Wednesday, May 03, 2017
Technology, The Past, The Present and the Future
Technology moved my paternal grandfather from the farm, to the Ford Rouge Factory, it moved my maternal grandfather from farming with mules and horses to farming with tractors. My father was born the year that Lindbergh flew the Atlantic solo. Technology changes the way we live, and where we live.
I can remember when my parents bought their first electronic calculator in the early 1970's. It cost about $50 and had very basic functions. Being a bit math-phobic, it was life changing for me. Within a decade, calculators went from very basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, to very complex functions - I still have a TI-Financial calculator that made it possible for me to do very complex payment and APR calculations, that were previously the work of only economists and math nerds.
In the early 1980's I bought my first home computer. A Radio Shack Color Computer II, it had a whopping 16-K of memory capacity - to put that is perspective, that is about the size of one image file from your cell phone - and the entire computer ran on that memory. Over the past 35 years computers have changed the way I work, the way I communicate, I entertain my self in ways that were unimaginable when I started writing software for that first machine. The phones that most of us carry have more computing power and more memory than NASA used to land on the moon in 1969.
I bought my first cell phone in 1996 - just 21 years ago. It weighed about a pound, and had about a 30 minute battery life when you were talking on it. That was okay, because my monthly plan only included 30 minutes of talk time - and about a quarter a minute after that (for about $35 a month.)
I can remember attempts over the years at Video Phones. The phones were large and heavy, the screens were tiny and only in black and white with really terrible pictures. The cost was over the top, and the early video phone didn't work well, they were a failure. Today, Facetime, and Google Video Chat, provide online video calls, with high quality audio and video (if your connection is good) for free.
E-books have largely replaced print books for me. I still prefer my Kindle to reading on my phone. I use the Kindle voice feature to have the text read to me, when it is inconvenient to read (on the treadmill at the gym, on an overnight airline flight.) The idea of being able to carry 100 books, in a pocket was unthinkable just a few years ago. E-books will continue to grow in market share - changing publishing forever.
So were do I think technology going in the next 10 years? Self driving cars are in the near future. Electronic speech translation is breaking down barriers to travel and business across cultures. Electronic review of medical imaging is on the horizon - improving diagnostics. There will be massive changes in retailing and distribution in the world. Amazon and other online shopping platforms are forever changing retailing and how goods are delivered. (If you can find a good use for the vacant shopping malls in the USA, you could make a billion dollars in the next decade.) Robots are changing manufacturing, computers are changing professional services - with better technology we need fewer lawyers and accountants to do the same work.
What do you think will be the greatest technological change in the next 10 years?