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The Financial Express

Keeping pace with the tech revolutions


Keeping pace with the tech revolutions

Amateur photographers, camera buffs, and those having a passion for photography, may have already started feeling distressed. A quite unexpected piece of news on June 24 has prompted this mood of despair. It says the Japan-based company, Olympus, plans to sell its camera division. The camera wing has been struggling for decades to stay afloat. The 'photography box' in general has lately started witnessing signs of being phased out. The days of large and user-unfriendly cameras seem to be drawing to a close. The sleek digital and the smart phone-based cameras have lately posed a great threat to the conventional cameras. After reported losses for three years in a row, Olympus Corporation, one of the world's pioneering makers of big cameras, is poised to say bye to what it calls 'the ghost'. The Japanese optical tech behemoth last week announced it would sell off its 'imaging unit' by the end of September, 2020.  

Every century starts with a lot of new features. It also witnesses the phasing out of many objects and trends of the time. They are replaced by things few have imagined. This phenomenon has visited the human race for ages. The late 19th century, precisely the year of 1886, saw the invention of the motorcar in Germany. It was a landmark event in the sector of road transport. In the following decade, steam-powered motorcars became a normal spectacle in the streets of the Western countries. In time, the non-motorised carriages had to make way for automobiles. The motor vehicles began to be widely used in the early twentieth century.   

 Many imperial powers of the time had colonial territories in Asia and Africa. Their lackeys in those areas were also not deprived of the privileges of riding on motorcars. The scenario resembled in many respects the one of railways. That the colonial masters had brought the railway steam-engines and carriages to facilitate travels of the natives soon proved a myth. In the then India and many vast colonies, it was the colonial rulers who would be seen reaping the benefits of the railways. The well-furnished carriages emerged as off-limits to the colonies' ordinary people. Many an illustrious son of the colonised India had eventually been made to endure humiliations and insults at the hands of the haughty British 'masters'. Their only fault was they belonged to the colonised class.

However, after the British, French and Portuguese colonial powers began leaving their colonies in the 1940s, the general people in their independent countries began enjoying the blessings of the revolutions that occurred in the transport sector. That the traditional trains began to be substituted by their technologically advanced versions in France and Japan, however, became a pointer to a different aspect --- the unabated contribution of science to almost every sector of life. As a proof of this progress in the world of technology, the high-speed and bullet trains were seen replacing the traditional railway. In the highly developed countries like the USA, trains have still been retained for people willing to undertake inter-state recreational journeys. All states of the vast country are connected by regular flights. The railway trips in the country eventually emerged like pleasure voyages on cruise-liners which had made the ocean-going passenger ships outmoded.

When it comes to the airborne mechanised means of journey, the credit goes to the Wright Brothers who made four short flights on board their air-plane on December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, USA. In the history of speedy communication, that very day will be recognised as the witness to a watershed in the triumphant technological journey of mankind. The two American brothers, in fact, opened the floodgate to a future replete with hundreds of innovative ventures in the use of planes. It was the Wright Brothers who had pioneered man's moon landing, and the following space and outer-space human missions in the later part of the 20th century. By the middle of the 21st century, man's planned landing on distant planets and the sending of probes to exoplanets are set to prove two truths: The endless inquisitiveness of humans about the unknown along with their ever-widening innovative power; and their endless graduation to the higher levels of thought and their honest courage in discarding dysfunctional ideas.

The restlessness of the post-Renaissance man is now a recognised phenomenon. In fact, this urge for dominating the different spheres of innovative faculties has been passed on to humans in the following the centuries. There are a number of turning-points in this apparently infinite journey. The Industrial Revolution and the two World Wars are the three such critical phases. By the time another man-made and global upheaval or cataclysmic event visits the present world lots of today's mindboggling achievements are feared to pale miserably beside those offered by another 'brave new' world.

The traditional camera, invented in France in 1816, occupies a dominant place in the list of outmoded products. The list also prominently includes the sectors of transport modes. But they will continue to emerge in newer, and in cases, radically transformed shapes. In the future, short-distance flying cars speeding above gridlocked city roads may become a normal spectacle. The new-age passenger aircraft will emerge in seemingly incredible forms, with their flying speed increased manifold compared to the level of the present high speed. The accommodation facility has been in the changing phase for over last two decades.

The competition between the two large aircraft making companies --- Boeing and Airbus, has kept both the interested country-based clients and regular fliers on tenterhooks. The recent non-stop London-Sydney test flights were beyond the furthest recess of the air travellers' imagination. Earlier, the start of the non-stop Singapore-New York flight caused a global stir among the globe trotters. Mid-range non-stop inter-continent flights are nowadays a normal feature of air travels. The planes' sizes also continue to undergo innovative changes, so do services offered on board by a plane company. On the other hand, a debate has long been raging over the size of planes. A section of aviation experts throw their weight behind wide-bodied spectacular aircraft. Another group lays emphasis on the planes' higher speed, which they view as being more important than roomier interiors. Against this backdrop, aircraft of varying designs and services keep entering the aviation world.

Meanwhile, short-haul travels operated by smaller planes increasingly occupy a considerably important place in the sector of commercial flights. They have their patrons in all parts of the world. A large segment of them continues to promote privately-run 'budget airlines' to encourage the middle-income people to travel on these cheaper services. The commercial aviation world is poised to witness lots of new travel and business trends in the future. The sector has come an amazingly long way from the world's maiden flights in 1903. All this occurred in just 117 years.

Modern cameras also have the history of a long period of developments. Compared to other inventions, they have witnessed little radical transformations. But the style of camera operation has been undergoing changes through the ages. Beginning with the improvised fixed-lens camera through the manually lens-fixing ones to today's auto-focusing digital cameras, photography has had to pass through a number of stages.

In the 21st century, still and video photography is mostly done by single and handy smart-phone cameras. That these state-of-the-art versions of camera will eventually replace the burdensome photography paraphernalia is forgone conclusion. Radical developments have also been changing the nature and functions of the computer and ICT sectors. The sizes of computers are becoming smaller; with their easy availability in scores of gadgets beginning with laptops and tablets. The world's first computer in 1946 gave the look of a large steel cabinet. To speak in brief, myriads of techno-marvels are still in store for mankind. 

shihabskr@ymail.com

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