The Computer Age

December 30, 1999

As the end of the year approaches, computers are on our mind. Whatever January 1 brings (and I doubt it will usher in a Y2K calamity), the tension many of us feel is merely due to poorly programed computers. If nothing else, the year-long concern about Y2K reminds us that we have truly entered into the information age.

Consider how swift the conversion was. The first electronic digital computer ENIAC weighed thirty tons, had 18,000 vacuum tubes, and occupied a space as large as a boxcar. Less than forty years later, many hand-held calculators had comparable computing power for a few dollars. Today most people have a computer on their desk with more computing power than engineers could imagine just a few years ago.

And consider the impact of computers on our society. I think this was probably best seen when in 1982 Time magazine picked the computer as its "Man of the Year"--actually listing it as "Machine of the Year." It is hard to imagine a picture of the Spirit of St. Louis or an Apollo lander on the magazine cover under a banner "Machine of the Year." This perhaps shows how influential the computer has become in our society.

The computer has become helpful in managing knowledge at a time when the amount of information is expanding exponentially. The information stored in the world's libraries and computers doubles every eight years. In a sense the computer age and the information age seem to go hand in hand.

For me the real question is not what will January 1 bring, but what will the next few years bring? How will computers aid us and hinder us? These are questions Christians need to be asking as we enter the next century and continue down the path toward the information age.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.