from the new-years dept
Five Years Ago
This week we finally move from 2011 to 2012, but as far as the news goes little has changed: it was all SOPA, all the time. There was growing confusion around which companies actually supported the bill, with some like EA trying to avoid taking a position altogether and others, like some game developers, clashing with their own industry groups like the ESA over how to respond. The ESA was a strong supporter of the bill, and initially had the firm backing of Capcom — but Capcom soon tried to back down and worm its way out of the spotlight. Grover Norquist, a huge supporter of strong copyright law, also tried to get some distance from SOPA and PIPA. Al Gore came out with some thorough and strong opposition, and Senator Ron Wyden was planning a filibuster.
Ten Years Ago
This week in 2007, everyone and their brother was jumping on the MySpace-clone bandwagon, with Disney launching a limited and unimpressive platform and even Toyota announcing plans to do the same. A tech company somehow managed to get a patent that basically covered all digital downloads and proceeded to sue everyone, while the RIAA was fighting its own fight to keep its wholesale digital download prices on the hush-hush. The movie industry was still flailing around with even more DRM and an unwelcome addition to the high-def DVD format wars, and we saw the latest crazy attack on YouTube in the form of an accusation that the site aids and abets vandalism.
Fifteen Years Ago
Speaking of DRM, this week in 2002 one congressional representative pointed out that it is probably illegal under a 1992 law — but I guess that idea didn't fly. There was lots of buzz about the future of "interactive television" but that idea didn't exactly soar either. The beginning of 2002 also marked one of only two times in history so far that the number of domain names online had gone down (presumably after cybersquatters and domain prospectors abandoned their domains after the tech bubble burst). And though the technology was still in its early days, folks were beginning to worry about facial recognition software.
Sixty-Three Years Ago
But now here's a real example of technology in its early days. I'm rarely surprised to find out that an area of tech has been around longer than I thought and than you might expect, but I was genuinely surprised to learn that all the way back on January 7th, 1954, IBM used one of its mainframe computers to do the first demonstration of computer translation, taking Russian sentences encoded to punch cards and producing print-outs of English translations. Of course the system was quite simple, the sentences carefully chosen, and the scope extremely limited — but it worked, and placed the first example of such technology much earlier in the history books than I would have guessed.