The Old Ways We Explained New Tech

When a technology is still new, reporters can't mention it without explaining it. Here's how the NYT first tech-splained the most important new inventions of the last 135 years.

1. The Telephone - 1877

2. The Automobile - 1885

3. The TV - 1928

4. The Microwave - 1957

5. The Credit Card - 1958

6. The Personal Computer - 1977

7. The Walkman - 1980

8. The Cell Phone - 1982

Cellular radio is a relatively new technology, developed over the past two decades by Bell Labs and others, that will provide an improved form of mobile and portable telephone service. The F.C.C. later this year will approve franchises to offer the new phone service in localities around the country...

Unlike conventional mobile telephone systems, which have one large sending and receiving antenna, usually near the center of town, cellular systems have multiple antennas, with each serving one small geographic section or cell. As a vehicle moves through the city, its receiver obtains a signal from the closest antenna, handing off the customer from one cell to another as it moves through the streets.

9. The Internet - 1990

There are large collections of computer networks, like the Internet, with an estimated two million members, and Usenet, with more than a million users, that now form the backbone of an emerging international system. These big groupings are partly paid for with Federal funds and fees paid by companies.... Networks advertise in computer magazines usually, but also in some newspapers. Still, most people who join networks learn of them from friends or colleagues at work or school. Users can sign up in a variety of ways, from writing in to to calling a designated toll-free telephone number.

10. The MP3 Player - 1998

A popular way to buy, trade and download music on the Internet may now become even more popular. The Rio PMP 300, created by Diamond Multimedia Systems of San Jose, Calif., is a portable music player that is about the size of a pager and does a lot more than beep. A departure from Walkman-like music players that use cassette tapes, compact disks or mini-disks, the Rio can store up to 60 minutes of digital-quality music directly into its 32 megabytes of memory...A major feature of the Rio, which is expected to ship to retailers next month with a suggested price of $200, is that it cuts the tether that has previously tied MP3 music listeners to their computers.

11. The iPhone - 2007

It’s quite a device. It’s a hair taller and wider than a Treo but thinner, sleeker and of course much more beautiful (4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46). The front is glossy black; the back is brushed silver. There’s not much on the front but a 3.5-inch touch screen with incredibly high resolution—160 pixels per inch (320 by 480)—and not much on the brushed-silver back except a two-megapixel camera lens. (Only the Apple logo is mirror finish; it doubles as the self-portrait mirror.)

And a touch screen that lets you perform two-finger gestures—for example, you pinch your thumb and forefinger to shrink a photo, or widen them to enlarge it.