Interesting piece, and I tend to agree with the vast majority of it. Though I question if we were really pushing the boundaries more back then or if it is just my sentimentality kicking in now that I’m entering the back half of their mid forties maybe a bit of both…
I’m going to insert my typically rant that Silicon Valley is more an example of Wall Street Innovation than technical innovation.
When I started things were barely possible using personal computers. One had to worry about the subtleties of a video overlay card vs. a video window cards. Every year brought new things like hard disk storage or networking. There were new architectures that allowed more RAM to be installed. This could speed up Photoshop 3 so that the screen designers could use their computers in an interactive fashion.
Once the internet hit Wall Street reduced all good ideas to ones that could be expressed using a stateless platform that can fit in a reduced bandwidth environment.
To me this is the polar opposite of the computer as a tool but works great for churning out rent seeking business concepts that are just so crazy, they just might work…
I’m very excited to see Apple developing around processors again. The iMac represented Apple’s goal of an all digital computer and they used it as colorful marker to distinguish between Macs with digital ports vs. Mac with analog ports.
I feel we are at similar inflection point right now where technology is about to make a giant leap. Apple has been working on the same software ideas for decades and they have the resources to make hardware at any physical size or efficiency. I see this as very exciting.
Finally, technology should be boring for most people. Exciting is change. Few people like change. The people work with tools at their limits like change, but few others.
I started using home computers when there were two floppies and a black or green/yellowish screen. We’ve upgraded to newer models and added extra memory, software, and hardware as built-in obsolescence reared its ugly head. This built-in obsolescence is counter-productive in saving the planet.
The failure to be excited about new tech comes with the territory. I’m tired of my new model of a computer being a third of its price less than six months after its purchase, plus it cannot be upgraded after two years. I’m tired of something I could do easily with an older model of computer or software being needlessly complicated or the program incapable of delivering what it is supposed to do without extensive retraining. And yes, I now have a new laptop with a newer version of the old software I will now have to relearn how to use.
I’m tired of the commercial spending requirements to keep up with tech enhancements. I foresee the day when I cannot afford it.
My flip phone worked and did the job I needed it to do. I watch younger people act like the new phones are their best friends–ignoring people sitting beside them at the table in restaurants, thus losing the opportunity to connect up close and in person. I even watched a person walk under a semi-trailer while talking on a phone–they won’t do that again; they are dead.
My rant, yes–but there it is. I’m no longer excited by technology–it’s simply getting too complicated and unaffordable.
I know its not a new observation, but “today in tech we are the product, not the prime beneficiary.” is a perfect summary.
I feel like a few decades ago the advancements in technology were larger, easier for the customer to appreciate and the news/marketing cycle wasn’t as intense. It allowed technology to be exciting and the advancements to be significant.
Now days I feel overwhelmed with the quantity technology advancements being marketed at me and I agree that they don’t always address a genuine need.
For example, I’m sure there are technological advancements between the latest smart phone and the generations before but I can’t tell you what they are because they don’t really change how I use the product.
The last thing I got excited by (vicariously) is the use of electric engines in gardening tools.
My mother in her 60s loves her power drill sized chainsaw and electric trimmer. They are light, easy to use and she can now do tasks on her own that she has always needed help with.
Have any of you been excited by technology lately.
I’ve been working on data privacy projects for the last few years now. It is fascinating to watch all of the cockroaches scurry out of Silicon Valley once the lights have been turned on and people realize what it is they are working towards.
Projects like this are what remain in the wake of such an exodus.
This SV cycle will take longer than normal to sort itself out…
There are definitely are large number of rent seeking business plans that are marketed as tech. The only reason the marketed tech exists is because someone is hoping to sell it.
I’m so old that even though we had Aldus Freehand, Adobe illustrator for editing vector graphics and Photoshop editing for bitmap graphics. Our computer classes focused on the fundamental difference between bitmap and vector graphics and these are the tools one can use to work with them.
The mantra was the computer is just a tool. The computer was a limiting factor in most ways but was an incredible tool if you used efficiently. If a tech upgrade meant you could work on a photoshop interactively or even open it at all, that was exciting.
Most tech that is marketed to us today is obfuscates what is actually going on in hopes of building a dependency.
The advancements are there they are really and they are meaning less to the average user. I absolutely love technology but I’m human enough to know that nobody really wants to use a computer.
The just want to live their lives. The battery technology of the garden tools is a great example. I had an uncle that was so excited at the Makita Ni-Cad? battery screw gun when I was a sophomore in college '89-90 that he bought me one. It was rare thing a battery powered drill that worked.
For the most part technology should just disappear into the background.
Societies belief in the right to market to other people is amazing. I live in the middle of know where just to get away from relentless marketing.
I have the rare experience of set-up email servers before a spam industry existed. I still run my own mail server on a Mac mini at may house. I love the global socialogical aspect of watching spammers just trying to send an email to my server. I ponder how this could possible be a good idea on their end. I also mourn at how simple email is if one didn’t have to contend with spammers.
What is with this entitlement to market. Is this what free speech is?
I guess I have to say state this before I go further.
I’m in the tank for Apple. I have been since 7th grade. They definitely do stupid things and are a large corporation but it is as good as any empire can be.
I’m very excited by technology but I’m going to provide a long winded context.
The heart of all Apple’s product line exists a piece of software that has been actively developed since DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Product) commissioned Carnegie-Mellon to write in the 80’s. DARPA was frustrated that different computers couldn’t run the same software. They felt there had to be a better way. CMU had a person that had just almost solved that problem and wanted to try again.
They built software that abstracted the hardware entirely from “user-space”. User-space could run natively on any hardware because it had no idea what hardware it was running on. This was meant as a campus computer that people could login into from different buildings, using different operating systems on the same computer.
The post-graduate that helped develop the software and delivered it to DARPA was hired by NeXT and brought the software and continued his work and vision until long after the Apple acquisition.
This is why Apple is able to switch processor architectures so easily. The heart of their system was designed to insulate user-space from the computer and run on computer used by 2,000 people using different operating systems. They are running on software with 40 years of continuous development and most of the time Apple hasn’t had the time to really exploit the idea.
When Apple introduced Mac OS X they set a stake in the ground that proved that they were a decade ahead of everyone else. They did this by turning the Display PostScript from NeXT(a NeXT monitor used the same formatting system as an Adobe PostScript to provide perfect pixel to dots per inch correspondence. ) into a compositing interface based on Display PDF. This added an Alpha chance to all the graphics which is Mac OS X was colorful.
Another bit that NeXT had was the notion of everything in user-space be an Object. This was needed for technical reasons and its technical role was a building block for all other user-space software.
The argument against this approach is that it is too slow. The argument for this approach is that it doesn’t matter if it’s slow the hardware will get faster and we won’t have to write the software again.
I’m excited because Apple has been walking this path for decades now and has the resources monitor their slow software and optimize the hardware to speed up the slow downs.
I don’t believe the computer industry has seen a successful company with this tight of a coupling between hardware and software since DEC/ Digital Electronics Corporation.
Apple has also filled out the objects that the operating system to include objects for development like computer vision or as boring as a standard unit for electrical resistance.
Apple is starting to use their left-over iPhone chips to power secondary products. The Apple Studio display has an iPhone 11 chip thrown-in to make it go. Apple will be using older iPhone silicon as a cost saving measure on new product development.
I’m excited by all the detail built into the operating system and the hardware optimization promises to really shake things up.
What I imagined computers could do 40 years ago is only now becoming possible. When I was starting out it would cost millions of man hours with PhDs to get what Apple is offering access to for $99 a year.
All of things Apple is offering could be done using other tools. Apple is offering it as an integrated software with a growing list of platform targets. This integration powers the individual. The World Wide Web was developed on a NeXT computer by a non-programmer.
Similar to your electric hand tool example electrification has me excited. Honestly the only new products I’ve been excited about in years. It started with or Enphase solar system, then switching over to heat pumps for HVAC and hot water, then an electric car.
None of it is really new technology, it is just becoming easier to implement it. So I guess I don’t think of it as “tech” which for me concurs up Silicon Valley… and guys like this:
That is exactly where I plan to be working as an integrator of these wonderful off the things.
To guild the lily with the electric motor and heat pumps… The variable frequency motor used with heat pumps is a really great use of technology.
The ability to vary the rate of the pump is an amazing efficiency gain is the polar opposite of the steam age technology.
The nature of steam heating was that it was easier to produce too much than just enough heat that insulation became secondary. Alternatively heat pumps with a variable rate motor can produce fluctuation amounts of heat varying by temperature.
That guy has 3 commas, 2 thumbs, and door that go like this or this.
or maybe we just aren’t excited about tech any longer because it seems to want us to go this direction?
It’s not technology that is boring, it’s the way we are exposed to it.
Everything is overhyped, overexposed, overpromised and relentlessly flogged by influencers on IG/TikTok/YouTube to try to get you overly excited.
Back in the day, only the good stuff floated to the top and that’s what you heard about or discovered/saw for yourself.
It’s the echo chamber effect that makes things like AR/VR, 3D printing, NFTs, EV cars and AI sound like they should be exciting, when really, they aren’t.
All that may be but I think it is more that technology is now so embedded in everything we do, in every part of life, that we no longer think of it as new or think about it at all.
Is technology more in our life? How are you defining technology? I don’t think tech is new (industrial revolution, computing revolution, invention of fire and tools, etc.), but perhaps now there’s tech and there’s “tech”?
I think @rkuchinsky makes important distinction. Technology, broadly, is simply tools and our ever-increasingly complex use of them. Modern “tech,” though, is generally thought of as including or even needing an electronic, digital component. When you think, for example, about the “tech sector” of business, it’s 99% software and service rather than hardware and objects, and that just wasn’t always the case.
I’m not trying to make a judgement of whether that’s good or bad (well…maybe it’s not so great for those of us still trying to make a difference by creating objects ), but I think part of what the article and @_YO might be feeling is that type of software and service-only technology - which gets the lion’s share of press, discussion, hype, etc. these days - is often tough to get excited about. It’s just far enough removed from reality that it’s tough to connect with on a conscious, emotional level even if subconsciously we’re addicted to it.
No one’s eagerly awaiting the next security patch from Instagram, and do feel like less and less we’re getting new technology, in the broadest sense of the word, that’s possible to get consciously excited about.
Technology is the human-made part of the environment that surrounds us.
In my lifetime there have been HUGE leaps in technology, it feels like its slowed down now. maybe we have higher expectations now
I don’t think technology is slowing down. I think it is buried under white noise of society.
I think the difference is the opportunities that tech is creating. When the Mac and PC debuted, it meant that people could do desktop publishing, basic drawings, programming, messaging on far away BBS boards. In other words, they were tools that were delivering a new world of creative possibilities. Most new tech today isn’t giving us new possibilities. At best, it is automating some mundane function or saving us a trip to a store.
BTW: last design I got excited for was my Dyson vacuum. I’m a huge fan now, although their other products still look dodgy to me!
Technology, for me, is still exciting, but it has become so commonplace that it’s easy to take for granted. In addition, the pace of technological change has accelerated so it can be difficult to keep up with the latest innovations. As a result, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and not appreciate the advances that technology has made in our lives.