Technology: An Invisible Progression


I like to think I’m not that old…but then I see old Fry’s ads like this one:

1 MB of RAM? WHOA!

1 MB of RAM? WHOA!

Soak it in for a minute folks…this ad is less than 20 years old. On any given day I’m interacting with technology that seemed like science fiction in the not too distant past. Nevermind the fact that we’re all carrying around smartphones that have more computing power than the $1,750 PC tower featured in the above ad. Nevermind the fact that computers that were likely the pipe-dream of researchers and developers at NASA roughly 20 years ago are now commonly found in your average teenager’s backpack. My questions is this: how did we miss it? Technology may be accelerating at break-neck speeds, but its immersion in our culture makes it deceptively slow.

flying car

I’m waiting…

When I was a kid, I always watched science fiction movies wondering just how much of it would be considered “realistic” for my lifetime. I remember the concept of a touchscreen computer seemed incredible to me at the time, and then once touchscreen desktops came out I dismissed them as gimmicky. I was able to do this because of the way being immersed in the progress of technology numbs you to its advances. We can be very picky when it comes to the development of technology. There’s an expectation for technology of the future, like it has to revolve around flying cars and teleportation as a major breakthrough into the next frontier.

However, it hardly ever works out that way. It’s extremely unlikely that we’ll just wake up one day to discover someone has launched a workable flying car prototype ready for mass production in 3-5 years. Instead, we’ll see more advanced computers go into our cars, they’ll even learn to drive themselves.

Is that 1,000 songs in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Our personal technology is also experiencing a similar transformation. Cell phones and pagers were at the fore-front of personal technology in the 90s, and MP3 players started taking off in the late 90s, early 2000s with the release of Apple’s iPod in 2001.

Fast forward to 2007, and smartphones start to take center stage. Blackberries, iphones and android devices have all been vying for our dollars and our loyalty over the last 5-7 years, revolutionizing the way we interact with one another. It’s no longer about giving someone a call or even shooting a text anymore. Now we’re facebook messaging, using instagram and tumblr, utilizing apps and other software to track where our friends are and alert us when there’s a store nearby with a sale. We access groupons from our phones and deliver immediate feedback to restaurants and shops by typing up a Yelp review from our devices.

So what’s next? Now we are starting to move past our attachment to our phones and more towards wearable technology. Up bands, fuel bands, galaxy gear watches, google glass and the rumored iWatch are all making their way into our lives slowly, but surely. Right now, a lot of them are focused on personal fitness. Technology that monitors heart rates, calorie burn, distance, sleep patterns…technology that is beginning to scratch the surface of assisting human beings in living better, healthier lives. Again, this is what progress looks like. We just have to make sure we are keeping our eyes open to see what these small changes are doing, and how these small advancements ultimately add up to a world straight out of The Twilight Zone.

What do you think? What’s a technological advancement that you’ve taken for granted? What do you think is the next big tech breakthrough?