You may not have heard of Gabor before reading this--and unless you're a Sci-Fi freak or total Trekkie--the father of holography might not seem terribly important to you. But the technology Gabor pioneered has had broad implications.
Besides allowing for things like holograms to become a reality, holography is the basis of 3-D imaging...and we're not just talking Pixar! Holography helped to improve the electron microscope through Gabor's invention of the first iron-shrouded magnetic electron lens. The electron microscope is important because it was one of the first inventions created to help study diseases like Polio. Without that technology, Polio, among other nasty health problems, would still be prevalent today. Gabor's work also helped to improve cathode ray tubes--the things responsible for images projected on fluorescent screens like televisions, computer screens, even radar systems like the ones used in air traffic control. Gabor made the first high-speed cathode ray oscillograph, making the use of cathode ray tubes in today's technology possible. Gabor held over 100 patents, including the mercury vapor lamp, an effecient form of lighting used in Europe and also in certain forms of photography. AMAZING. I'm out of breathe just writing about all this stuff!
The truth of the matter is, without Gabor's contributions, our world would be a much different place. Gabor's interest in electrical engineering combined with a passion for physics produced some of the most advanced, and useful, technology STILL IN USE TODAY!!! And that's not all....
Gabor was a writer, too. He published several important papers as well as multiple books on things like electron microscopes but Gabor was also highly interested and concerned with society at large. Having lived and lost during the Holocaust, and familiar with the direction technology was taking, Gabor theorized about the problems facing humans in the not-so-dsistant future--things like having too much leisure time because of technological advances--and while having too much leisure time doesn't sound like a bad thing...take a look around you.
Gabor theorized in the early 70's that technology would have progressed further by 2010 then it has. However, it has progressed and though we feel like we have no time, that's a bit of an illusion. With the advent of things like the microwave, shortened cooking time for food adds minutes--heck, even hours--to our day. With all the nifty kitchen gadgets alone, like bread mixers, ice cream makers, hot air poppers, deep fryers, people can make complicated recipes in very little time. We have faster cars with bigger engines. We have water heaters to quickly heat our water for faster showers--Electrolux even makes a washer and dryer that can completely clean and dry your clothes in about 30 minutes!!! Seriously, that's awesome. And what about the computer? Without it, we writers would be clacking away on type-writer keys...oy. In Gabor's time, none of this was yet possible. Though slower than Gabor expected, we DO have increased leisure time because of technological advances...even if it doesn't always feel like it. So what's the problem???
The degradation of society as a whole starts with things like hyperreality (the internet, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and virtual reality (video games, television and film). And you don't have to take my word for it. Look at your life. Do you Twitter? Facebook? Email? LinkedIn? Aim? Do you carry around an iPhone, iPad, Droid, Blackberry, or some version thereof? Cell phone? You have a television? A computer? Then you know. Increased free time through technological advances in the home and workplace have allowed society to indulge in things that not only isolate us from others, taking precious time away from family and friends, but fill our leisure time with a vacant reality--something artificial, a fallacy in the sense that it seems real but it's not, it's just prettier than other types of distractions.
Gabor sadly died in 1979, long before he got to see how his 100 patents and inventions moved society closer to his image of the future. But we're still here. And if we look backwards, it will help us see forward with more clarity--thanks to people like Dennis Gabor. Check out Gabor's books Inventing the Future (1971) and The Mature Society (1972) to learn more about what this great mind, greater than almost any other before or since, thought about what was happening in our world. The experience is kind of like finding your grandfather's journal from 40 years ago--your genius, inventor grandfather, that is.
In our celebrity-focused society, we tend to only think of living people as important. But the loss of the physical doesn't change the worth of a human life well-spent, a life like Dennis Gabor's.
Until next time, dearest readers....