Do you remember when IBM made typewriters and movie theaters were the only places to watch movies? Do you remember when WWW stood for World Wide Wrestling and a web search was something your grandmother did with a broom?
It is hard to remember what the world was like, just 21 years ago, when Tim Berners-Lee successfully sent the first HTML message between a client and a server via the Internet. It was Christmas Day 1990 and the World Wide Web was born.
Benoit College reminds us that most members of the Class of 2012 were born in 1990 and into a world where computers and rapid communications have been commonplace. How have the changes in their world affected our world?
Many of us find it easier today to purchase a product from our keyboards than from any merchant in town. Amazon.com went online when today’s seniors were 5 years old.
I only keep a few old-fashioned stamps in my desk for cards on the very special occasions of my close friends because, most of the time, it is just easier to send an e-card. Directly emailable greeting cards have been popular since they were 6 and Google has been around since they were 8.
We used to wait for the postman to deliver rent payments but now, with one click, we draft thousands of rent dollars electronically from hundreds of our residents’ checking accounts. Internet security protocols were adopted when today’s college seniors were 9 years old.
And, finally, have you ever arranged a dinner date with your wife via email? Or tweeted via WiFi in your church’s sanctuary? Or texted your children who were upstairs in the same house? All of these interactions and many, many more are part of the world we all live in today.
What’s next? Here are a few examples but they are just the tip of the iceberg.
The availability of high bandwidth, super-low-cost sensors, wireless networking technology, unprecedented storage and computing power and, now, enough IP addresses for every atom on Earth are knocking down barriers daily.
As Trends Magazine recently mentioned, “not only will refrigerators keep tabs on their contents and suggest items that need restocking or discarding” but even individual light bulbs will have IP addresses and be connected by WiFi. Today’s compact fluorescent and LED bulbs already contain tiny circuit boards that control their function.
Caller ID has separated the must-answer calls from the will-handle-later calls for years but voice to text conversion software provides a new hybrid and time-saving service today which never existed before but will be commonplace tomorrow.
Sometime soon, we’ll laugh about how old fashioned our fax machines were because they only worked in two dimensions. Digital fabrication will make it cost-effective to manufacture low-volume, high-quality 3-D products locally.
Will your child’s teacher be more impressed with a sketch on her 3-panel science fair display board or a 3-dimensional model demonstrating her research? Will a cooperating Realtor® prefer instructions about where the key is hidden under “the red flower pot behind the 3rd shrub” or simply a digitally fabricated 3-D key to the basement padlock of the subject property?
3-D printers cost $45,000 in 2001. The desktop do-it-yourself kit sells for $1,500 today.
Hospital patients will rest easier without a plethora of probes and cables made possible by wireless sensors and more instrumentation built into the beds. Micro-cameras the size and shape of a pill will locate sources of illness as they pass through our bodies sending out thousands of images and data.
Our buildings, bridges and underground infrastructure will report their conditions because of small, inexpensive, networked sensors which already exist.
Soon, we will wonder why we were so fascinated with keyless-ignition automobiles when facial recognition software, which is already quite powerful in Apple tablets, goes mainstream. Are you ready for shelf signs to change to match your buying habits or favorite colors, size or style as you walk the aisles of a local grocery or clothing store? They will.
And the proliferation of RFID technology will mean no more waiting in line to checkout. We will merely walk out the door as our product and payment devices are read wirelessly.
Some predict there will be 50 billion Internet devices by 2020, all networked to what is being called “The Internet of Things.” The transformative possibilities are mind-numbing.
Connected devices will touch every aspect of our lives and, just as we say about Amazon, Google, Blue Mountain, Paypal and Facebook today, we’ll wonder how we lived without them.