One hundred and twenty-two years ago German physics professor Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered the power of X-rays with the “X” signifying “unknown”. The hand on left on the image below is the first X-ray “radiograph” that Roentgen created of his wife’s hand in 1895. In today’s modern society it’s easy to take things for granted but prior to the invention of X-Ray machines, broken bones, tumors, or the location of shrapnel were all diagnosed by physical examination. Yikes! Exams involved guess-work, were prone to error, and were dangerous to the patient. I am grateful to live in today’s world of modern medicine where physicians have improved tools to diagnose and help treat illness and trauma without as much guesswork.
This week I came across my still functioning iPod Classic “click wheel”. This was my exercise companion for many years and I still marvel at the engineering innovation (holds thousands of songs!) and simple elegance of the intuitive user interface (click wheel!). In today’s consumer society we expect our electronics to be intuitive. When announced in 2003 the “click-wheel” was years ahead at a time most electronics still came with detailed instruction manuals. Launching a consumer product with a click wheel was a radical approach, pushing the end-user experience to the very limits of engineering.
Unlike other countries, all U.S. citizens residing out of the country are required to pay their normal Federal taxes back to the “mother-ship.” This became painfully clear during my two tours of duty living in the United Kingdom. To make matters worse, the U.S. tax year has a different timing cycle than the U.K. tax year. Because of the offset tax years (and my domicile alternating twice between London and New York) I have spent the last six years filing taxes in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Not fun or easy to deal with.
As a resident of New York I am fascinated by the history of this great city. The can-do attitude and swagger of “Gotham” but also the cultural diversity and complexity. As a technologist I am drawn to the mindboggling effort it takes to run an infrastructure necessary to support 8.4 million residents plus 1.5 million daily commuters who travel each day to the city for work. Urban life has always interested me. The photo above is a New York City street corner taken in 1887 only eleven years after Alexander Bell’s first long distance two-way phone call (between Cambridge and Boston). For the next 15 years both electric and telephonic wires would encase the city in an increasingly unorganized, dense web of entanglement. But progress marches forward. Legislation would be passed, money would be raised and the wires were soon moved underground only to be remembered in these old photographs.