Long and colorful history of information technology

Published 14.04.2017

Long and colorful history of
information technology

We have come a long way since the days when the “ancestor” of computers was used to map the positions of known celestial bodies and its complex mechanism helped predict solar and lunar eclipses more than 2,000 years ago.

Today, we can fit the entire world in a small smartphone, as Esa Soini, chairman of Mylab’s Board of Directors, puts it.

Soini usually likes to predict the future at Mylab’s events, but this time, in honor of Mylab’s 30th anniversary, he focused on the history of information technology and diagnostics.

According to Soini, the seeds of modern computers were sown in 18th century France with implementation of the new metric system and calendar in the aftermath of the Revolution.

– Calculating new trigonometric tables required an enormous workforce. The workforce was called “computers” – only they were not machines but people, Soini says.

The first design of an actual computer device was created by Charles Babbage, a British scientist and professor of mathematics, in the 1820’s. However, this attempt did not come to fruition.

The next milestone in the development of computer technology was the United States census. In 1880, completing the census had taken 1,500 people seven years. Thanks to the punched card machine, the census was completed in just six weeks in 1890.

– The true greats of computer technology (the Bach and Beethoven, if you like) were Turing and von Neumann, who developed the theoretical model and structure of the modern computer back in the 1940’s. Practically all modern computers are based on the architecture designed by von Neumann, Soini says.

Trailblazing Mobile Clinic

In the 1960’s, computer technology was finally advanced enough to be implemented at health care laboratories.

– In Finland, the first experiment involving this kind of use was the Social Insurance Institution Kela’s Mobile Clinic, which toured the country to study the morbidity of the population. The clinic was equipped with a laboratory and the lab results were entered in an EDP system, Esa Soini says.

Routine storage of laboratory data in an information system began in Tampere in 1967. Helsinki followed suit in 1970.

At the beginning of the 1980’s, Ilmo Tuohi and Tapani Heiniö, two young men at the VTT Hospital Technology Laboratory in Tampere, were working with the MUMPS programming language and related applications. On April Fools’ Day 1987, Tuohi and Heiniö founded Mylab Oy, the joint EDP unit for Finland's clinical laboratories.

And as we all know, the rest is history.

For Esa Soini’s full presentation (in Finnish), click here:

Mylab 30th Anniversary presentations

Text Virpi Ekholm, photo Olli-Pekka Latvala

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