A Generation of Technology Change

This year my daughters turn 18 and 21.

I was thinking about all the changes that have occurred in one generation and what life was like when I was their age.

I decided to write a series of articles and reflect on these changes. The biggest change has been in technology. How many of these changes have been beneficial and which changes have been for the worse? Mostly I will write about technology change, highlight the wonderful things and gripe about the down side of change.

When I turned 21 mobile phones did not exist. People could only be contacted at home or in their workplace. Yes it was possible to be uncontactable for long stretches of times. I think the text message is more revolutionary and useful than mobile phone calls. Now we all have mobile phones and can be contacted nearly everywhere.

The personal computer had not been created. I completed my computer science course using terminals (with paper printouts) connected to a very powerful computer in the computer centre on campus. Now we all have our own computers connected to the internet through a wireless network.

The Internet started in the 1960s but only became commercialised in the 1990s. I first had access to the Internet in my office using a dial-up modem giving us access to email, file transfers and USENET news. Now the Internet is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in our home and on the go using “smart” phones.

Portable music players have now developed to the point that you can carry your entire music collection in your pocket. The ability to rip Compact discs to a compressed format means an entire music library can be stored as a stream of bits on a memory chip and disk drive. When I was 18 I owned about 20 records and 40 cassette recordings made from my friends’ records.

A camera was a device which required purchasing film, taking 24 or 36 photographs then taking the film to a photolab for printing. After spending over $25 on film and processing you had one (or maybe) two sets of photos which were then stored in albums, accumulating more space on the shelves. Now we use digital cameras and the pictures can be sent by email, put on web sites, printed, modified with Photoshop or GIMP and easily stored.

In my next article I will write about the death of the newspaper and how I get my news.

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2 thoughts on “A Generation of Technology Change”

  1. Yup, well, my first job programming was on a 32k IBM 360 model 30. With it’s basic peripherals (card reader/punch, console, printer) two “huge” 512MB 2311 disks and two 2400 tape drives would barely fit in most IT labs (not to mention it all took three phase power).

    Now I have a Mac Mini, iPhone etc. with more computing power than many companies I worked for early in my career. Shudder to think what computing will be like forty years from now! :0)

  2. I still take a daily newspaper, The Australian, mostly for
    the Times Cryptic Crossword. I also take the trouble to
    read the Arts section, the political news, most of the Opinion
    Page and some of the letters. And pieces of the Sport and some
    of the World News.

    I’ll probably read fully 10 stories of moderate length and skim
    over another half dozen stories. Which makes me I hope an excellent
    newspaper reader, though in earlier times English gentlemen would
    take several newspapers, they would read The Times but also
    see what The Guardian or The Daily Mail would say on an issue.

    That said, I also use news.google.com.au and read some news stories
    online, from both The Australian and other sources. Occasionally
    I’ll see a story online, gloss over it and then see the same story
    in print. I find this frustrating, I’m unable to read the print
    version properly as I’ve already glossed over the online version.

    There’s an interesting book by Nicholas Carr called “The Shallows”
    that argues that our use of the Internet has changed the way we
    think – we’re reading wider but shallower. Google for
    “Is Google making us stupid?” for an article by him on this subject.

    Newspapers themselves have evolved over recent years; the
    Sydney Morning Herald is now half-tabloid Monday to Friday, the
    Weekend Australian is tabloid or magazine in many of its sections.
    Afternoon tabloids have died and the recent low-content free mX
    paper diverts commuters on the train on their way home.

    My employer, News Digital Media, is preparing to try and make money
    from their internet site and not just through advertising, by trying
    to charge a subscription to some of the stories on some of the sites.
    Starting with The Australian, a “Freemium” model (to use a portmanteau
    which I don’t particularly like) will apply where some stories are
    available only as short summaries, and the full content requires
    a subscription. Time will tell if News Corporation can make this work
    in the Australian environment.

    Stuart Cooper, stuart.cooper@gmail.com

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