Sunday, March 27, 2011

Technology Obsession

I’ve been in the technology business for over 25 years and during that time have seen massive change occur.  I can remember the first time I experienced word wrap on a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer – I iStock_000009545884Smallwas in awe when it automatically wrapped around to the next line. All I knew at the time was having to pull the lever on a manual type writer to perform a carriage return. I remember programming an Apple II to view data in a spreadsheet format from a floppy drive.  I designed the program (we call them “Apps” today) to dynamically adjust and wrap the data fields as needed – it was amazing (at the time).  I wrote “Apps” on a DEC VAX 780 dumb terminal that drew custom screens and forms for data input and manipulation.  I was the master of my technology…  Okay, I’m getting all nostalgic here… :-)

mobile phones

Back in the day, most people didn’t interact much with technology unless their job required it somehow.  Today, technology invades our lives.  People line up over night to buy the next big thing whether an iPhone 4 or witness the iPad2 release in San Francisco. One of those interviewed said he just has to be one of the first to get his hands on it.  He did the same for every iPhone, the first iPad, etc.  What is it with people needing to be the first to have the latest and greatest new gadget?  It amazes me how much people spend on things they didn’t know they needed the year before…  People spend hundreds of dollars a month on their iPhones and Androids where a $30 / month phone used to be sufficient.  I know, there’s no comparison but…

I bought the first iPad shortly after it came out mainly to become familiar with what its key strengths would be for me as an information worker and for teacher and student use.  I use the iPad every day for something (twitter, reading newspapers, Kindle and Kobo reading, maps, search, research, notes, online buying) – it is a powerful device.  It’s such an easy device to use and very natural and intuitive.  Apple does a great job on design and usability for sure.  I bought a Windows Phone last fall to replace an older version.  I am very satisfied with this phone – in fact I use it more for some things I used to use the iPad for such as email, calendar, music, Facebook updates, etc.  I use it equally as much as the iPad for twitter, maps, weather, and general information access.  Once copy/paste is supported, I will read more on it using the Kindle app.  A great phone device is just so convenient.  I like the Windows phone partly because it isn’t an iPhone – I just couldn’t get myself to jump on everyone else’s bandwagon.  The Windows Phone is different, elegant, cool in a way Microsoft usually isn’t. Note I still use a laptop for most of my work – I can’t see coercing an iPad with blue tooth keyboards etc. to make it “like a laptop” – it just doesn’t have the power, multitasking, multi-window capability I need to be fully productive.  So, I definitely like my devices.  I would never line up to buy one though.  I don’t get that?!!  Why not just wait until they’re available at a more convenient time? 

I think there is an increase in what I sometimes refer to as “technolust” and it can’t be healthy can it?  Is it an obsession that’s building?  Here’s a cute video about Bridger who’s two years old using an iPad.  It is pretty cool how he just naturally interacts with it.  I remember my own kids at that age using a clunky slow PC – quite a different experience.  But…  what expectations are we creating for kids by exposing them so young to gadgets?  Does this early experience with technology benefit kids or hinder them?  We don’t really know but people are adopting new gadgets as fast as companies like Apple can put them on the market.  Are we creating a generation of entitlement minded kids and citizens that just have to have to latest gadget, now?  I worry about where this obsession for technology is leading us.  I think we need to be careful not to be “owned” by the technology and gadget companies like Apple.  It’s almost getting to be a religious fervor.

Okay, so here’s your chance to weigh in on this.  Are you worried at all about this obsession?  Or, do you think this is just a natural progression?