Embracing technological change is ultimately liberating

There will always be better ways of doing the things we love, even those that haven't yet been invented

There’s little question in our family as to the one person who is most likely to embrace technology. Guilty.

But as I travel down this seemingly unending path that promises even more changes ahead (self-driving cars and virtual reality among them), I occasionally take a trip down memory lane, recalling how at least some of this first started for me.

I do remember as a teenager my Dad having “tinkered” with a computer—laughable in today’s smartphone era when the power of a device in our pocket vastly exceeded what NASA was using to control spacecraft.

My “watershed” moment was when, very early in my career, I found myself writing stories that would appear in a magazine for the Kinsmen Clubs of Canada.

One day, the magazine’s printing company representative came by for a visit and we got into a discussion about how the magazine was published.

“What happens when I give you these pages?” I asked, pointing to the paper I was about to give him for the next edition.

That was an easy answer: someone else would type the stories using a machine that would ultimately run a machine that would feed a press.

Later on, I wondered how I could “save” my keystrokes, saving me at least the time it would take to proofread, now that there was another individual added to the process.

Which lead to the purchase of a machine—the Compugraphic Mini Disk Terminal—that would let me do exactly that, storing keystrokes on a floppy disk (8-inches for those who care about these things) with a small video screen and a keyboard. By then taking the disk to a nearby printer (it turned out to be the Stratford Beacon Herald), we could print off “type” that would then be glued with hot wax to the magazine’s pages.

Explaining the rest of the process would take way too much time and not really be relevant to the point (or points) I’m trying to make.

One is that as seemingly “common” the technology we are using today may be for those around us, it all started somewhere.

The second is that questions around “could we do this better?” are at the heart of change.

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was a student at Harvard when, faced with a looming deadline, he wrote a piece of code that effectively got him a passing grade by getting his fellow students to give their opinions on art history. Problem faced problem solved.

The third point: change is inevitable.

My wife, not too many years ago, asked me a question when I told her I wanted to buy “yet another” version of an iPhone, one that would be “much better” at whatever it was that I needed to do.

“Is this ever going to end?” she said, somewhat exasperated and clearly expecting some kind of commitment that this next purchase would be the last.

“Honestly, no,” I said.

The fact is, there will always be improvements. Which is why I have boxes of old technology that I’m now getting ready to dispose of, their usefulness long past.

But the journey on this road is exhilarating, especially not knowing exactly what’s around the next corner.

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