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Icons of Progress


The Invention of On-Demand Data

Truly great technology innovations have the capacity to permeate society and popular culture. These unexpected cultural impacts are a unique measure of an invention’s significance for the world. Below are some surprising impacts that emerged from this Icon of Progress.

Machine of the Year

Based primarily on the success of the IBM PC, in 1982, Time magazine diverted from its annual tradition of selecting a Person of the Year. Instead, the publication recognized the personal computer as its Machine of the Year. On the cover was a plaster of paris sculpture of a man seated at a small, Victorian-style desk with a personal computer. One of the many articles devoted to the selection cited the IBM ® 5150 as the computer of the year, in part for achieving sales of 200,000 units within one year after its introduction. As an integral component, dynamic random access memory contributed significantly to the success of the IBM PC.

Memory and mystery

Author and technology writer, Stilson Graham’s first novel, Random Access Memory (2006), earned finalist honors in that year’s Word/Work Best Novel Awards. A murder mystery about human and artificial memory, the plot involves a police detective, an artist and a laptop computer containing important clues leading to the victim’s killer.

A memorable name

Depeche Mode, formed in 1980, is one of England’s most enduring and popular synthpop bands, with worldwide sales of 75,000,000 albums. In 2005, the unauthorized film biography of the band members was released. Entitled Random Access Memory, the documentary featured archival footage of the group.