By Chris Marker
Since 1969 there have been considerable developments in science, engineering and technology which Inspec has covered and which can be highlighted using the Inspec classification scheme. Obviously the following events are a personal choice and represent just a small cross section of the subjects Inspec covers.
Possibly the greatest achievement of the last centenary happened 40 years ago this year with the first man stepping on the surface of the Moon bringing a huge impact both scientifically and culturally.
The first charge-coupled device (CCD) was produced in this year; these devices have many uses as image sensors especially in digital photography.
Robotics moved forward with the first electronic computer controlled robotic arm- the Stanford arm.
The 1970s saw the birth of modern computing. In 1971 Intel released the world's first microprocessor, the 4004 and in 1972 the first scientific hand-held calculator, later designated HP-35, was introduced. Both Microsoft and Apple were founded in the 1970s.
Although they only became ubiquitous in the 90s the first practical mobile phone for handheld use was developed in this decade.
The 1970s also saw the Standard Model of particle physics fully formulated. During this decade Stephen Hawking and others advanced the knowledge of black holes.
Space exploration continued with the Voyager probes launched on their journeys to Jupiter and Saturn and beyond.
The late 70s saw the first commercial fibre-optic communication system developed using GaAs semiconductor lasers.
In the 1980s the concept of a quantum computer was first proposed. If these can be built, they will be able to solve certain problems much faster than any of our current classical computers.
The first integrated computer mouse intended for personal computer navigation was included with the Xerox 8010 Information System computer.
The first image of individual atoms was seen in 1981 using Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy, a technique which has since been used in many applications.
Progress in theoretical physics continued with string theory and superstrings becoming more prominent as possible “theories of everything”.
So called high temperature superconductors were also discovered in this decade. These can be used in a variety of applications including powerful electromagnets in Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
Tim Bernards Lee would also start work on the WWW in this decade although it would not be until the 1990s that the wider world took notice of this new technology.
Section D Information Technology of the database, was launched in this decade to cater for a new group of customers - managers and IT users.
In the 90s carbon nanotubes were “discovered” (evidence for them actually came in 1952). These cylindrical carbon molecules have extraordinary strength and unique electrical properties, and are efficient conductors of heat. They are useful in many applications in nanotechnology, electronics, optics and materials science.
Data from the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite was used to produce the first map of cosmic microwave background radiation, the so called primordial "seeds” of our universe.
Quantum entanglement was demonstrated over a range of kilometres when two widely separated particles were "entangled" and a measurement performed on one particle which instantaneously affected the measured properties of the other.
Progress in particle physics continued with the neutrino mass found through neutrino oscillation experiments. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN was also switched on for the first time in 2008.
Space exploration also hit new heights with the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity exploring the surface of Mars long after they were expected to have failed.
This decade will also see the completion of the Three Gorges Dam, a hydroelectric river dam in China, one of many recent developments in the renewable energy sector.
It was also in the current decade that Section E: Manufacturing and Production Engineering was added to the database whilst the Inspec Archives (Science Abstracts 1898 - 1968) became available in digital form.
What does the future hold for science engineering and technology? Advances will continue in renewable energy and we may finally see nuclear fusion becoming the power source for the world. Advances will continue in computing so that future generations could grow up in a world where permanent global access to the Internet is normal. Also theoretical physics could finally produce a “theory of everything”. In the end though it will be the unexpected developments that will truly surprise the world.