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Posted on Jan 25, 2007 in Technology | 0 comments

When new technology gets old

When new technology gets old


Technology moves very fast these days (Cybil Fawlty, specialised subject ‘the bleeding obvious’).
Not so many years ago, well, 26 years actually, I had a ZX81 and it was the pinnacle of home computing. And, believe me, it was fab. Thing is, it has no particular legacy now, only a museum like curiosity that was once kept for a difference engine or Colossus.
The technologies that I want to take about are those that leave a more permanent echo. Two candidates are mobile phones and laser eye surgery. No one knows what 20, 30 years of mobile phone use can do to you. Similarly with 20 year old laser’d eyes. “It’ll be fine” they say. Supposedly the same people that used to sell asbestos to builders. I’m not a scaremonger, I love technology, advocate it and use it widely (although you can stick your laser eye surgery where the sun don’t shine). I’m merely using these examples to illustrate the fact that we tend to get so caught up in the new and the now that we rarely look at the long term impact.
One of the potentially most interesting forms of this is the internet itself. We are creating content now that could still be around in 20, 30, 50, 100 years time. My grandchildren might read this very blog post and think “what an old twat” and click on the link to a now neurally implanted version of Wikipedia to find out just exactly how little power a ZX81 had. When my daughter is older, her teenage friends might track me down on the Internet and tease her at school because “her Dad is such a dull square and there’s no way to you were on a billboard in Las Vegas”.
The thing is, new technology today isn’t all disposable future museum pieces, it has the ability (and perhaps role) to persist, to form part of a personal, cultural historical record.
We can already go to the WayBack Machine to see how gloriously crap the original BBC website was. Who knows where this post, along with the rest of the internet content, will end up in the future. Will there only ever be one transitory internet, with sites living and dying with us? Or will we devise a mechanism to maintain an on-going record (the WayBack Machine being a laudable but limited early attempt) so that this will post and many millions more like it will remain beyond my/our lifetime as a record of this time?

Website of the day:
Well, how apropos (was it deliberate?), have a look at this. People are already seeing that the passage of time has a place in applications of today.

Track of the day:
I was taken with Panther Dash by The Go Team! tonight. You can never have too many harmonicas.
( all together now grandkids of the future, “Granddad that is soooo 2004…”)

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