I have an Atari 2600 and an iPhone X in front of me right now and it started me thinking of all the technological changes I have witnessed in my 40+ years.
Who would have thought that I could walk into a room and ask a small hockey-puck sized device what the temperature is outside (–4 by the way, gotta love Wisconsin winters). I thought as a kid it was cool when we got Weather Channel and it ran the Locals on the 8 and I could see the current temperature. Now my request for the temperature comes from a local weather station up the block from my house giving me “hyper-local” information.
With the increased usage and availability of the Internet, we have access to information on almost any subject out there. Information that was at best found in libraries or in some cases not easily accessible or up to date. Remember those annual updates to the World Book Encyclopedias because things change, now those updates are done online and available immediately. No more looking at an atlas and wondering if those countries borders are correct or even if those countries still exist, a quick glance at Google Maps can confirm or deny. Information that was at best updated on a periodic basis within the resource books found at the local library or hopefully in the latest edition of National Geographic Magazine.
I still have about 200 vinyl albums and have bought a few “new” ones in the last couple of years. However, nothing beats the fact that I can fire up Spotify and search for almost any artist/album/song out there and have it playing almost immediately. No waiting for the album release or hoping you have enough money saved up to buy it. Heck, I thought it was cool as a kid that I could get a Walkman and take a tap full of music with me. Now, I can have the entire Spotify library in my pocket and available any time I want.
Speaking of that Atari 2600, video game technology is light years ahead of what was available in the early 80s. I think back to the blocks representing the ball in “Pele’s Soccer” to the realistic movement and representation of the players in FIFA 2018 and sit back and just wonder where this is going to go in another 40 years. What will Video Games be, how will they be played. It is easy to look at Virtual Reality and books like “Ready Player One”, but is that really the future, or is there something out there that we cannot even imagine. I know I never imagined the graphics and game play to be what it is today, but looking back in hindsight, you can see the transgression in games between then and now.
Not only have video games changed, but also the way we interact with computers. I may not be as shocked by this, because I have been in the field, but still the changes are significant. My first computer was an Atari 600XL. When you powered it up, there was a Ready? prompt and that was it. No menus, no icons, nothing, just one word asking if you were Ready. Ready for what? Now we power on a device and they all have icons, icons that can be clicked on with a mouse or touched by a finger to be interacted with. We have devices like I mentioned earlier that can be interacted with by talking to them. Did anyone see this as being possible in the early 80s, maybe as possible, but maybe not in the format that have them in today.
It is easy to get “spoiled” by the advances in technology. Instant access to information, music versus waiting for modems or visits to libraries and music stores. My kids still humor me by playing games on the Atari and listening to my vinyl with me.