I was born in 1973 and will be 40 later this year. No, I’m not having a mid-life crisis, panic over hitting an age milestone, or anything else like that. Not my personality or style. What I am having is a realization that if this much can happen in such a short period of time, what does our future hold? Now some of the change was good, and some of the change has been nonexistent or at least not as much as I hoped.
Automotive - For some industries technology really has not played as big of a part as I had hoped. The Automotive industry has been the biggest letdown in my lifetime so far. With all of the computer and science tech that has been identified and harnessed over the past 40 years we’re still basically building the same crap. Just sips the gas a little better, and has something a bit fancier than an 8 track on the inside for your music. It’s not like there has been some seismic shift in the way the automotive industry has tackled their industry and is probably partially responsible for the recent collapse of some of the giants and their closing down the sub-brands that decades ago did provide additional creature comforts, style, and overall value.
Housing - Another industry that I think could have done a lot more with technology is the home improvement / housing industry in general. Now you have homes finally wired up with a full electrical / network / tv / etc. system inside the homes bones but existing homeowners for the most part still sit inside wood and siding houses with some insulation and drywall on the inside to try to keep their house heat efficient. With all the technology we have devised I’m just amazed that existing homeowners still dwell in houses that are for the most part no different than the ones built 80 years prior. Friends and family who have remodeled or gutted from Sandy have the same thing put back up. Maybe it looks prettier, or has central air now or some other minor upgrade. But the actual houses have very little updating done to them from when they were first constructed in these neighborhoods (my town was developed mostly in the 40s).
Enough of the pooping on dated technological industries. Truthfully I think overall we have made huge advances in technology. The thing is it’s all NEW and does not always hook up to the older industries like automotive or housing. Since new technology is generally developed with it’s own needs in mind, things are more one of a kind and customized to the experience.
Communications - Holy hell what has happened in this space? In my lifetime we went from rotary telephones, to having an electronic secretary in our shirt pocket that only wants to be paid $50/month + dataplan and a couple bucks in electricity a month to charge! Our electronic secretaries also never take a break, always remember the details to every little thing, and even replace your photography equipment for anyone other than professionals. And that photography equipment built into our modern communication devices? It’s loads better than what we grew up with and can be shared instantly with others. Great example. Yesterday I’m at my father-in-laws with my daughter. I took a invariably snarky picture of her and a few clicks later dressed it up with Instagram and uploaded it to Facebook. 2 words that 40 years ago would have put you into an insane asylum with people thinking you speak in tongues!! Communications has only a few places left to really go at this point and they are already pretty much there. Wearable phones like the watches coming out now that either are phones or bluetooth items that work with your phones, eyewear with overlays to see incoming calls and the stems act as speakers, and implants. Personally you’ll never implant a phone in me without killing me first, but the Pebble bluetooth watch is a great way to use your phone on the go and not have to have it in your hands 24/7 like most people seem to do!!
Video Games and Entertainment - Remember the action movies of the 70s and then how in the 80s the explosions got bigger with guys like Rambo and The Terminator? Then you take it to the next step with CGI and movies like the Lord of the Rings series, Avatar, or Star Wars. Heck, compare 70s to modern day Star Wars… technology obviously plays an enormous part in things and they were ahead of their time back in day. Video games we had games like Skeet ball, Space Invaders, and old fashioned Pinball. Now it’s a gaming world with motion controlled Xbox 360 Kinect in your living room and no more need to beg for a fistful of quarters for a day at the arcade. You can even have a personal trainer in your living room for a one time fee of $50 for the “game” that you can follow along with at your own schedule and in your own attire. Yes, bathrobe workouts are on the rise. Game quality has gone from a Space Invaders recreation played in BASIC on a Vic20, to full HD experiences that have more realism than a TV show with actual people. You can get lost in these new video game worlds due to the sheer size of the gaming arena. Add in the whole MMO world of games where you can run for over an hour in any 1 direction and literally be moving through towns, forests, deserts, etc. it’s truly amazing how far technology has driven the gaming industry.
Computers - They no longer take up 3 office floors to crunch some numbers! I remember in the 80s my old man sold a computer to a financial company (he worked for IBM) and it took up an entire FLOOR of a giant office building. Hardcore stuff. Today? That same computer could be emulated on my iPad. That alone speaks volumes on how far the technology has moved in the past 40 years and especially the last decade. Now it’s not so much about processing power, hard drive space, or graphics as much as it once was. Users now are demanding smaller devices, with more hands on control. I use the gesture based trackpad for my iMac (you can read about my PC to MAC transition here at Steve Online) after 2 decades of trackball use. I never really was a mouse guy it never felt right to me. Now everything is based on finger swiping on touch screens and things like mice and trackballs are quickly becoming distant memories. Processor speeds are at the point the Intel/AMD arms race has clearly quieted down to a murmur. Hard drive capacity is now more about how small can you make X GigaBytes and SSD technology. Memory? Aka the thing everyone asked me to crack open their computers back in the day to upgrade and I once paid over $400 for a 512 K upgrade on a PCjr (it was my tip $$ working at a summer camp). Memory is dirt cheap and 90% of the computers sold come with enough RAM you won’t need to upgrade unless you are a hardcore computer user. For me personally the evolution of the computer has been something I experienced a lot first hand always being the go-to guy for friends and family, worked a little with them, and always just had a fascination with them in general.
The Internet - I’m going to end this piece with the Internet. Without it, you would not be reading this or any other articles today. Without it technology would not progress as quickly. Things like Crowdsourcing would not be taking place helping small ideas become big. Online dating would not exist for many and they’d still be living in their parents basement. Sports would not be up to the second for us all. Life as we know it would not be streaming 24/7, somewhere, to someone.
40 years of technology and I have barely scratched the surface. The medical field alone could be a years worth of research and writing of how much has happened from technology in the past 40 years. Projects like SETI harnessing power from all over the world for research. The music industry has had a huge change due to technology and how artists can make it with far less talent than once was. Fashion, design, and art all have had some dabble of technology changing or shaping in the past 40 years. It’s really a topic we could discuss until the next 40 years pass.
Have some technology change that impacted you in the last 40 years? Or even the past 10? Post it below in the comments section I’d love to hear what technology has helped or shaped your life.