Friday, October 7, 2011

Future Era

"Dad..." I did not answer right away as my son emerges from his room and slowly walks over to me as I type on my computer at the dining room table. "Dad?" I hear again. "What buddy?" I finally reply without looking up. "Did something happen to Steve Jobs?" My typing pauses. "People are posting a lot about him on the internet." He adds. I switch from my PC laptop I am using to remote in to my office, and turn to my white Macbook asleep to my left. I slide my fingers across the glossy touchpad, waking it up and click on a news bookmark. Steve Jobs 1956-2011 is posted in block lettering across the top of the page. 

Towards the end of the 1800's, Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb and patented the first system to deliver electricity across long distances, and a global shift occurred. No one hired him to build it, he took an existing technology and manipluated it to create practical uses and endless possibilities. The world moved from people never thinking about this new energy, to a world quickly embracing it. The generation born after the shift could never imagine living without the connivence of "turning on the light".

In 1913 the first Model T rolled off the assembly line. Henry Ford did not invent the automobile, there were many pioneers  tinkering with engines and designs to come up with a self propelled vehicle. Henry Ford figured out a way to make an automobile reliable, efficient and priced for the masses. A vision incorporating engineering, industrial design and marketing is why Ford is the father of the automobile. This shift impacted the world in ways simply unimaginable before. The dawn of the industrial machine took shape and the spreading of communities away from dense cities thrusted the population upward and outward. The children of the industrial age only knew of a life of mobility, mass production and consumerism, and never once looked back. 

This spring I gave my wife an IPhone as a gift. The package it came in was a small white box with a round sticker holding it closed. When opened, there was only a tiny booklet, a thin white cable and what looked like a piece of glass with white and silver trim. She took it out and held it in her hand like an egg. My son, wide eyed and drooling at the sight of it quickly began instructing his mother how to set it up and use it. "This is how you check you messages, and this is how you get apps..." He goes on and on. I have had many cell phones since they went mainstream twenty years ago and I have had a home computer before Windows 3.1 and I have never experienced the intuitiveness of the products Apple has brought to the world. Steve Jobs, like Edison and Ford before him has used design and engineering to push vision, passion and creativity into the hands of the people and jolt the population from the modern era into the future era. 

I have grown up in the current computer age, organizing punch cards and spending a semester teaching a machine the size of a car to add three numbers together. I am a child of the modern era, and cannot imagine a life without a calculator, a VCR, or a cell phone. I have incorporated the personal computer into my everyday life and use the internet as a source of all my information and communication. When my son worked that IPhone with an effortless learning curve, I knew I am in the slow lane of what is coming. Who will be the next game changer, the next visionary to cause a shift? My son is eleven, what will be the thing he cannot imagine a world without?

I get up from the table to sit on the couch with my son. I now have my laptop resting next to me on the arm of the couch. I click on the TV to see the coverage. As the news programs goes to commercial, I open the laptop and click a few tabs to capture more information. We are glued to the computer, reading posts, tweets and comments regarding the sad news. The news program returns from commercial, graphics scroll across the bottom, theme music is playing and pundits are chattering. I lean over, grab the remote and click off the TV, and continue to react to the news in real time, on my glossy white Macbook. 


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