It’s almost 20 years now since I had a job encouraging community organisations to use email. That was even before we started using the Web in New Zealand. In fact, few people had even heard of the Internet then.
The training sessions would start with the words:
There’s a thing called the Internet and you can use it to send messages to other people….
The most common responses were along the lines of
Why would we want to do that? We can send letters.
The 90s: computers, faxes and the web
In those 20 years though, we’ve come a long way. Now many community organisations have not only grown used to using desktop or laptop computers, but also often rely on email, and commonly visit web pages. Many also run their own website.
The upheaval of all we know
But now we’re comfortable with the technology of the 90s it’s all gone and changed. In the last 5 years, little by little, we’ve experienced a total revolution.
The boundaries have all blurred; capabilities and features have all leaked out to smudge things nearby.
In the good old days of black and white, just a few years ago, computers were computers and phones were phones. A camera took photos, and a GPS device used satellite signals to tell you where you were and where you were going.
Each gadget had a clear job to do, and it knew its place.
Chips with everything
In the rainbow of 2010 that world no longer exists. Computer chips have found a place in almost everything, along with cameras, GPS, speech and networking features such as WiFi or 3G cellphone signals.
Smartphones include GPS, Internet and cameras, while cameras may include GPS and use the Internet to automatically send photos to a website.
Computers come in all shapes and sizes, maybe including network games, video cameras and the ability to show TV, or video chat with friends and family.
Game consoles may allow you to check in with friends on Facebook, and to play movies.
GPS receivers may display Google Maps and read travel directions aloud.
MP3 players may record and play movies, along with music.
Ebook readers may read books aloud, and download new works directly from the Internet.
A device like the iPad may allow you to hold it up in front of a constellation of stars at night then automatically sense where you’re looking and display information about that part of the sky. (See Starwalk.)
The pot of gold
There’s a lot of work going on with robots, artificial intelligence, polymers, 3D and energy. It seems pretty clear that gadgets are going to become even more confusing over the next 5 years. The thing is, the pace of innovation is increasing. We can’t even imagine today the devices that will be essential in 2015.
Our pot of gold is flexibility. We need to be open to the possibilities each new day brings.
Written by Miraz Jordan for, and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, August 2010. This article has been modified for publication here.