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Modern Times: 1950s to The Present Day

Industry and Technology

New Technology

By Irene Maver

The post-1945 period offered Glaswegians the prospect of modernity and technological innovation. A sign of changing times came in 1952 when the BBC started television broadcasting from Queen Margaret Drive. Television was rather old technology, having been pioneered during the 1920s by the Helensburgh-born electrical engineer, John Logie Baird (1888-1946). However, its 1950s transformation into a viable news and entertainment medium fundamentally altered domestic lifestyles. A Glasgow-based commercial rival to the BBC, Scottish Television (STV), opened in 1955.

Reflecting 'space age' scientific advances, computer technology was harnessed as an aid to industry and commerce. In 1957 the University of Glasgow acquired what was only Scotland's third computer and two years later opened a computing research laboratory. The University of Strathclyde's Department of Computer Science was created in 1967. The early computers were expensive monsters of hardware, operated through a complex system of diodes, valves and wiring. Nor were they part of the general office environment, where the most advanced development was usually the replacement of manual with electric typewriters. Other equipment could be primitive. As a very young office junior in Glasgow during the 1960s, this writer recalls being confronted for the first time by a photocopier. The operator gingerly manipulated liquid chemicals, making sure that there was the right balance in order to reproduce a solitary page.

Technology became more sophisticated during the 1970s as the components involved in electronics production were reduced in size. The micro-chip metamorphosed computers into desk-top devices that could be networked via a server. Certain work practices altered radically because of the advances in graphics and word-processing. For instance, computerised typesetting and photocomposition replaced traditional skills in the printing trade, lowering costs and reducing the workforce. This was one reason why the tabloid Sun newspaper was able to print a Scottish edition at Kinning Park from 1986. At the same time developments in satellite technology allowed radio, television and telephone signals to be transmitted more swiftly around the world. During the 1990s the mobile phone and the Internet revolutionised communications because of their accessibility. The continuing importance of new technology is currently exemplified by the concept of City Science, Glasgow's central district where companies at the cutting edge of research and development are being encouraged to locate.

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