Tech that changed the way we live, work and play

Boring was among the list of words in my mind when I accepted my first freelance writing assignment on technology. Human-interest stuff, crime and strife where what held my interest – tech for me was just to far remove from daily life. My bad.

Today I’m more inclined to favour the words of one of our Networking editors Howard Solomon, who at one time jokingly said that the secret of his youth was writing about technology. Ina way Howard’s right. Technology touches every facet of our lives and because it is ever changing, it can’t help but alter our existence.

So here, in no particular order, are some of the decade’s popular tech that changed the way we live, work and play.

Internet – It’s probably on the top of the list of everyone who lived through the 1980s. Before the Internet, the majority of computers where pretty much staid machines to type your work or play Tetris with. The Internet dominated much of our life in the 2000s. The Internet didn’t just give geeks a cool new way to connect and talk about geek stuff. For tens of thousands of citizens on Second Life it actually literally created a whole new world.

Wif-Fi access – When I finally did get Internet access, waiting a few minutes for Web pages to download on my PC, was not even a minor nuisance when compared to the wonders of the World Wide Web. Today we expect real-time audio and video or instantaneous HD movie downloads – on our smartphone, while crossing the street.

Social networking – The darling or beast child of the Internet, depending on whom you are talking to. Thanks to sites like Facebook, you never have to leave your home to acquire friends. Now you can have more friends than people you actually know and marketers have another medium to sell their clients.

The BlackBerry – Remember the days when it was cool to carry a pager, which beeped or vibrated to alert to call back a caller? RIM’s BlackBerry and of course the iPhone and other smartphones were the decade’s golden ball and chain of choice for us in the closing decade. People used to think you were crazy when they see you talking by yourself in public now it’s the new normal.

The iPod – Had a decent conversation with the person you were seating next to on the subway lately? Probably not if either or both of you had those distinctively white speakers stuck to your ears.

Mobile apps and iPhone – Looking for a restaurant? Grab your iPhone. Wanna listen to the latest tunes? Grab your iPhone. In need of a second opinion on a cancer diagnosis? Grab your iPhone. Wanna call mom? Grab a phone.

USB keys – The first computer I bought in the 1990s had about 512 kilobytes of memory. In the seven years of that machines existence I never did get to use up all that storage. Today, my teenage son could be walking around with a stick in his pants that could contain more than 16 gigs of data. USB keys were definitely a dream come true for those seeking data portability in the 2000s but a nightmare for security administrators.

Wikipedia­- Back in the days research use to mean going to the library and cracking open volumes or reference books or making up the facts as you go along. Today students and workers alike click on Wikipedia and hope the entry wasn’t made up.

YouTube – In the ‘90s the term “beta to the max” referred to the then overwhelming trend of video tapping almost occasions of one’s life. Hence there were VHS or Betamax tapes for births, birthdays, graduations, marriages, funerals and last will and testaments. Families gathered to watch rented or bootlegged copies of the latest movies.

Thanks to video streaming technology, today almost any person with a Flip camera has access to millions of viewers across the globe. Thousands of years from now archaeologists will wonder at treasure throve of videos showing Queen lip synch and moonwalk performances.

Cloud computing and software-as-a-service – Once upon a time people bought their software wrapped in packages. Today software is no longer just a product. It’s a service. People also use to construct buildings to store their data. Now everything is “out there”, “in the Cloud”, or “on the Internet”. And Google is going to rule it all.

Well so far that’s my list. What’s your?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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