Every now and then I still get a slight frisson from the thought that I can get things out of my computer that I didn’t put there.
My first computer was very simple. You turned it on and got to a screen which said, in its entirety:
(note to younger, but not very young, readers: no it didn’t say ‘C:\>’, that was more than I could afford)
One of the two key pieces of software I used back then was even more terse. It’s opening screen was:
(note to readers with dust or dead pixels on their screens: that’s a single dot, not a complete blank)
After that, everything which came out was a product of what had gone in. Documents came out after they had been laboriously typed. Data analysis came out (and in short order an entire work management system, but that’s another story) after not only had the data been keyed in, but all the rules and structures as well.
Time passed. That computer got replaced. A modem was acquired. And suddenly, stuff came through my computer that I hadn’t put there. That was extraordinary, exciting, and more than a little magical.
Much more time has passed. Computers have been replaced and replaced again. The warbling modem became a silent, speedy, but expensive ISDN connection, then broadband arrived (and though the speed has since changed, that first ADSL router is still chugging away after more than ten years of constant service).
And thresholds of what is extraordinary, exciting and magical have gone up a few notches:
Technology, it is said, is everything that was invented after you were born. I have always liked that idea, but perhaps it is no longer adequate to capture the rate of change, which is why Douglas Adams’ variant is even more seductive. And in the meantime, plain old online check in is starting to feel a bit quaint - if your boarding pass isn’t on your mobile, it’s not magical at all.
What are we creating today which will still feel magical tomorrow?