left eyelid - the only part of his body that could move.
- The temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns is 451°F or 233°C.
- The printed version of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" ran to 32 volumes weighing about 60 kilos and occupying 5 feet of shelf length, whereas the CD-ROM version consisted of two discs weighing 179 grams and occupying just 1 inch of shelf space - and it cost 1/7 of the price.
- The "Encyclopaedia Britannica" - a word of 44 million words - used to be available in 32 volumes at around £3,000, then became available on two CD-ROMs for £99, and is now available on-line for free.
- The Braille system, which enables blind people to read, is named after the Frenchman Louis Braille who was blind from the age of three and devised the six-dot embossed code on which the system is based.
- The British system of Braille, which dates from 1868, only uses lower case and there is now a debate about introducing capitalisation which would add up to 10% to the length of documents and books.
NEWSPAPERS & MAGAZINES
- Paper as we know it was invented in AD 185 by a Chinaman called Cai Lun who used the inner bark of the mulberry tree for fibre.
- The most famous headline in the "New York Post" was "Headless Body Found In Topless Bar".
- One celebrated copy of the "New York Times" contained 1,612 pages and 12 million words which is more data than a person living in the 17th century would have encountered in a lifetime.
- An analysis of more than 2 million cuttings from all the main British national and regional daily newspapers found that there are 15 times more items of bad news than those of good news.
- In a move described as changing journalism forever, the first case of a newspaper 'scooping' itself occurred on 28 February 1997 when the "Dallas Morning News" reported on the Internet - a full day before it appeared in print - that Timothy McVeigh, a suspect in the Oklahoma City bombing, had confessed to the crime ("Independent", 11.3.97).
- Our current notational system for music was developed by Guido d'Arrezo in the 10th century.
- The phonograph - the first machine that could both record and reproduce sound - was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877.
- In 1896, the American Thaddeus Cahill filed a patent on the "art of and apparatus for generating and distributing music electronically" and until 1914 Cahill's Telharmoniums fed music signals down AT&T's telephone lines in New York.
- The LP - long playing record - was invented when sound engineer Paul Goldmark perfected microgrooves in 1948.
- The digital compact disc (CD) was launched in the UK in 1983.
- Sales of CDs surpassed those of vinyl in the UK in 1988.
- Sales of CDs exceeded 1.8 billion worldwide in 2002.
- Sales of singles in the UK fell by 14% in 2003 to 65 million - hit by CDs and down-loads.
- MP3 - short for Motion Picture Experts Group 1 Layer 3 - is a format for encoding and compressing music for electronic storage and distribution and provides a quality close to that of a CD.
- According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, in January 2004 there were some 900M illegal MP3 music files available on the Net offered by 6.3M users of peer-to-peer software.
- In the last week of 2004, UK downloads of singles exceeded CD and vinyl sales for the first time.
- Radio was invented by Guglielmo Marconi in 1896.
- On 31 October 1938, the 23-year old actor Orson Welles caused consternation in the USA with his dramatic radio broadcast of the H G Wells novel "The War of the Worlds" - many Americans were convinced that Martians had landed.
- The first commercial transister radio was the Regency TR1 which went on the market in the USA in 1954.
- When Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic stopped the independent radio station B-92 from off-air broadcasting in December 1996, the station continued to advise the world on the anti-government demonstrations by providing digital broadcasts using audio Internet links and its Web site.
- The first man to show true television pictures was John Logie Baird in 1926.
- Britain's television service was suspended for defence reasons in 1939, ending - without explanation - midway through a Mickey Mouse cartoon.
- Britain's television service was resumed in 1946 when Leslie Mitchell - in typical English fashion - commented : "As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted" .
- In 1946, Daryl F. Zanuck, Head of 20th Century Fox, stated : "People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night".
- In the Kingdom of Bhutan, televisions were only allowed in 1999.
- Today the world has three analogue television standards: the USA and Japan uses National Television Systems Committee (NTSC), most of the Europe uses Phase Alternating Line (PAL), and France uses SEquential Couleur Avec Memoire (SECAM).
- In Britain, the largest public service broadcaster is the BBC which employs 27,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than £3 billion.
- The first film presented publicly on screen was "La Sortie des Ouvriere des l'Usine Lumière" which was shown by Auguste and Louis Lumiere in Paris in 1895.
- The first film to use sound was "The Jazz Singer" released in 1927 and the first words heard - spoken by Al Jolson - were: "Wait a minute, you ain't heard nothing yet".
- There are now about 140,000 cinemas around the world.
- Around 50% of the films made in the USA never achieve a cinema release.
- India produces more films each year - around 800 or twice the output of Hollywood - than any other country.
- The largest screen projection system in the world is the Canadian-pioneered IMAX system which uses 65mm film to project an image five storeys high.
- Disney's "Toy Story" was the first-ever full-length animated feature created entirely by artists using computer technology - it lasted 77 minutes and cost $30 million.
- The loudest film in cinema history was "Armageddon", the climax of which scored a record 110 decibels compared to the recommended maximum noise level in the US of 87.
- The most expensive film ever made, James Cameron's "Titanic" which cost $200 million, was also the most successful, in the sense that it won 11 Academy Awards equalling "Ben Hur" in 1959. Later, "The Lord Of The Ring; The Return Of The King" also won 11 Oscars.
- A complete feature film is at least 1.5 terabytes which makes it difficult to move around as a whole between different post-production houses, but some 30 companies have come together to develop a wide area network called Sohonet which uses asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) technology to link production houses in the Soho area, outside London, and in Hollywood.
- The first film made for the Web was a $3 million 30-minute comedy called "Quantum Project" directed by Eugenio Zanetti in 2000.
- The first film shot entirely on digital cameras was "Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones" directed by George Lucas in 2001.
- The first real electronic game - on a digital computer with a CRT - was called Spacewars and it was programmed in 1961 by Steve Russell at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- The first video game arcade machine was called Computer Space (an arcade version of the previously-mentioned Spacewars) and it was bulit by Nolan Bushnell in 1971.
- The first truly portable games console was the Nintendo Gameboy which has now sold more than 70 million copies worldwide.
- The first-generation electronic game machines were 8-bit, the dominant console was the Japanese Nintendo Entertainment System, and the most popular character was Nintendo's mustachioed Italian plumber Mario.
- The second-generation electronic game machines were 16-bit, the dominant console was the Japanese Sega Megadrive, and the most popular character was Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog.
- The third-generation electronic game machines were 32-bit, the dominant console was the Japanese Sony Playstation, and the most popular character was Lara Croft from Eidos's Tomb Raider games which was not exclusive to the Playstation.
- The fourth-generation electronic game machines were 64-bit and the dominant console was the Japanese Nintendo N64.
- The fifth and latest generation electronic games machine is 128-bit and the rival consoles are Sony's Playstation 2, Nintendo's GameCube and Microsoft's Xbox.
- In 1943, IBM chief Thomas Watson said there were would only ever be enough demand for five computers in the world.
- The world's first computer was called Colossus and developed by the British Government during the Second World War. Design started in March 1943. By December 1943, all the various circuits were working and the 1,500 valve Mark 1 Colossus was dismantled,
shipped up to Bletchley Park, and assembled in F Block over Christmas 1943.
The Mark 1 was operational in January 1944 and successful on its first test
against a real enciphered message tape. [For further information click here]
- The world's first private electronic computer was completed in 1946 at the University of Pennsylvania and called the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator (ENIAC); in one second, it could make 5,000 additions, but it contained no less than 17,468 thermionic valves, it was 8 feet high by 80 feet long, and it weighed 30 tons.
- The most famous computer in the world never existed: HAL 9000 in the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film "2001: A Space Odyssey".
- Contrary to popular mythology, the name HAL was not derived by the one-letter displacement from IBM, but comes from Heuristic ALgorithmic.
- "Time" magazine's "Man of the Year" for 1982 was not a man at all but a machine - the computer.
- In late 2002, a 10-strong team of Japanese computer specialists ran a computer program which took five years to design for a a total of 400 hours at the top speed of two trillion calculations a second to work out the value of pi - the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. They calculated the value to 1.2411 trillion places, a figure that would stretch around the world 500 times.
- In 2010, the world's fastest supercomputer was a Chinese machine called Tianhe-1A which was capable of 2.507 petaflops a second, that is 2,507 trillion calculations each second.
- Every year, the $2,000 Loebner price is awarded to the computer system that can communicate most convincingly as a human. $100,000 is on offer to the first computer program that meets the Turing Test - named after the British cryptographer Alan Turing - which would be achieved if a computer could communicate with a human without the human knowing it is a machine.
- The QWERTY keyboard - used by virtually all typewriters, word processors and computers- was invented in 1872 by the American James Densmore as a means of slowing down the speed of typing so that the rollers on early typewriters would not jam.
- The mouse - the graphical input device for personal computers - was christened by Doug Englebart & English in 1965 in their book "Computer Aided Display".
- Jane Alexander of the National Endowment of the Arts in the USA has argued that only a man would have called the device a mouse.
- The correct German word for a mouse - the computer device and not the animal - is "rollkugeleingabegerat" which literally means 'roller-ball-entering device' ("Guardian", 5.2.98).
- The first truly personal computer was invented in 1975.
- In 1977, Ken Olson, President of the Digital Equipment Corporation, proclaimed : "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home".
- In 1986, the first ever computer virus ended up on a 5.25" floppy disk. The virus was called Brain and it was created by Basit and Amjad in Lahore, Pakistan.
- In 1994, in the USA, sales of computers to homes exceeded sales of computers to businesses.
- In 2002, the world computer industry shipped its one billionth PC.
- Most computers use proprietary software where vendors provide to users only executable binary code and not the human readable source from which that code is derived.
- More than 80% of the world's personal computers contain Microsoft's MS-DOS or Windows operating systems.
- Open source software is software where the source code is freely distributed with the right to modify the code and on the condition that retribution is not restricted.
- The defining moment for open source software was in October 1991 when Linus Torvalds, then a young student at the University of Helsinki, first released his propotype Linux software.
- The Internet was originally called the ARPAnet because it began with the US Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1969.
- The Internet was born on 20 October 1969 with the first transmission of data (only two letters L and O - the system crashed when the G of LOGIN was entered from a computer at the University of California to another one at a research centre at Stanford near San Francisco.
- Today's name, the Internet, comes from the two protocols which provide a common language for the inter-operation between computer networks: Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).
- The "Father of the Internet" is Vint Cerf who - together with Bob Kahn - published "A Protocol For Packet Network Internetworking" in 1974.
- The Internet protocols TCP/IP came into operation on 1 January 1983.
- The Internet protocols are available for anyone to use without a licence, payment or permission.
- Nobody owns the Internet, runs it, maintains it, or acts as gatekeeper or regulator.
- The first - temporary - Internet link outside the USA was to Brighton, England in 1973 for a conference on computing.
- The UK connected to the Internet in 1989.
- Arguably the Internet 'took off' in 1993 when its use doubled to more than 25 million people.
- The invisible world inhabited by the Internet is often termed 'cyberspace', the origination of the word variously attributed to the writer Vernor Vinge in his 1981 novella "True Names" or to the writer William Gibson in his 1984 novel "Neuromancer".
- The term "surfing the Internet" was coined by Jean Armour Polly in 1992.
- "We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true". (Professor Robert Wilensky, quoted in "Observer", 28.12.97).
- The first film to use a reference to the Internet in its title was "The Net", a thriller in which a computer programmer played by actress Sandra Bullock has her identity wiped out electronically.
- The Vatican is considering making St Isidore of Seville - who created the world's first database 1,400 years ago - the patron saint of the Internet.
- The UK has 700 Internet service providers.
THE WORLD WIDE WEB
- The first electronic mail was sent between two machines sometime in the Autumn of 1972 by Ray Tomlinson, chief engineer with Bolt Beranek & Newman Technologies and the content was probaly the single phrase "QWERTYUIOP" (the letters making up the top line of the standard keyboard).
- The separation of the name of the user from the name of the machine on which the user is working by the @ sign in all e-mail addresses was the idea of Ray Tomlinson sometime in 1972.
- The earliest known use of the @ sign - technically known as the amphora - was in a letter written by a Florentine merchant on 4 May 1536 when the sign represented a measure of capacity based on the terracotta jars used to transport grain and liquid in the ancient Mediterranean world.
- The first instance of 'spam' (unsolicited e-mail) is believed to have been an announcement of a product presentation sent on 3 May 1978 by a Digital Equipment Corporation salesman to several hundred scientists and reseachers on the ARPAnet.
- The first instance of the use of the word 'spam' to label such unsolicited e-mail occurred on 31 March 1993 when Usenet administrator Richard Depew inadvertently posted the same message 200 times to a discussion group and, adopting a term previously used in online text games, outraged Usenet users branded the excessive message posting 'spam'.
- The idea of using "emoticons" - symbols that indicate certain emotions - in e-mail was made by Kevin MacKenzie in 1979.
- The 1996 novel "E-Mail" by Stephanie D Fletcher consists entirely of e-mail communications between users of a fictional LuxNet Adult Topics Bulletin Board.
- In 1996, for the first time, more messages were carried in America by e-mail than by the US Postal Service.
- In the two weeks after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in August 1997, 580,000 e-mail messages of sympathy - compared to 500,000 letters - were received by Buckingham Palace.
- The word "hypertext" was coined well before the invention of the World Wide Web by Ted Nelson who first came up with the idea in an article written in 1965, before developing it in a book called "Literary Machines" in 1981 [I once met Ted Nelson at an Internet meeting in Paris].
- BT claims to have invented hyperlinks - one of the building blocks of the World Wide Web - in the 1970s as part of its Prestel videotext system and originally sought patents in 1976, but it failed in an attempt to enforce this view in the US courts.
- The World Wide Web - the graphical part of the Internet - was invented by a British scientist, Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 while he was working at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN).
- Web pages use a special language called Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).
- The World Wide Web only took off in 1993 when Marc Andreessen, a 23 year old programmer, and his colleagues at the University of Illinois, came up with multi-media Web browser called Mosaic which is now commercialised as the Netscape Navigator.
- In a similar way that Britain is the only country which does not place its name on its stamps because it invented the postage stamp, so most American Web sites do not carry an identifying country tag.
- Around 80% of all the information on the World Wide Web is in the English language.
- The wiki - a web page that can be written and edited by any Net user - was invented in 1995 by Ward Cunningham.
- Wikipedia - the online encyclopaedia written and edited by Net users themselves - was invented in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger.
- The largest on-line auction site eBay started in 1995 when founder Pierre Omidyar posted for sale a broken laser printer and someone bid $15.
- Google - easily the best search engine on the Web - was launched in September 1998 by two Stanford University PhD students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
- Google takes its name from the word 'googol' which is the number represented by one followed by 100 zeros, a term coined by the American mathematician E. Kasner.
- Google indexes six billion pages in 182 languages and conducts over 200 million searches a day.
THE INFORMATION AGE
- The first use of the term "paperless office" appeared in a headline in 1973 in a trade publications for telephone companies.
- Paper consumption continues to double every four years and, even in the USA, 95% of all information remains as paper with just 1% stored electronically.
- Half of the 1,300 managers surveyed in the United States, Britain, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore complained of information overload and more and more managers are suffering from "information fatigue syndrome" (IFS) which involves such symptoms as "paralysis of analytical capacity" ("Dying For Information?", Reuters Business Information).
- Information overload is a particular problem for those who know English since this one language accounts for:
- 60% of all radio broadcasts
- 70% of addressed mail
- 80% of data transfers
- 85% of international telephone calls
- The total number of English words on the official list of the game Scrabble - based on Chamber's dictionary - is 143,000; the vocabulary of an average educated British adult is estimated at 15,000 words; the vocabulary of American teenagers, as monitored on telephone conversations during US research, is 1,000 words or fewer.
- By the beginning of the 1990s, a Hallmark greeting card embedded with a microchip allowing it to play "Happy Birthday" contained more computing power than existed on the entire planet in the early 1950s.
- Today the modern living room contains more computing power than was used to land Neil Armstrong on the moon in 1969 but, unlike the Apollo 11, there is no co-ordination.
- The most spectacular information superhighway robbery is believed in 1994, to be the electronic theft of $10.6 million from accounts at America's Citibank, the alleged perpetrator being a 29 year old Russian computer expert called Vladimir Levin who has never visited the USA and carried out the entire operation from his keyboard in St Petersburg.
- In 1997, Richard Pryce, a 16 year-old English schoolboy studying computer studies, was said in US Congressional hearings to have done more damage to the Pentagon than the KGB because he hacked into military computers in the United States on at least 200 occasions using a £750 computer from his North London address.
Last modified on 31 January 2011
If you have any corrections to these facts or suggestions for adding to them e-mail me
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