Friday, March 13, 2009

Growing Smaller

Remember the original Star Trek? You know the one, with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock?

Remember the communicators they had that flipped open to talk into? Mr. Spock had second device as well – a Tricorder – a device he used to get information on anything he needed.

We have those now. Both those devices combined are today's cell phone. Mine plays the Guess Who's American Woman every time my lovely wife Darlene calls me. And it has GPS. And Google Search.

Modern doors quite often open automatically – with a swoosh sound just like those on the Enterprise.

Captain Kirk would always instruct his security officers to "set their Phasers to stun". Now police carry tazers. From what I have seen, they do a bit more than just stun.

I wish we had transporters. It would make vacations much more convenient. So would warp drives on our cars.

But the computers on the Enterprise only had blinking lights.

As a professional in the IT industry over the last 20 years, I have seen a several generations of technology come and go.

I saw the PC come along and over a period of time virtually take over from the old mainframes.

I remember supporting such things as CONFIG.SYS files, DOS menus, and WordPerfect. I even know COBOL.

My friends and family used to refer my job by saying "He does computers".

"This is my cousin Fred. He does computers".

I saw the Internet come along. At first, the tools on the Internet had cartoon character names like Archie, and Veronica. Then along came the Netscape (or Mozilla) web browser, which was overtaken by Internet Explorer, which is now second to Firefox.

We used Yahoo and Excite to search on the web, until Google came along. Now if you want to know something – you Google it.

The first video I watched on a PC was Joe Carter hitting the home run that won the 1992 World Series for the Blue Jays. It was black and white – lasted 20 seconds, and took up most of the space on my 10 Mb hard drive.

Now I watch U-Tube on my living room LCD TV using the web browser on my Wii game system.

I watched the PC evolve from a platform for running spreadsheets and databases to an invaluable communication device. Email, and chat. Video-conferencing allows me to spend holidays with my brother Paul as though we are sitting in the same room together. My web cam even follows me as I walk around the room and automatically focuses on my face.

So for all of that, why do social networking sites astound me?

There used to be a day when my daughters would pick up my old high school year book and ask me who the people in my class pictures were. And I would sit and remember them as I told my daughters of my childhood. I would open old briefcases or folders with pictures of people I worked with in the past and wonder what ever happened to them.

Now I see these people every day.

I see people I went to high school and University with every day on my facebook page.

I am quickly reuniting with all those people I used to work with on my LinkedIn page.

It's almost like we never had that ten to thirty year gap since the last time we saw each other.

And that is wonderful.

It's as though Tracy Tomblin still lives across the street. She still looks exactly the same.

That being said, we are all completely different people now. We only have the past in common, not so much the present.

And all my friends have grand kids older than my own kids.

I for one have not aged all that well.

As time goes on, I would imagine that cell phones will evolve to replace the computer. They will likely embed the keys of the keyboard on the tips of our fingers, and implant the monitor and speakers in our ears and eyes. A small camera embedded on the tips of our noses pointed back at our face to show our emotions to those we are communicating with.

We will always be online.

I am certain that at some point the technology will pass me by. At some point I will not want to jump to the next technology that comes along. At some point I will have to ask my daughters, or one of their boyfriends, to please come over and change the resolution of the cell phone monitor implanted in my eyes – because the type is too small to read.

At some point. But not yet.

And I am no longer referred to as the guy who "does computers". Everybody does computers.

Is all this advanced technology "good"? I don't know.

I do know that the world has gotten much smaller in the last twenty years.

And given the population of the world is closing in on eight billion people, it's going to start getting cramped pretty soon. We are growing smaller.

And I have a fear of crowds in small quarters.

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