Monday, February 11, 2013

The march of technology

During the weekend just gone I watched three items of TV or film made at intervals of twelve years, the first having first been broadcast fifty years ago this year.

The first item I watched was the second ever Doctor Who adventure which first introduced the eponymous villains, "The Daleks" which was first screened in 1963. I then watched "Genesis of the Daleks" made twelve years later and first broadcast in 1975, and finally a 1987 medium-budget film.

Seeing these three items over a weekend and comparing them with each other and what is available to watch in 2013 brought something home to me: we do not always fully appreciate the pace of technological change, or indeed social changes (such as changes to attitudes and accents) because they are taking place around us gradually all the time.

It's only when you look at the changes over a decade or more that it hits you how much things have changed over the lifetime of people who are only middle aged.

Picture quality: sound quality: capabilities of the special effects used: the progress in twelve years between each programme or film, and the further jump to what we experience now, was very striking.

The most valulable thing we can teach our children is to be able to cope with change. So many of the everyday things of the second decade of the 21st century would have astonished me as a small child.

And the most confident prediction we can make about the 2050's, when my children will be the same age that I am now, is that we cannot imagine how different things will be.


Jim said...

I think one of the biggest changes to society through technology is the leap we have made in communication.

In short - The Internet.

Even when I was at school (that seems a long time ago now, but its only 20 years since I left) I could never have imagined having access to so much information. Every essay I wrote was hand written, word processors were a very new idea then (they were also very very expensive) For xmas one year when i was 13 I was given the encyclopaedia Britannica, got a book every 2 weeks until I had the full set. That was like having a world of knowledge at my finger tips. I could not have even began to imagine "google"

the first time i was in the Falkland islands (1997) we used to look forward to the mail aircraft coming, and we were given a £20 phone card each week. the second time (2002) we had internet access, Dont think i ever got a letter and I used to sell my £20 phone cards to the married lads for a tenner each. Facebook had not been created but Microsoft Messenger worked. The second tour I never felt any of the isolation of the first (and they were only 5 years apart)

Chris Whiteside said...

That is a really powerful point.

When I was a kid - or even twenty years ago - some of the things we can do today with modern communications in general, and the internet in particular, would have seemed pure fantasy.

The other night, my wife and I were having a conversation about Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" books, and a question cropped up in the conversation which neither of us knew the answer. It was quite late and I had shut the family computer down for the night.

However, a kindle book-reader was sitting next to me, and my wife suggested that I could probably use that to find the answer. She was right. It took less than a minute to find that, being past the copyright period, several of the Sherlock Holmes books were free for download as e-books.

Within another minute I had downloaded one of these classic titles, performed a search for a key word which was likely to appear in a passage relevant to the question to which we wanted an answer, found such a passage, and obtained the answer to the question.

Two minutes to obtain an electronic copy of a famous book, search it for the answer to a question, and find that answer. And without moving so much as a single step. On a device smaller than a typical paperback book.

Jim said...

I have a smart phone, its got this app on it where you ask it a question, literally, no typing or anything you just ask it. Then It provides different levels of answer.

The first time I tried it i was watching a Grand Prix, and they were making a big thing of the track having 2 DRS zones.

I asked the phone "what is formula 1 DRS?" - I dare say I now know more about the drag reduction system on the F1 car than almost everyone.

From a device smaller than a packet of playing cards.