Friday, April 2, 2010

The Evolution of Some Key Items of Technology

The evolution that one speaks about when they talk about new media and business is all around us. The public actually adapts to new media pretty rapidly. Much of the new media that is associated with business also has a strong existence in personal lives, as well.

One cannot talk about new media and business without talking about computers. In 1936, Alan Turing came out with his “Turing Machine,” which was the beginning of computer science. In the late 1970’s the computer got smaller and began to appear in homes and schools. I remember as a little girl using the Apple II’s in school with the floppy disk that actually flopped. You know, the kind with the hole in the middle. Apple launched the Mac line with a landmark superbowl commercial in 1984. When I was in high school, I took a class where we used the “ET Macs” so nicknamed because they looked like that famous extra-terrestrial from the movie. Then I got my first computer, a “pizza box” Mac. This was the state-of-the-art Mac computer at the time. Back then, a laptop weighed a ton (ok, not a real ton but they were quite heavy) and cost over $2,000.

Back when I got that first computer, I used it to troll on the internet. In 1993, when I started using the internet, few people knew what it was. Most of what you used was part of your providers own offering. The big names in Internet Service Providers (ISP) were: America Online, CompuServe and Prodigy. There were also local bulletin boards that us nerds would dial into with our modems. I don’t know if they even still exist. Connection speeds got faster and soon enough we were connecting through cable and other high speed sources. Now, high speed connection is the standard. Although, I know a couple in their seventies who still use dial up. A quick note about search-engines which are a key element to the internet, when I got started with the internet, I was using Lycos until Yahoo came out in 1994. It’s hard to believe Google only came out in 1998.

Another item that has changed quite a bit over time, is the camera. I’ve been to the Kodak museum in Rochester. They showed the evolution from black and white photos to Polaroid cameras which take a picture that pops out of the front and develops to the “throw away cameras” that were popular before the industry turned digital. After turning digital, much of the evolution involved an increasing clarity (increasing pixel resolution). The traditional camera industry has scrambled to redefine themselves in light of these technological changes. They now offer developing of digital photos, digital frames, photo printers and cameras. A related item of interest is the video camera going from tape to digital.

As a later member of generation X, I also saw the unraveling of cell phone technology. When I was a kid, I saw the “car phone” on television. I now learn that the cell phone really came to the U.S. in 1982. This is when the FCC approved a submission that AT & T had submitted. My distant cousins had a car phone in the 1980’s. It was a big deal. We did not know anyone else with a car phone until my father got a cell phone around 1989 or 1990. It was big and bulky. I think it was bigger than today’s cordless phones. Eventually, though, the cell phone became more and more common. They got smaller and more and more lightweight until recently, that is.

In the last ten years, we have begun to see a convergence of the various technologies. During late summer of 2002, I got my first camera phone. I scrimped and saved and it was a big deal. Of course, now everyone has a camera phone. In fact, the cameras in the phones are often video cameras now. This was also a big deal not so long ago. In October-November of 2006, I very briefly had a phone with a keypad with which I played on the internet. It had been second-hand and it broke. They were still very expensive back then and I didn’t buy my own. However, this past summer, my phone broke and when I went in to buy a new one, I found that the phones with keypads have gotten so cheap that I bought one.

If you look above, I have carefully laid out for you all these various capabilities that have all come together. The most obvious platform for this is the cell phone which now contains a digital camera which takes both pictures and videos. These devices also go on the internet and come with their own little key pad to do so. Furthermore, today’s laptops and netbooks are now coming equipped with cameras that record pictures and videos. I’m typing this paper on a netbook just like this. I bought it less than a month ago. It was not top of the line. It was only about $50 more than the cheapest option.

As someone who grew up during much of this evolution, I still can’t believe how much things have changed. What will be next? Perhaps our phones will plug into our computers USB port to transfer data back and forth. Perhaps, we will be watching TV on our phones. Can we already do that? The technology changes so fast. Yet, we also become spoiled by our adjustments to the new technologies equally fast. I can’t imagine that a year ago, I had to come home to check my Email on the computer. It seems like a world away. It was only August. When the new changes come, how quickly will we adjust and forget?

My rough sources:

Personal memories and knowledge

My marketing book, “Marketing: The Core” by Kerin, Hartley and Rudelis 2nd edition. (p. 29 to 31)


  1. Yes, you can watch TV on your cellphone today. By 2012, I suspect you'll be able to download and watch movies as well.

    My grandmother put it most succinctly. She noted that in her lifetime she witnessed the transition to electricity, refrigeration, antibiotics, television, fax machines, cell phones, computers and man walking on the moon.

    She grew up in a world where candles provided light in her rural village, food storage meant drying and salting (until she moved to the big city. Then there was the miracle of ice). Laundry was done by hand (until big city wringer washers). She lost siblings due to easily treatable diseases and she recounted the wonder of seeing an elevator for the very first time. She told the story of how she came home after that monumental event and told her pet goat all the wonders she had seen.

    By the way, that 'big city' was about 30 miles from her small village- a 5 to 6 day walk, a bit longer with kids in tow.

    Kind of puts things in perspective.

  2. Actually, you can plug a BlackBerry into your computer's USB port. I do that all the time.

  3. Oh,well look at you Aztec... I have the cheaper, knock off blackberry, but soon even the knock offs will have this feature... how long? 6 months? A year? A then what? What will be the next NEW thing after thaat?