55 Years of Progress

As Euro 2021 has unfolded, XTM International’s Polish, Scottish, Welsh, Spanish, German, Swiss, French, Swedish and Danish employees have seen their hopes dashed one by one, leaving only Italy and England still standing. For a proud football nation, fifty five years has been a long time to wait between major tournament finals, and the world has changed dramatically since England’s day in the sun in 1966, a year of notable landmarks.

This was the year, for example, when the Hewlett-Packard 2116A, HP’s first commercially sold computer, saw the light of day. Most computers of the mid-1960s were static monoliths in air-conditioned rooms. The 2116A was, by the standards of the day, portable, beginning a development cycle that has incorporated PCs, laptops and hand-held devices.

Our friends in the language technology sector might be interested to know that it was in 1966 that ELIZA, Joseph Weizenbaum’s ground-breaking language processing environment was first developed. Its DOCTOR mode was equipped to ask and answer basic questions, using the language of psychotherapy. As rudimentary as it was, ELIZA succeeded in fooling some users into believing they were talking to a real person. All these years later, there are human customer service representatives who struggle to match that achievement.

Gamers should be aware that the activity they love had its origins in the 1966 Brown Box, designed by Ralph Baer. It functioned as the world’s first multiplayer, multiprogram video game system. In Baer’s own words:

“The minute we played ping-pong, we knew we had a product.”

They certainly did. The global video game market is now valued at $170 billion per annum.

Those of us with one eye on the stars will be interested to know that 1966 saw the first transmission of photographs of the lunar surface to earth. Three years before men walked on the moon, Luna 9, an unmanned Soviet spacecraft, successfully landed, recorded the environment and shared the images with the Soviet Space Agency. NASA, meanwhile, was pressing forward with its manned mission programme. Gemini 8 carried Neil Armstrong on his first orbit. It would not be his last.

The computer system that sent Neil Armstrong into orbit in January 1966 and then sent him to the Moon and back three and a half years later would have taken up the ground floor of an average warehouse, and had less memory capacity than an average modern smartphone, making NASA’s accomplishments all the more remarkable. Cloud-based systems that deliver precise automation of countless tasks in the blink of an eye remind us how far we’ve come in the past five and a half decades, and at XTM International we’re constantly looking beyond the horizon, excited about where we can go next. We believe this week’s release of XTM Cloud 12.8 marked a giant leap for language technology, and we can promise you that you won’t have to wait 55 years for the next one. It’ll be with you in just a few months.    

Italian fans haven’t had such lengthy intervals between glory days, of course. Since 1966 the Azzurri have appeared in four World Cup finals, winning two, and in three European Championship finals, winning one.

Italy’s last major trophy was the 2006 World Cup. That was the year Facebook opened its doors to users beyond selected Universities and allowed anyone aged over 13 with a valid email address to join the social network. By the end of the year, 12 million people had accepted the invitation. Twitter was launched in July 2006, just six days after Italy defeated France in the World Cup final. Within a decade it would become so influential that many political commentators regarded it as a battleground where national referendums and Presidential elections were won and lost. And in October 2006, eyebrows were raised when Google acquired a small, relatively obscure video platform. Fifteen years later YouTube has over one billion monthly users.

We believe in meritocracy. In a professional context, that means choosing the most effective global communication tools, the most advanced AI applications and the most scalable, cost-effective and empowering translation management system.

This Sunday, it also means may the best team win.

Good luck, England!

In bocca al lupo, Italia!