Monday, August 19, 2013

Taking tech for granted.

As we grow up, we also grow older, and the strangest thing tends to happen; we begin to take for granted that which we would have seen as miraculous only a short time ago.

When was the last time you complained about your cell phone?  Complained about your DSL connection?  Your laptop?  We take these things for granted every day, but the reality is that they would have seemed fantastic and unimaginable in our childhoods.  For most of us who are 30 and up, it's highly unlikely that you had a computer in your home when you were a small child, but today there are 6 year old kids running around with iPhones.

The first computer we had in my household was purchased at Sears, the day after Thanksgiving in 1986 or '87 when I was 6 or 7 years old.  It came with a 33mhz CPU and my dad paid quite a bit extra to upgrade it to 1MB of RAM, and insisted on a 40MB hard disk drive which the salesmen tried to discourage him from by saying, and I quote, "trust me.  It's not worth the money.  You couldn't fill a 40MB hard drive in a million years."

Today, I carry a cell phone in my pocket that has a processor which cycles 57 times as fast (never mind improvements in efficiency and the fact that it's a quad-core).  It has 2,000 times as much RAM, and more than 400 times as much storage.  Even the screen, which is small enough to fit comfortably in my pocket, has nearly 7 times as many pixels.

Even if we ignore the fact that it's a massively more powerful computer than what was available just a couple decades ago and we ignore the fact that it costs roughly 1/10 of what that old Packard Bell desktop cost my dad, we still have to admit that it puts the original Star Trek communicator to shame.

Voice, text, data and multi-media in something ¼" thick and roughly the outline of a dollar bill. It'll even do GPS navigation, connect to my car stereo, and connect to my car's on-board computer for diagnostics.  It keeps track of how long I've been jogging, and calculates how many calories I've burned.  You can even connect them to some bathroom scales so that it can monitor your weight, body fat, hydration levels, and countless other aspects of your physical health.

It's a communicator AND a tri-corder.

In the 47 years since the debut of Star Trek; secure, pocket-sized and crystal clear 2 way communicators have gone from science fiction to something we complain about if we have to reset them once a week.  Just imagine the technology that our children and grandchildren will take for granted.

It's staggering to imagine that 30 years ago, a portable phone was the size of a briefcase and incredibly rare.  50 years ago it was pure science fiction.

90 years ago, people routinely died from every day bacterial infections that we can now cure with a single shot.

A brief 600 years ago, Johannes Gutenberg was a teenager, and still almost 30 years from inventing the printing press.

Of course, above and beyond all that, the next time you take your high speed internet or your cell phone for granted; before your complain about or malign the marvelous technology that helps our world run so smoothly in this very young millennium; consider this quote by Cory Doctoro, my favorite novelist who has yet to write a great novel:

"Ten thousand years ago, the state-of-the-art was a goat."-