The University of Montana


In Innovation, Strategy on November 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I’m working with colleagues to analyze technology trends as part of an IT strategic planning process. One way to speculate on the future is to look at the trajectory of the past. Here’s a little stroll down my own technology memory lane.

“The Zenith SuperSport 286 may well be the harbinger of a new era of laptop computing. It embodies a combination of speed, weight, size and battery life that we’ve seen in no other laptop computer. Zenith’s engineers have come closer to the ideal laptop than any so far.”

Thus begins a glowing product review in the October 17, 1988 issue of InfoWorld.

Zenith SuperSport 286


The SuperSport 286 came with a 286 processor, 64K of RAM and a 20-megabyte hard drive. It was three inches thick, and at 10 pounds was considered lightweight. It cost $4,999. For $600 more you could get it with a 40-megabyte hard drive.

I owned a SuperSport 286, or “Sporto” as I called it. I paid for the extra 20 megabytes. I was proud to be on the front lines of the mobile computing revolution.

In July 2001, MaximumPC magazine reviewed three new digital cameras, calling the 2.1 megapixel Canon PowerShot A20, priced at $499, a “Maximum Kick Ass Product.”

I owned a Canon PowerShot A20. It was a little bulky at 13 ounces, but it produced nice 5×7 prints. I miss the Fotomat huts, but I’ve never missed buying film. It felt good to be an early adopter in the digital media revolution.

This week I bought an iPhone. It weighs five ounces and fits in my pocket. As a computing device, it’s something like 16,000 times faster than the SuperSport 286, and can store 400,000 times more data. A handful of images from the 8-megapixel camera would fill Sporto’s hard drive and reproduce beautifully on a 20×30 poster. I could purchase 30 iPhones for what I paid for my first laptop and digital camera combined.

One might conclude that I was foolish to spend so much for new tools when better and cheaper technology was just around the corner. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. Despite my determination to keep up, in midlife I lag behind the digital natives . . . but only by a little.

Imagine where I would be if I had waited.


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