In our ever-changing world of technology and innovation, nothing ever stands still. We are living in a time when the rate of change is probably faster than at any other time in history. As adults, some of us may remember life pre mobile phones, internet, and computer games something that creates a look of confusion on current students faces. This is often followed by ‘But what did you do, it must have been so boring.”
As the UAE prepares to celebrate its 50th birthday, the country which is at the forefront of challenging expectations and innovation is in excellent company. 1971 was also a year full of changes proving that innovation and change, are not exclusively the preserve of the current generation.
In 1971, following on from the success of Disneyland in California, the Disney corporation opened Disney World in Florida with tickets only costing $1 for children. At the same time, a young MIT graduate called Ray Tomlinson spent his downtime developing a programme for sending electronic mail with a software programme called “SNDMSG.” He’s also responsible for making @ the most important symbol of our age.
Continuing with the innovation theme, in 1971, humanity got its first space station. Launched by the Soviet Union, Salyut 1 was 65 feet long and spent 175 days in space with the express purpose of giving cosmonauts a place to live longer-term. The first attempt to enter the station failed (they docked but couldn’t open the hatch), but the second attempt made by Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Vokov, and Viktor Patsayev was successful, and they spent over three weeks inside. Whilst in space, the first quarter pounder appeared on Earth revolutionising the eating habits of generations to come.
In the same year, seven years after Roald Dahl originally published Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the film adaptation arrived on screen with the eccentric Gene Wilder taking the lead role. The film remains a firm favourite 50 years on albeit in an updated version. Something that has not stood the test of time is the floppy disc. It’s poetic that floppy disks and email were invented the same year. One was a forward-looking concept whose inventor had no clear understanding of how massive a phenomenon it would become. The other was a huge relief for everyone who had relied on cumbersome, unreliable punch card technology up to that point.
As we wish the UAE a very Happy Birthday, let’s spare a thought for everything else celebrating its 50th Anniversary. The only certainty is that nothing ever stands still, and the UAE and our students are well positioned to play a leading role in shaping the next 50 years.