Quotation by Douglas Adams

Technological Progress

Quotation by Douglas Adams
Quotation by Douglas Adams

Dear Son,

It is amazing how much the world has changed over the last forty years.  Imagining what the world was like before your own childhood can be a very strange thing.  Technology, in particular changes very rapidly, and can change almost everything about our culture.

If it was something created when you were very young, it seems like a normal part of everyday life that you can’t imagine life without.  Things created when you are a teen, it is exciting and probably something that you can make a career out of.  Things created when you are in your twenties are game changers that shape the way you work, and are things you have to look out for.  One you are into your thirties, some people will enjoy changes and amaze them, and others will worry about what new creations will do to change things for the worse.

There is a fantastic essay about this perception by Douglas Adams in his posthumous collection The Salmon of Doubt, quoted in the image above.

I thought it might be fun to give you perspective about how much things have changed and what has been invented since your mother and I were born, and how much that has change things.  So here is a list of inventions that made huge changes in my lifetime:

Things that was invented when your mother and I were little children

  • The microchip
  • Microwave ovens
  • Home video players (VCRs)
  • Satellite Television
  • The Global Positioning System
  • Home computers (nobody thought they would take off!)
  • Photocopiers
  • Video Games
  • Music Videos (more important than you might think!)

Thing that were invented when your mother and I were kids

  • Gaming Consoles
  • Portable tape recorders.
  • Portable music players (“Walkmen”)
  • Cars with air bags, anti-lock brakes, and four-wheel drive.
  • Popular electronic music (“New Wave”)
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Compact Discs
  • Gene therapy
  • Robotic prothstetic limbs
  • People being resuscitated after being clinically dead for short periods.
  • ‘Zines
  • Artificial Diamonds

Things that were invented when your mother and I were young teens

  • CD-ROMs for computers.
  • The first generation of VR equipment (it took 20 years for it to become popular)
  • Genetically engineered foods
  • Projection TVs
  • Home video cameras
  • Home Internet Connections
  • In-vitro fertilization (“test-tube babies”)
  • Mass recycling programs
  • Recharageable Lithium Ion Batteries

Things that were invented when your mother and I were in our late teens

  • Portable (laptop) computers
  • The World Wide Web (Let that one blow your mind!)
  • Mass use of home computers and the Internet
  • The first cloned animals
  • Using DNA tests in police investigations
  • Digital music and videos.
  • Digital Cameras
  • Digital television (we went from 57 to 800 channels in just a couple of years!)
  • Cellular phones (the LTG network)
  • Viagra and Levistra
  • Instant messages
  • Image Scanners
  • Touch-screens
  • Search engines

Things that were invented when your mother and I were in our twenties

  • Artificial celebrities (“Idoru”)
  • LED and Halogen lights
  • Hand-held computer technology (“PDAs”)
  • Working prosthetic eyes
  • WiFi and Bluetooth communication
  • E-Books
  • Satellite Radio
  • Video Streaming Services
  • Social Media Networks
  • Texting
  • Flat-screen and High Definition TV (DVDs & Blue-Ray)
  • Self check-out at stores
  • Debit cards
  • Augmented Reality

Things that were invented when your mother and I were in our early thirties

  • Smartphones (and tablets)
  • Direct brain-computer interface
  • Drones
  • Medical Nanotechnology (“nanosilver”)
  • Wearable computers
  • Nano-sculpted metal
  • Hybrid Cars
  • Social Robotics (computers that can read your feelings based on expression)

The world your mother and I grew up in had no mass connection, no Internet, and no instant access to knowledge.  Only the people who owned the TV and Radio stations could talk to the whole world.  People tried staying close to where they grew up, because it was hard to stay in touch.  From ‘zines in the 80s to social networks today, slowly everyone has gained the power to talk to everyone else, and it has changed the way we think and act like you cannot believe.

If you wanted to know something, you had to consult a collection of encyclopedias or go to your (very busy) public library.  People often had to accept “I don’t know” as an answer and shrug their shoulders.  Today people just ahve to pull the ‘phone out of their pockets and check a search engine.

When I was little electronics required expensive disposable batteries that died quickly.  Today electronic devices that people use can just be plugged into a USB cable and recharge.  My first Discman (a portable CD music player) could give me five hours of music for 5 before it would totally drain four AA batteries (and it couldn’t be plugged in).  It also weighed nearly a kilogram.  Today my 40 gram MP3 player takes two hours to charge, and can play music straight for two days.

Jobs like mine would have been impossible before the Internet.  Now I can find men anywhere in the world to talk to and help.  I can write my own books and make my own videos without hiring hundreds of people and spending millions of dollars to do it.  It is simply unbelievable what is possible now that no one could have imagined when I was five.

I am looking forward to seeing what the world you grow up in is going to be like… I’ll bet it will be amazing!



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