Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in Tech-History …

Falcon 1 Launched : 28th September 2008

Rocket Man!

This week on September 28 2008 SpaceX managed to finally get the Falcon 1 rocket into space.

Founder Elon Musk was obviously thrilled, although curiously he wasn’t hungry – even though he’d skipped breakfast earlier that day. It was because he’d had such a big launch.

And just like that pun spectacularly failed, so too did Elon’s first three rocket launches in 2006, 2007, and also earlier that same year in 2008. It was why the payload of ‘RatSat’ was just a dummy and was used to simulate the mass of an actual satellite to test the rocket’s capabilities without risking a functional satellite. Obviously, cash was more important than ever as this was the first fully liquid-fuelled launch vehicle developed privately to enter orbit. An expensive business!

After those three expensive failures, that fourth success was pretty crucial for Elon Musk who has mentioned in several interviews that the company was close to running out of funds, and the success of the fourth launch was critical for securing more funding and ensuring the survival of the company.

After the rocket was launched successfully the next July (2009), this meant the rocket had 5 launches before it was retired, helping secure SpaceX to become the success it has become and with a market cap this summer (2023) of around $150 Billion, it’s Worth More Than Boeing and Raytheon. Not bad.

The moral here? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again!
Although it may be helpful make sure you have deep pockets or access to someone else’s capital.

Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in Tech-History …

FORTRAN Developed : 20th September

Q. Why Do Python Programmers Wear Specs?

A – Because they don’t see sharp!

That’s a programming humour for you. And talking of programming, there’s currently an explosion of code being auto-generated by AI and before long, human-coders may go the way of the early switchboard operators. Hmm, possibly!

Yet can you imagine painstakingly programming computers, line-by-line with assembly language, punched-cards and needing almost infinite patience? Yet that’s what life was like before “High-Level” languages came along and compiled the assembly language to make life easier.

69 Years Old This Week

One such language was reportedly first run this week in September, 1954 – 69 years ago. It was called “FORTRAN”, short for Formula Translating (depending on whom you ask) and developed for an early IBM machine (which still used vacuum tubes). The contemporary coding community were sceptical it would actually be any good, yet it quickly took off like wildfire. So if you’ve ever programmed in a language like BASIC or PASCAL at school (i.e. before all the web languages came along), you can thank FORTRAN as an early pioneer.

It was adopted enthusiastically largely because 20 lines of code in assembly language could be accomplished in just one line with Fortran. In fact, John Backus, the inventor of it reportedly said “Much of my work has come from being lazy“, during a interview with IBM’s ‘Think’ magazine.

He went on to say “I didn’t like writing programs, and so, when I was working on the IBM 701, writing programs for computing missile trajectories, I started work on a programming system to make it easier to write programs.”

Still In Use Today

And while it’s relatively ancient, it’s still in use today! Primarily crafted for engineers and scientists, it continues to be employed in areas such as fluid dynamics calculations, economic modelling, computational physics, climate simulations, computational chemistry and astronomy.

The next time you’re having to shout due to a poor signal on your mobile-phone, spare a thought for lonely NASA probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. The first one is now around 15 billion miles away and the signal takes over 22 hours to reach back to earth, yet it still functions after approaching fifty years in space and it was originally programmed in FORTRAN.

Not bad for something originally created by a “lazy” programmer!

Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in Tech-History …

25 Years Of Google This Month!

Did you know that Google was incorporated 25 years ago, in September 1998?
Or that it was originally made from Lego? (sort of)

Google began as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they were students at Stanford in 1996. Originally named “BackRub.” the name “Google” is a play on the word “googol,” a mathematical term for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros. The name reflects the company’s mission to organise the massive amount of information on the web.

Their first version of Google was stored on ten 4GB hard drives in a Lego casing! Nevertheless, by the end of 1998, Google was processing 10,000 search queries per day. This number grew rapidly, and by the end of 1999, it was processing 500,000 queries per day.

It now processes over 3.5 billion searches daily.

Google’s homepage was notably simple (primarily because neither Larry nor Sergey were proficient in HTML). This simplicity, plus their powerful ‘PageRank’ algorithm quickly blew all the other search engines away. Remember them? The likes of HotBot, AltaVista, Lycos, Excite and of course, Yahoo were all less relevant, highly cluttered and covered in ads*

Here’s (just a few) notable acquisitions they’ve made, you should have heard of these :

Applied Semantics (2003): Acquired for its contextual advertising technology, which later became a core component of Google AdSense.
Android (2005): Purchased for an estimated $50 million, Android has become the dominant mobile operating system globally.
YouTube (2006): Acquired for $1.65 billion. Say no more!
Fitbit (2007): A consumer electronics company specialising in health and fitness wearables, acquired for $2.1 billion. Think of all your health(y) data!
Motorola Mobility (2012): Acquired for its telecommunications expertise at a cost of £12.5 billion.
Nest (2014): A home automation company purchased for $3.2 billion.
DeepMind (2014): A British artificial intelligence company acquired for an estimated $500 million.

See The Synergy And Strategy Here?

They have many other less well-known acquisitions, yet they all help Google provide services ranging from live-flight bookings to restaurant reviews. Alphabet has a current market cap of around $1.7 TRILLION dollars – not bad for a couple of college kids starting out in a garage on a “Lego” setup, who made an algorithm to rank websites by the number of inbound citations!

* Note – Of course, nowadays Google also promotes many adverts and their famous “Don’t be Evil” code of conduct was reportedly removed a few years ago, depending on who you listen to!

Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in Tech-History …

28 Years Ago : eBay (& Amazon by Comparison)

Whilst eBay’s market cap is dwarfed by that of Amazon (i.e. circa 24 billion dollars compared to circa 1.4 trillion dollars), it’s easy to forget eBay helped shape online purchasing too.

Before it was rebranded as eBay in 1997, the site was originally called AuctionWeb. Founded by Pierre Omidyar in 1995, it was an experiment to create an online venue for person-to-person auctions and lacked any heavy investment. In fact, the hosting company were just charging thirty dollars per month to for the entire website when he started up, until they said they’d no longer host it for that price due to the growth in traffic, thereby forcing him to monetise his website via his sellers, which worked.

With his degree in computer science behind him and having worked in a subsidiary company of Apple, he was also working on various other web projects. He’d also co-founded another company called Ink Development, a company initially focused on developing software for pen-based computing. The company transformed its direction and became an e-commerce platform named eShop, which was later acquired by Microsoft in 1996.

In short, Pierre was the right person in the right place at the right time. And so was Elon Musk (more on him later).

The Unexpected First Listing

The first item ever listed on AuctionWeb was a laser pointer. To be more precise, it was a broken laser pointer. This wasn’t a mistake or an oversight. Omidyar had bought it for his own use but found out it was faulty. Rather than discarding it, he decided it would make an interesting first listing on his experimental auction site. He listed it clearly mentioning it was non-functional. To his astonishment, the laser pointer garnered bids and finally sold for $14.83.

Intrigued by someone paying for a known broken item, Pierre out to the buyer who simply responded that he was a collector of broken laser pointers. This quirky initial transaction showed the potential of a vast, unpredictable, and diverse online marketplace.

The Beanie Baby Phenomenon

While the broken laser pointer was AuctionWeb’s first sale, it was the Beanie Baby craze in the mid-90s that truly skyrocketed the platform’s popularity. Beanie Babies, those small plush animals filled with plastic pellets, became a massive collector’s item. AuctionWeb became a primary marketplace for these avid collectors, providing them a platform to buy, sell, and trade these toys.

The Beanie Baby phenomenon showcased the strength of the platform in bringing together niche audiences globally and the success also signalled the beginning of a new era where the average person could become an entrepreneur from the comfort of their own home.

From AuctionWeb to eBay

Seeing the growing potential, Omidyar soon renamed AuctionWeb to “eBay,” which was short for Echo Bay, the name of Omidyar’s consulting firm. The rest is history! eBay went public on September 24, 1998.

On its first day of trading, the stock’s price of $53.50 soared well past the initial target of $18, emphasising the optimism investors held during the dot-com boom. Unlike many that fell by the wayside, eBay is now a business that operates in over 30 countries with a market cap peaking at 80.6 billion dollars.

Amazon and eBay – Different Approaches.

While eBay and Amazon both started as online marketplaces in the 1990s, they evolved with different business models and strategies that have influenced their trajectories. eBay started off as an online auction place, although plenty of people and businesses sell via their ‘Buy Now’ function as an online shop.

There are many possibilities as to why eBay hasn’t reached the same magnitude as Amazon and here are a few :

  1. Business Model: eBay began as a peer-to-peer auction site, allowing individual sellers and buyers to negotiate prices. This gave eBay a unique identity but also meant slower and less predictable transactions. Amazon, on the other hand, started as a book retailer and then expanded its product range, focusing on selling new products at fixed prices.
  2. Fulfilment and Logistics: Amazon invested heavily in fulfilment-centres and logistics, creating a vast and efficient infrastructure for storage, packing, and shipping. This allowed them to ensure rapid delivery, leading to services like Amazon Prime. eBay, on the other hand, relies on individual sellers to handle shipping and logistics, which can be more variable in terms of speed and reliability.
  3. Private Label & Product Expansion: Amazon developed its own private-label products and expanded into diverse categories. They also encouraged third-party sellers to use their platform, ensuring a vast product range.
  4. Ecosystem Development: Amazon diversified its business areas, venturing into hardware (Kindle, Echo), streaming (Amazon Prime Video), cloud services (AWS), and more. This diversification created multiple revenue streams and bolstered its market presence.
  5. Trust and Reliability: Amazon’s emphasis on customer service and consistent delivery times built significant trust with customers. While eBay has made efforts to ensure product authenticity and seller reliability, the peer-to-peer model sometimes leads to inconsistencies in product quality and delivery.
  6. Global Expansion Strategy: Both companies pursued international expansion, but Amazon’s aggressive strategy of setting up localized versions of its site, fulfilment centres, and tailored services for different countries gave it a strong global footprint.
  7. Subscription Model: Amazon Prime, a subscription-based service, not only offers faster delivery but also includes streaming, exclusive deals, and other perks. This has fostered customer loyalty and increased purchase frequency.
  8. Feedback System: While eBay’s feedback system was innovative and built trust in the early days, some argue that it’s become less effective over time due to potential biases and reluctance from buyers and sellers to leave negative feedback.
  9. Acquisitions and Divestitures: While both companies made acquisitions, their strategies differed. Amazon’s acquisitions like Zappos, Whole Foods, and Twitch were integrated into its ecosystem. eBay, on the other hand, made some large acquisitions, such as Skype (see below), which were later divested as they didn’t align with eBay’s core focus.

What can be seen is that eBay seems to have plateaued insofar as the gross merchandise volume (GMV) (i.e. the total amount of ‘stuff’ sold via the platform) is concerned whereas Amazon’s GMV is steadily rising and so is the share of that GMV being sold by third party sellers (rather than Amazon directly) so doubtless they’re eating some of eBay’s lunch.

Perhaps the different share prices reflect the differing optimism because if there’s one thing that investors like, it’s growth.. One thing that’s clear … both companies did well over the pandemic.

While eBay didn’t reach the same dizzying heights of Amazon, it’s nevertheless a true rags-to-riches success-story that’s worth studying, including a couple of their better-known acquisitions. Even if the acquisitions were later sold, it’s interesting to try and appreciate the thinking behind the strategy and synergy.

Payment Provider : X Marks The Spot

The X Factor Elon Musk’s wealth originated from a critical acquisition made by eBay in 2002. In the late 1990s, Musk co-founded, an online payment company. would later become known as PayPal after a series of developments and a merger.

It was this very company, PayPal, that eBay acquired in 2002 for $1.5 billion in stock. At the time of the acquisition, Musk held 11.7% of PayPal shares, translating to roughly $165 million from the sale. Not too shabby for Mr Musk and it certainly helped springboard his wealth to be in the same league as that of Jeff Bezos from Amazon.

Communications Considerations : Skype

In late 2009, eBay finalized the sale of Skype for an impressive $2.75 billion. This strategic move allowed eBay to refocus on its core e-commerce operations, while the deal also highlighted Skype’s significant growth and potential in the telecommunications sector.

The Future?

Whilst Amazon seems intent on taking over the world by expanding relentlessly into eBay’s territory (and many others), eBay will likely remain a trusted corner-of-the-web for people to buy and sell goods for many years to come.

All of which started 28 years ago (this week), with a good idea and a broken laser-pointer.

Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in Tech-History …

Ancient Data-Disasters

So far in 2023, Canada’s had wildfires devouring over 30 million acres, an expanse comparable to Kentucky. This has already surpassed Canada’s earlier record set in 1989, where flames ravaged more than 18 million acres.

As the wildfire-season isn’t over yet, using the 1989 figures (much less than 2023) 18 million acres could yield in the order of 18 billion trees, assuming a thousand trees per acre. A typical pine tree, measuring approximately 45 feet in usable trunk length and eight inches in diameter, is believed to yield about 10,000 sheets of A4 paper, i.e., the 1989 Canadian wildfires possibly burned around 180 trillion sheets of A4 paper – enough to cover up the whole of Europe or stock the ancient Library of Alexandria 30 billion times over! The exact number of scrolls the Library of Alexandria contained isn’t definitively known and varies across historical sources, so it was assumed the library held 500,000 scrolls (estimates can range anywhere from 40,000 to over a million). It was also assumed that one scroll is equivalent to 10 sheets of A4 paper, for simplicity.

When the ancient Library of Alexandria was burned down (the second time), it wasn’t due to climate change but because Julius Caesar fancied Cleopatra and when he became involved in the internal conflict between her and Ptolemy XIII, he ignited the ships at the port of Alexandria and it’s speculated that this blaze extended to the library, leading to its total devastation.

It wasn’t the only time a Roman leader burned down the library because another section of the library was housed within a temple devoted to the deity Serapis. In 391 CE, under the edict of Roman Emperor Theodosius, Christianity was proclaimed the sole permitted religion of Rome, leading to the demolition of all pagan temples. Consequently, the Serapis temple in Alexandria was razed, resulting in the loss of the library’s secondary branch (talk about single-minded).

It’s believed by historians that the Library of Alexandria once contained more than half a million documents sourced from regions like Assyria, Greece, Persia, Egypt, India, among others. While gauging the storage for images remains challenging, the textual contents of this vast library could feasibly fit on a 16Gb USB drive.

Whilst this ancient information-storage is impressive, it pales into insignificance when compared to the amount of worldwide information being produced daily. This amount of information is growing geometrically and inexorably as this page and image (c/o Statistica) shows :

The next time you see a humble USB-stick, consider all the trees/wood/paper/books it could back-up and spare a thought for how the ancient librarians must have felt after the fires without an effective disaster-recovery policy!

Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in Tech-History …

“This Message Sent Around The World”

At 7:00 p.m. on August 20, 1911, a commercial telegram was sent by the telegraph operator at the Times, working on the seventeenth level of the newspaper’s headquarters in Times Square. The message made a westward journey from New York, and shortly afterwards, the very same operator received his transmitted message back, having arrived back to him eastwards.

The New York Times had wanted to find out how long a commercial telegram would take to travel around the world, so they tried it!

The message simply said “This message sent around the world.”   And it did indeed go around the world … in just sixteen and a half minutes!

Not bad, but that was a commercial telegram and therefore it wasn’t sent with all the priority that could potentially be mustered.
That honour went to President Roosevelt years before back in 1903 on July 4th (Independence Day) when his absolutely-top-priority message travelled around the world in just nine and a half minutes.
By way of comparison, that’s faster than it’d take to parcel-up your message, instruct a driver, team-up (& feed) some horses and get a mail-coach out of the yard and onto the road!

Talking of horses, the Pony Express became immediately obsolete and ceased trading just two days after the first trans-continental telegraph was sent many years earlier, during the American Civil war. Of course, sending a telegram in those early days was wildly expensive (a relatively short-distance telegram could likely cost $100 for a modern Twitter-equivalent message.

With the rate of pace of change these days, it’s easy to forget that technological progress even 150 years ago was still pretty awesome. For example, the 98-letter message sent from Queen Victoria to the US President Buchanan (in Pennsylvania, US) was very difficult to decipher and took 16 hours to send. It was nevertheless revolutionary to send electronic communications across vast oceans in 1858 and so the novelty of her message meant it was followed by a hundred-gun salute, street-parades, church-bell ringing and all other sorts of other excitement across the land.

Perhaps take a moment a think about that next time you send an encrypted video-message via WhatsApp to a friend back home whilst you’re abroad on your holidays!

Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in Tech-History …

Some HP Source…

Hewlett-Packard registered back in 1986 but did you know that it could so easily have been instead?

This $40 Billion brand was incorporated this month (August 18th) back in 1947.

You’ll have heard of HP for their printers because the HP LaserJet series launched in 1984 rapidly became the world’s most popular. But less well-known is that they’ve invented atomic clocks, LED’s and the world’s first programmable electronic calculator. In fact, Steve Wozniak worked at HP and had to sell his own personal calculator to help get Apple off the ground.

Before their incorporation, they were founded in 1939 by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. The HP or PH was decided by a tossed-coin!

Classmates from Stanford University, both of them become friends while camping back in 1934. Like other startups (e.g. Google Apple), they started in Dave Packard’s garage in Palo Alto (this garage is now considered the birthplace of Silicon Valley).

With startup-capital of just $538, they started off by building audio-oscillators which are electronic test-instruments used by sound engineers. They’d developed a way to make and sell them for £89 dollars
while inferior ones were being sold for over $200, which got noticed by the Disney Corporation, whose sound engineers working on Disney’s film “Fantasia” needed help to make innovative sound-effects among other things.

The war came to America so they made electronics such as counter-radar measures and while opportunities like these helped, they put their success down to running their company “The HP Way” (David Packard wrote a book about this and it’s worth a read).

The main principles are here, which are just as relevant now as ever :
1 Trust and Respect for Individuals.
2 Focus on a High Level of Achievement and Contribution
3 Uncompromising Integrity
4 Achievement of Common Objectives through Teamwork
5 Encouragement of Innovation and Flexibility
6 Corporate Citizenship (HP believed in making a positive contribution to society and behaving as a good corporate citizen)

Perhaps have a think about this the next time you’re desperately trying to print-out your flight tickets for your holidays and the computer says it “can’t see” the printer, even though it’s plugged in and connected right next to it !

Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in Tech-History …

The Wonderful Wizard of Woz!

Steve Wozniak – business partner of Steve Jobs and co-founder of Apple – was born on August 11, 1950.

Most people know that Apple went on to become one of the most valuable companies in the world and even though Steve the company way back in left in 1985, there are numerous other projects and charities he contributed to without diminishing his love of computing and engineering as he got older.

However, some of the details of his earlier life before 1985 are worthy of note, so here are 10 fun facts about this energetic engineer :

 1 – He was born in San Jose, California to Francis Jacob Wozniak and Margaret Louise Wozniak. He possibly got his love of engineering from his father, who was an engineer for Lockheed Martin and was of Polish descent. Wozniak is a common surname in Poland, and it’s derived from the Polish word “woźny,” which means a driver or a carriage man.

2 – Steve Wozniak (‘Woz’) is a well-known fan of Star Trek and has often spoken about how the show influenced him as a child. He has attributed Star Trek with inspiring him to think about the future and the possibilities of technology.

3 – He has talked about his prosopagnosia, also known as ‘face blindness’. Prosopagnosia is a cognitive disorder that affects a person’s ability to recognise faces, including faces of people they know well.

4 – Woz attended the University of Colorado Boulder, for a year from 1968 to 1969, studying electrical engineering before expelled for hacking into the university’s computer system! This was part of Wozniak’s early interest in computers and electronics. He later went back to university (5).

5 – Steve Wozniak attended the University of California, Berkeley, but he dropped out in 1972 to work with Steve Jobs. They later co-founded Apple Inc. in 1976.

6 – Like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak also worked at Hewlett-Packard.  Wozniak worked at HP from 1971 to 1976. During his time at HP, Wozniak worked as an engineer in the calculator division. It was during this period that he began attending meetings of the ‘Homebrew Computer Club’ with Jobs. He developed the early design of what would become the Apple I computer while still employed at HP. Wozniak actually offered his design for the Apple I to HP while he was still an employee, but the company declined his offer.

7 – Wozniak left HP in 1976 to co-found Apple Inc. with Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne. Apple revolutionized the tech industry with a series of innovative products including the Apple I and II computers, the Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, transforming personal computing, music, and mobile communications, and (as we all know), becoming one of the most valuable companies in the world.

8 – To gather funds for their initial Apple prototype, which would eventually evolve into the Apple I, both Wozniak and Jobs had to make sacrifices. Jobs sold his Volkswagen van, while Wozniak decided to sell his HP scientific calculator. These sales collectively generated over $1,000, providing the necessary capital to kickstart their venture.

9 – In 1981, he was involved in a crash when the plane (that he was piloting), stalled while taking off. Wozniak suffered several injuries, including a concussion. The concussion caused him to lose his short-term memory, meaning he couldn’t remember things that had happened since the crash. This memory loss lasted for several weeks, but Wozniak eventually made a full recovery.

The crash had a significant impact on Wozniak’s life. He took time off from Apple to recover and also began to reevaluate his life and his priorities, which eventually led him to reduce his role at Apple and focus on other interests and projects.

10 – Later that same year (1981) he decided to go back to school to complete his degree at the University of California, Berkeley. He re-enrolled under the pseudonym Rocky Raccoon Clark to avoid attention and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1986. The university also awarded him an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree in 2000.

So, quite a few inspirations there from his formative years before Apple became massive, not least of which is that when it comes to University, it’s never to late to finish what you started!

Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in Tech-History …

August 6, 1997 : Microsoft & Apple Cooperate

By the mid-1990s, Apple was in dangerously bad shape. The company’s market share was dwindling, its product line was confused, and it was bleeding money. Their future looked bleak, and it needed a lifeline and they all knew it.

Enter Microsoft, led by Bill Gates (the then-richest man in the world). On August 6, 1997, at the Macworld Expo in Boston, Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, announced a surprising partnership with Microsoft. The announcement, made via a live video feed of Gates, was met with a mixture of boos and applause from the audience.

The deal involved Microsoft investing $150 million in Apple in exchange for non-voting shares, thereby providing Apple with much-needed cash. Furthermore, Microsoft committed to continue developing its Office software for Mac for the next five years, ensuring that Mac users could access the same productivity tools as PC users. In return, Apple agreed to make Internet Explorer the default web browser on its machines.

It’s fair to say that the more cynical among us might prefer to look “under the bonnet” of this deal because at the time there were concerns around monopolies, patent infringements and potentially even darker issues that we’ll likely never be allowed to know. Plus, both companies aren’t strangers to spinning positive PR, so it’s probably wise to keep an open mind.

Nevertheless, it worked insofar as it demonstrated that even fierce competitors could find common ground and collaborate for mutual benefit. The agreement allowed Apple to regain its footing and eventually launch a series of innovative products, including the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, which revolutionised the tech industry.

Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in Tech-History …

How Bright Is Your Toothpaste?

The Oppenheimer blockbuster launched with an IMDB rating of 9.0, so it appears lots of people liked it.

Whilst the film made mention of many of the pioneers in physics who helped during the Manhattan project, it could perhaps have made more than at least a passing reference to Marie Curie. After all, her contribution towards nuclear physics literally killed her and she died in the month of July, way back in 1934, as a result of radioactive exposure. This was hardly a surprise given what little people knew about the effects of radiation at the turn of the last century. In fact it was her that literally coined the phrase “radioactivity”.

Obviously, it’s a bad idea to handle radium. Yet people did in those days and with gusto, because it glows in the dark. In fact people used it from everything to wristwatch-dials to brushing their teeth with it, with devastating results! As an aside, Marie’s notebooks are still too contaminated to be considered safe to handle even now.

Not only was she the first woman ever to get a Nobel prize, she was the first person to get it twice and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields and the first woman to become a professor at the lauded Sorbonne in Paris – simply unheard of in those days.

To get an idea of the kinds of lengths she went to, she used to manually process pitchblende (the ore where radium comes from). There’s about 1 gram of radium for every seven tons of the ore and the cost of radium went from circa £400 per gram in 1903 to circa £20,000 per gram in 1918 when people believed it cured cancer (rather than causing it).

Nuclear physics has come along a long way since people cheerfully drank radium-laced cocktails and hopefully we’ll shortly see the advent of scalable clean energy coming from fusion reactors being developed – there’s a lot of investment and excitement in this space right now. With luck, the power requirements for the burgeoning tech industry could be met (alongside those of other sectors) because with AI and everything else, data-requirements are definitely exploding right now, even if the reactors don’t.