The Pace of Technology: The 1980s and 1990s

8 days ago
6 Min Read
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Many people have a tough time understanding the pact at which technological change is occurring. There is a reason for this. Since the start of the century, the progress from the consumer end is rather limited. While there were major advancements, much of the push forward was in areas people do not see.


The best example of this is our communication systems. That is something that most take for granted yet it came a long way in the last two decades. Without this vital step in our technological evolution, a great many things of today would not be possible.

Over the last two decades, we saw the biggest breakthrough from the consumer standpoint being the smartphone. This was actually the convergence of three separate technologies:

  • mobile
  • personal computing
  • Internet

When Apple™ put these together, something magical happened.

We are about to see a lot more of these magical times over the next couple decades.

Life in 1980

Anyone who is old enough to remember life in 1980 will be walking down memory life. For the rest, it might be a learning experience of how life use to be.

In 1980, this is how life was:

  • kids changed the channel on the television set
  • video games were played at the arcade
  • watching a movie meant going to the pictures or waiting for the Disney™ movie of the week
  • broadcast television offered 4-6 channels from the antenna on the roof (or rabbit ears)
  • reheating food was done in the oven or on the stove
  • office copies were made with a typewriter and carbon paper
  • for most cars, air conditioning was opening the windows at 70 miles per hour
  • advanced phones were touch tone instead of rotary dial
  • the mobile phone was usually the one in the kitchen that had the 12 for telephone cord
  • cameras required film which, of course, needed to be developed
  • music still mostly on vinyl
  • mail was still the fasted way to get a document somewhere

This was the common approach to things. Certainly there were some changes that were starting to take place and a few technologies were implemented by early adopters. Nevertheless, most of society was still in this mode.

By the end of the decades, we either saw or were starting to see the emergence of these technologies:

  • remote control
  • in home gaming consoles
  • VCR
  • cable television
  • microwave
  • copy machine
  • air conditioning standard is many cars
  • mobile phone
  • digital cameras
  • cassette tapes followed by CDs
  • fax machine

Of course, this is all skipping over one of the biggest innovations of this era.


The Personal Computer

As much as things changed due to those other technologies, the personal computer started to change the business world completely. While it is very slow to adopt in the 1980s, the foundation was laid, leading to the explosion in the 1990s. Of course, the 80s saw single unit systems, something that would be forever changed by the end of the century.

The term file to most people today carries a much different meaning as compared to 1980. Back then, a file was the manila one in a physical cabinet. A document was a literal piece of paper with words written or typed on them. Very little was in electronic format. It truly was an analog world.

When the PC started to become popular, new definitions were developed. At the same time, we saw the information age start to explode as the ability to create was accelerated. For example, a personal computer with a word processing program could see the creation of a document in a few minutes and then reproduced on a copy machine producing multiple versions per minute.

As archaic as this sounds, it was a radical advancement from the period before hand. Also, the PC allowed documents such as contracts to be saved, thus enabling newer ones to be created using the first as a template.

Of course, the 1990s was the era that saw the foundation of the Internet being laid. While it looks like the Stone Age compared to today, it was rather advanced at the time. We saw computer that became networked, spanning the entire globe. The World Wide Web was born, providing people with an easier way to communicate while also opening up the door for a lot more information consumption.

For most, it is impossible to remember life without the Internet. In fact, life without mobile phones is something that is incomprehensible to many. Yet, it was not too many years ago that none of this stuff was around.


2020-2040: Radical Advancement

By the year 2000, in many ways, life did not mirror what it was in 1980. That 20 years saw a lot of changes both in the personal and personal world.

Look at the list above and consider how each of those changed a major part of our lives. How we interacted as altered. What we did at work shifted. The ability to produce was increased significantly.

For those who lived through it, the evidence was clear. We were using devices and doing things in a much different way than we did before.

This is the period we are embarking upon. We are going to see the pace of technology, from the consumer end, make strides similar to what happened in the earlier time frame. In other words, by 2040, much of what we do will be far different from today.

Again, this is hard for people to imagine yet we have the historical evidence that shows what can take place.

By 2040, it is safe to say that most will not be driving a vehicle. Instead, it will be done autonomously for us. Just think about how radical a concept that is.

And it is just one technology that is being worked on. There are many others that can have similar impact upon our lives in 20 years.

Much of what seems far-fetched today is not when we view it through the lens of what took place a few decades back. What people utilized in the early 2000s was a pipedream in 1980. Yet, somehow, in those 20 years, it all became a reality.

The pace of technology over the next two decades will mirror what took place in the previous era. Since we are starting at a more advanced point, the end result in a couple decades will be far advanced than anything most of us can imagine.

It is going to be an exciting time.

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