Saturday, March 9, 2013
Technology: What's next
A few weeks ago a commercial for “Beauty and the Beast” the Broadway show brought a little upheaval to my house. My two younger kids saw the commercial begged me to see it. Knowing that they were too young from Broadway shows, I searched the video-on-demand function of my cable and came up with naught. I then proceeded to search for DVDs of Beauty and the Beast. Not only were they expensive, but would take too long to be shipped. So we dug up the old Video tape copy of Beauty and the Beast, dusted off and connected the old VCR and … got stuck.
First of all, neither my three year old nor my four year old had ever seen a Video tape or a VCR and my nine year old didn’t remember seeing one. After filling the slot on the VCR with everything from play dough to small toys we had promptly packed it up and hid it away when she was two and a half. So they gawked and touched and had to be told the history of the device.
Second of all, we did not remember how to use the VCR. It had been so long. Then finally, my 9 year old tinkered a bit and figured it out. We got the tape to play. It was grainy, low quality… nothing like the HD movies we were accustomed to seeing.
That got me thinking about how far personal media recording devices have come and makes me wonder what the future has in store for electronic media devices.
Before 1956 if you wanted to watch a movie at home it was a very expensive venture. Even when the video tape recorder was made commercially available in 1956, at $50 000 a pop it was too expensive for home use. It was not until the early 70’s that what we know as VCR and VHS video tapes were widely available. Then in 1995 the technology that revolutionized not only how data was stored, but how we viewed home movies was introduced: the DVD. I remember the commercials that showed crisp clear pictures and I thought that was it… until less than 4 years later we have the TiVo and DVR where you can record live TV. DVR and DVD coexist peacefully, but so did the VHS and the DVD initially. It seems like the time between new technologies is getting shorter and shorter. I wonder what will come next in the video media devices.
Before 1877 you had to listen to a live music if you wanted to hear music. That changed with the phonograph. And though various versions of it (the gramophone, the turn table) superseded the previous versions, the basic audio technology was widespread for almost a hundred years. In the mid-fifties, the cassette tape recorder came on the scene, but with vinyl records playing longer and better, it did not dominate the industry until the early seventies. Cassette tapes co-existed with vinyl for many years…. Until the Compact Disc a.k.a. CD.
From it made its commercial debut in 1982, the CD has sent vinyl records into the museums and collectors archives and has totally annihilated the cassette. Arriving on the spot a few years later was the mp3 players and the IPOD totally revolutionized how we listen to music.
Cameras have been with us since the 10th century: the pinhole camera; but the technology has been around since the 4th century BC. Somewhere in the 19th century film was developed and the instant camera, the Polaroid became the closest to the instant gratification provided by the digital camera. Most children have never seen a film camera. One day while cleaning out the garage I came across an old disposable film camera. I showed it to my nine year old. She immediately asked where the LCD screen is.
What about books? Since 1450 with the advent of the printing press, the technology that goes into books has not changed much. One could argue that the typewriter and later the computer revolutionized how books are produced. But what about how they are read? It is only with the advent of e-books and e-readers in the later 20th century that how dramatically changed how books are read (exception being audio books). Surprisingly the precursors to the e-book have been around since the 1930’s. But it’s only in the 21st century we have widespread use of e-readers making many traditional publishers and bookstores defunct and online sellers like Amazon juggernauts.
Now with smart phones we can have video, audio, photography and digital books all in one place. So what’s the next big thing in terms of books? Would my grandchildren see paper books only in a museum or antique store? You tell me.