From the Stone Age to the Digital Age: A journey

It’s been an amazing journey, from the ages when humans made tools out of stones to today when smartphone apps and gadgets are made comparable to human intelligence. We can write on screens by using our hands, by gestures, or even pointing our eyes at a single point. The pace with which technology has evolved in the past few years is outstanding. Since I am from an electronics background, I’ll focus only on advancements in semiconductor technology.

In the world of semiconductors, a transistor is just like a tiny seed, responsible for the mighty oak that has grown out of it. The birth of the transistor was designed by three physicists: John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley, who were justly awarded the Nobel Prize for this achievement. The transistor is basically nothing more than a switch and an amplifier. But none of our devices can live without it! The transistor revolutionized the field of electronics and paved the way for the small, cheap, handy gadgets that all of us use today, like calculators, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, etc.

Transistors are the active component in all modern electronics. Several companies produce billions of individually packaged discrete transistors annually. A vast majority of transistors are produced in the form of integrated circuits (ICs). These are visible on the printed circuit boards (PCBs) of any device you open up – your remote control, USB drive, mouse, cell phone, etc. An IC the size of your thumb holds several billion transistors, in the form of a chip with a few pins. This is what makes your devices so compact! Since so many ICs and transistors can fit in a small area, these smaller modules are able to provide the same functionality once provided by computers the size of large rooms. This has resulted in slim, sophisticated mobile phones, tablets, laptops… the list goes on.

Today we can get any information about anything just by typing in Google or any browser at a lightning fast speed. We are able to communicate at such fast speeds through wired or wireless networks as if there is a zero delay. It’s really hard to imagine how these strings of data, all in the form of 0s and 1s, are travelling such a long distance, that too in the air as a medium! For me, it’s hard to believe, but it is happening. Every billionth of a second, these data are travelling in the form of Electromagnetic waves, which are invisible to all of us, but we are surrounded by them all the time! We store a huge amount of data in our hard disks. If you wonder how this happens – this is just a string of stored 0s and 1s. The 0s are represented by a ground logic levels like 0 volts, and 1s are represented by high logic levels like 5V.

A higher data rate, high speed, large memories, compactness – all have been achieved in the past few decades. The coming generations of gadgets will be even smarter and powerful, plus light weight. Just imagine, soon you may have a palmtop device with all the functionalities of a laptop! But everything has a counterpart – achieving high speeds and large memories come at the cost of high power consumption and more complex circuits.

The world is shrinking – communication gaps are closing, and networking is growing at a fast rate with technological advancement. Everything is getting digitized as we see a complete transformation stepping into the digital age. We are the luckiest generation, we experienced those big fat computers at home which did nothing advanced, to slimmer computers with large memories and good processing powers. And now we have these laptops and tablets with amazing capabilities which can do all the possible tasks we ask them to, and even those which are beyond imagination! Truly an awesome age to live in!

This article is part of PaGaLGuY’s innovative internship certification programme for engineering students. Currently, two such programmes are on – one is an Internship in Creative Writing, and the other is a Certification in Digital Media. If you are interested in partaking and bagging a certificate, besides learning the nuances of effective writing, write to us at [email protected]

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