This article was printed in CONTROL's September 2009 edition.
Humans have been unsuccessfully looking for the fountain of youth forever. Computers, on the other hand, seem to reinvent themselves and get smarter, and more versatile—as well as hipper, slimmer and cooler—every year.
The earliest "computers"—mechanical counting devices—date from around 35,000 BCE. These devices grew up to become the abacus. In the 1820s, Charles Babbage presented us with his "Difference Engine," the great granddaddy of the binary computer or calculator and, in the late 1930s, the first functioning electronic computer came on the scene. Yet, in spite of this venerable history, today computers look as sleek and as young as a teenager, and they perform calculations well past the capabilities of the most brilliant of their inventors.
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I hope these online resources have helped you drive down memory lane. In your search for your own fountain of youth, I suggest that keeping up with technology will be vital. And, in the rapidly shifting world of process automation, we will have to adapt as much as our computers have to stay ahead of the game.