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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

“The Future Is Already Here. It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed”

I’ve always loved this quote because it captures so succinctly the experience of modern life. We are surrounded by extraordinary juxtapositions of old and new; technologies of this decade next to technologies of the last century and beyond.

As I write this now I’m sat at a train station using a three-year old Macbook Pro. I’m about to get on a train that looks like it was constructed in the 1970s (and that’s being generous) based on technology that hasn’t changed fundamentally since the 1800s. The clothes I’m wearing are largely cotton. Style aside (and there isn’t much of that) they would be entirely familiar to someone from the same era. As would my shoes, bag, wallet etc.

Back home I sleep in a bed, wash in a bathroom, and cook in a kitchen using technology that would not give a citizen of the early 1900s much surprise. But dotted around are things they would consider extraordinary: flatscreen TV, digital radio, desktop PC (I know, very last decade). The house itself is brick: not exactly space age.

Why is it that the technology of our lives advances at such different rates? Of course there have been incremental advances in all of the items I have mentioned: materials science has moved on, expectations of running water and access to energy have advanced, and even this ancient train uses hydraulics and combustion engines the Victorians could only dream of.

But at their core much has changed little since its first inception. Is it because we just haven’t gotten around to looking at them yet? The capitalist nature of our society would suggest that is unlikely: surely if someone could radically improve the bed there would be money in it?

Maybe the technology exists but is uneconomical to produce? Or perhaps the great leap has been imagined but can’t be realised without some further leaps in our mastery of science.

Or just perhaps there won’t be great leaps in all these things: change will be slow and incremental because what we have today represents the fulfilment of today’s requirements.

Maybe the answer is all of the above. It certainly helps to keep life interesting.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

The Future with Darryl Morris: ‘Consumerisation’ of Technology

Each week on Darryl Morris’s recent run of shows on BBC Radio Manchester we’ve been doing three things:

  • Reviewing some gadgets
  • Explaining a techie term
  • Making a prediction for the future

Time has prevented me from posting as much of this as I would like on here, but here’s some content from this week, on air at 3pm Saturday 30th June (find it on iPlayer after the fact). I’ll try and go back and post previous weeks when I get a chance.

The Consumerisation of Technology

Big theme for the day is the ‘consumerisation’ of technology, which is a big buzzword in the industry at the moment.

Three parts to this.

  • Technology used to move from the office to the home. Now it’s the other way around. 
    Just think of big screens, laptops, digital cameras — all were adopted in the workplace before they made it into the home. Now it is increasingly the other way around. A great example of this is a trend called ‘BYOD’ in offices — people are encouraged to use their own tablet or smartphone, whereas before they would be absolutely banned (this is our techy term).
  • The tablet market just got hotter
    There have been three major stories in the tablet market in the last couple of weeks. Apple has successfully had the Samsung Galaxy Tab banned in the US while its court case for patent infringement proceeds. Microsoft has announced its own brand of tablets, which look amazing but won’t be out until the end of the year. And Google has entered the tablet market itself, undercutting everyone with the £159 7in Google Nexus 7 (this is our thing to buy this week).
  • Technology is getting more accessible
    There’s something odd going on with technology at the moment. Most products of the last 200 years have started off with some level of ‘user serviceability’ before getting progressively more sophisticated to the point where they could only be handled by specialists. Think about cars, home stereos, and even computers: when all of these first came out you generally had to either build them yourself or maintain them yourself. These days very few people can tackle even basic jobs on a car; there are no user-serviceable parts on an MP3 player; and computers are getting progressively more integrated and unhackable.Or at least they were. More and more the core components of high tech are being released to the public with interfaces designed for those with even basic skills to be able to make electronic stuff — toys, music players, twitter controlled bubble machines: all sorts.

Prediction? This will be the Lego or Meccano of the 21st Century. In ten years time, ten year olds will be cooking up what are today hyper-sophisticated electronic gadgets, and they won’t be some exceptional genius. It will be a normal household toy.

Tom Cheesewright