The other night my son had a homework assignment asking me how technology had changed since I was a child. I started rattling off the the devices and technologies we take for granted today that didn't exist back then. Sounding like my parents talking about the old days, I told him about how we had no cell phones, PCs, MP3 players or flat screen TVs. There was no CD, DVD or Blue Ray. Nobody had a DVR. There weren't even VCRs. Heck we didn't have a color TV in our house until I was in high school in the 1970s.
Let's take a quick a look at a couple of technologies and see how far we've come.
Have you ever noticed, you can easily date a movie by the phone technology? When you see someone go to a pay phone, you know it's before cell phones were in every pocket or purse. There was a time in the late 80s when a cell phone was fixed in the car (and appropriately known as a "car phone"). My first real memory of cell phones is from the X-Files TV show. I really loved how Agent Muldar snapped open his cell phone and called his partner Sculley. My first cell phone wasn't so slick, however. Purchased in the late 90s sometime, it was a solid brick and although it fit in my pocket, it wasn't necessarily comfortable to carry.
You can get a sense of 90s cell phone technology from this YouTube video. While they weren't as large as the 80s car phones, these phones were much larger than the ones we carry today and they did far less. Even though text messaging is firmly embedded in our modern lives, widespread use hasn't been around that long. And although many of us take for granted that we have the internet in our pockets, smart phones were until recent years much too expensive for all but business people whose companies paid for their Blackberries.
For much of the time when I was growing up, we had one black and white TV in the house. We got 4 stations. I also remember a sign on the movie marquee when I was in high school that stated "Fight Pay TV." Even back then, the MPAA was threatened by the changing face of technology. TV picture improved over the years, but even in the 90s, a big-screen TV was out of reach for most people except for bars, which purchased the large projection TVs.
Digital TVs are required technology now, and flat screens are commodities, but as recently as 5 years ago, buying one would have run you around $2000 US. I just bought a 32 inch for $400. Let's not forget that VCRs became commodities in the 80s. By the late 90s, DVDs were available and would eventually make the VCR look like dinosaurs. By the middle of the last decade, DVRs were appearing in many homes. Today, they are a common part of packages from cable providers like Comcast.
Technology is changing so quickly and it's easy to think that where it is now is the way it's always been, but the fact is we are living in very exciting times technologically, and the picture is changing very quickly. And what's funny is, what seems so modern and slick at the very moment will seem like ancient history to us in just a few short years. Keep it coming though. I can't get enough.