Toyota Corolla vs the Apollo 11

During a meeting with one of my clients yesterday, I made a startling discovery. Startling to me, because I never paused to actually think of such mundane things in life.

Can you believe the car you drive in pot-hole filled narrow streets of paradise is more intelligent than the rocket that carried people to the moon and back? Today’s Toyota cars (as well as the others) boast of so much sophistication and technology, the Apollo 11 fades in comparison. From the more familiar VVT-i, SRS and ABS to Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) – to satellite navigation and auto parking – cars today carry more computer chips than Armstong’s lunar vehicle. Can you ever even think of comparing a trip to the moon with your grocery-run?

The first ever Apple Mac that I used in Sri Lanka was the Classic II in 1991, probably the first ever to arrive in the island. It had a 512k hard disk. To put things in perspective, that’s half a floppy disk, 0.05% of 1GB USB stick, and smaller than most of my emails.

It had a black & white screen with less resolution than a PDA or an iPhone.

In the early ’80s, I sat in front of a Home Computer for the first time in my life. It was a Sinclair ZX81, that was plugged in to the TV screen that acted as the monitor. And I wrote my first programme, beginning with: Let “milk” = X...

Today, there are no “Home Computers” and I walk around with a laptop that’s capable of editing Toy-Story, in my back-pack.

My work as an Art Director in an advertising agency for the whole year of 1996 is archived in a 88MB Syquest Disk. Now I consume more data in chatting with my family on Skype in just 3 hours.

Our domestic telephone line in Nugegoda had just four digits. Diyatalawa house had just three digits and we had to call the “exchange” and “book a trunk call” and wait by the phone for anything between 5 to 30 minutes for them to connect the calls. Now I walk around with a little gadget in my pocket that not only connects me to anywhere in the world, but also takes pictures, records audio and video, and checks email as well as offers a multitude of other tasks.

My mother waited for six years to get a telephone connection in the early 1980’s. It takes less than an hour today, kind of an OTC (Over-the-counter) affair, just like buying medicine from a pharmacy really.

My father paid a sum of Rs 62.50 to STC Prep as Grade 1 admission fees when I was a kid. The fee included books as well as the term fees. I paid around Rs 140,000 to have my son admitted to one of the Colombo schools, and the books weren’t even included. That’s over 2,200 times more, in just 30 years!

All this, I have witnessed in my lifetime. And I’m not even 40 yet!


  1. Wow Serendib! A fellow Prepite!! :D

    Things have changed a lot haven't they. I mean 10 years ago you couldn't have even imagined call charges and the price of technology to come down this far. Progress... :)

  2. Hey Chavie, Prep and then to arch rival - RC..! :)

  3. hehe... I had a few friends who went that way too! ;D

  4. A ZX-81? Cool! I used to spend ages just poring over computer magazines and wishing I actually I had one. I'd even learnt BASIC without actually owning a computer - I already had the second hand magazines and books when my father bought me a BBC Model B. I just wish I didn't format the disk with Elite on it.

    The pace of technology is just amazing - what will the kids of today look back on in another ten years' time?

  5. Prep -> RC? So did the Thora prefects have a *ahem* reputation even then? ;-)

    Isn't it fascinating how technology has changed? There's a TED talk about how technological advances are exponential...you should check it out!

  6. Dulan, yeah it was the coolest gadget at that time, but BASIC was indeed basic! I can’t imagine I did some layouts on Word Perfect 5.0 at one time, had to go to “Print Preview” every time to see how the page looked like... yes I wonder what it would be in 10 years time.

    PseudoRandom, no one disputes the STC reputation, it’s an age-old tradition with them boys I guess - heh he.
    And thank you for the TED tip.

  7. Have to agree to Serendib's statement, albeit very reluctantly... hehe :)

  8. Nice post man.
    This is something I always thought about, and something always amused me...
    Not just the evolution, but also the fact that these things came into existance? Today even ten year olds posses a cell phone while I didn't have one until I finished my degree. But we managed, quite well!
    And come to think of it, life back then was fun, specially if you had a girlfriend and did not have a cell phone!

  9. Sach, yeah. When there was no cell-phone, there was poetry! The long sleepless nights gave birth to some amazing poems, the eternal waiting was springtime for lovers, beautiful thoughts sprang-up in our imagination... and the cell phone killed ’em all and shrunk everything to an SMS!!! Tweet, tweet..

    Yep it was better without the cell phone. Heh he.. :D

  10. I have a cell phone that I don't use, because I have an internet connection that comes with my home phone package. If I activate my cell, that means I am paying extra for phone service, so I never use it anymore. (I initially spent about $20 on it and used it until my credit ran out.) In some way, I have a sense of satisfaction about holding out against new technology and over-spending my budget, even though I sometimes feel silly knowing that everyone else around me lives in the cell phone era. I am not "on the same page" with the rest of humanity, but maybe that's OK?

  11. Another reason why I avoid my cell: too many passwords and a technologese overload in my life when I started getting into the cell, so continuing with the cell became a low priority. I guess if I became unemployed or retired I might reactivate it, as I would no longer have concurrent new technology and password memorization to keep up with.