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Modern Artifacts

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Our Modern Artifacts

By Mark Cain

Unit 5 IP

Topics in Cultural Studies


This report is an analysis of what I believe to be a modern day artifact that defines the culture we live in today. I have chosen the computer chip. This report will include a detailed description of this particular artifact. The reader will gain an understanding of how this artifact relates to the values and beliefs of our culture. From there, the reader will learn of the deep cultural roots of this artifact. The reader will then take a journey into the past. The historic roots of the computer chip's origins will be explored. Part of the historical journey will include an interpretation of what cultural periods may have influenced the development of the computer chip. Finally the report will examine the future of the computer chip and how its evolution will influence future generations. The reader of this report will gain an understanding from the perspective of someone trained in the humanities.

Our Modern Artifacts

When you first hear the word "artifact," the first thing that usually comes to mind is rudimentary tools and pottery fragments. For people that existed centuries ago, these artifacts are all we know of them. They are all we know of where we came from. What will future civilizations discover of ours buried in the dirt to learn more about their civilizations? I believe that one of the most monumental tools or artifacts that will define our culture is the computer chip.

Breaking down a computer chip to its most basic definition; techterms.com defines computer chip as "a piece of silicon with electronic circuitry embedded in it (Chip definition, 2012)." It's more than that though. A computer is made up of millions of tiny transistors (Ralph, 2002). From an electrical viewpoint, these transistors are switches that turn on or off with the application of electrical current (2002). By connecting a series of transistors together, this system of connected transistors can be used to compute calculations (2002). Our modern civilization is almost completely dependent on computers. Without the computer chip, our modern society would likely crumble very quickly. There isn't a day that goes by that we don't use something that is controlled by a computer and at the heart of that computer is the computer chip. AIU Online wouldn't exist. Our values these days are based on having everything right away. We can't wait for anything. Computers are a doorway to our immediate needs now. We can work from home. We can practice our beliefs from home. Churches are now broadcasting Sunday sermons online. We need faster processing chips to speed up our needs in this day and age. Where did these computer chips come from?

Computers have been around since the Chinese invented the first abacus. The first freely programmable computer, the Z1 computer, was developed by Conrad Zuse in 1936 (Sanderson, 2012). By 1948, computers were the size of whole rooms (2012). It consisted of cathode ray tubes, punch tape readers, and many other pieces used to compute, calculate, and store information (2012). Transistors were first developed in 1948 which made computing easier to use and cheaper to produce (2012). Cathode ray tubes were used at first for memory storage in 1947 (Components, 2012). The first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, was developed in 1971 for desktop calculators (2012). Over time, this chip would evolve into the Intel Pentiums that we use today.

The eventual development of computer chips was fueled by the industrial revolution.



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