10 YEARS AGO — 2000
GM speeds toward virtual prototypes: GM engineers are moving toward developing a virtual vehicle they can assemble, view, and evaluate without building a physical prototype. Computer-aided-engineering tools simulate vehicle structures, crashworthiness, and occupant protection. Also, software simulations help evaluate vehicle-control systems, along with the performance of components and subsystems.

30 YEARS AGO — 1980
“Do everything” business machine: Developments such as the programmable copier, editing typewriter, and laser printer are forerunners in a new era of business-equipment machines. By 1990, according to predictions, facsimile transmission of written messages, graphics, and other documents will trail only the telephone and first-class mail as a means of communication. One facsimile-transmission unit, made by Xerox, monitors a telephone line, automatically answers the phone, adjusts to the speed of the sending unit, and prints the message or document.

50 YEARS AGO — 1960
NPNs by the thousands: A miniature assembly line is burning npn transistors at the rate of 1,800/hr. Developed by IBM, the system is made up of six turntables, two ovens (for alloying and bonding), and a welding unit. These nine units (joined by conveyors) fabricate transistors from preformed parts — emitter and collector dots, germanium discs, base tabs, whiskerlike wires, and mounting bases. Photocells coupled to mechanical rejectors throw out transistors that can’t pass inspection. IBM says the 500-sq-ft machine has the highest output of any existing method for making transistors.