Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Back To The Future

Yeah, I know it's June... and yeah, I know I've been slacking in blogging lately. In honor of half of the year being gone (already!) - I've decided to make a new Half Year's resolution to be more consistent in my blogging. So... here goes:

Now that my kids are done with their elementary school education (I can't EVEN believe they're going into Jr. High School in the fall!) - I was reflecting on how much technology has changed in the past few years - compared to when I was in Jr. High (30+ years ago!).

Then I realized that the comparison was stupid. It's like trying to compare ancient Roman society to today's world.

There were no cell phones (pay telephones were all the rage), no microwave ovens (you made popcorn in a oily, smoky pot over the stove), the only frozen foods were the old-school ones in the tin foil (mmmmm... salsbury steak!), no personal computers, no internet, no mp3 players (albums & 8-tracks baby!)... things today are just SOOOOOOO much different.

I mean the fact that we have technology to talk face-to-face with someone who is across the country or across the world, wirelessly, while surfing the internet, downloading games and listening to one of 850 songs - in a handheld, portable device - it's commonplace. It's ordinary. It's boring.

My kids are bugging me to get phones - in 6th grade! I'm like - who are you going to call? Answer: all my friends who also have phones... and dad, how else are we supposed to text them?

Uh... yeah.

I remember watching "Back To The Future" - part 2 (1989) and seeing that Jetson-esque large screen TV/Phone and thinking to myself: "Whoa! That's cool. It'll probably be 50 years before we see something like that." Turns out - it only took 20 year: I read a story today over on Engadget about how Skype is teaming up with Comcast to offer built-in communication over the TV.

We have skype mobile, FaceTime, e-book readers, tablet PCs. There are talks of moving expensive textbooks to all-digital versions that you "rent", there's open-source software, open-source education and even crowd-sourced constitutions (for real!).

We're getting to the place where even kids toys and gaming devices are connected. Not just the Xboxes, Wiis, Gameboys, PSP sets - but a whole new class of devices. Remember the old, wooden blocks? You know - hunks of square wood with letters and numbers on them. You would arrange them into words, and stack them up and knock them down...

Well, those days are almost gone.

The humble block is set to be replaced by mini-computers that are wirelessly connected to each other that have built-in intelligence:

Sifteo cubes are 1.5 inch computers with full-color displays that sense their motion, sense each other, and wirelessly connect to your computer. You, your friends, and your family can play an ever-growing array of interactive games that get your brain and body engaged.

If that wasn't enough - how about an OPEN SOURCE version of the same thing? There are are group of University of Austin students who came up with an invention called Blox that do the same thing - but they provide all the plans, specs and files you need to build your own.

Wow! I wonder what the NEXT 20 years will bring...

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