On my first visit of the day to Google last Tuesday – greeted by a Google Doodle featuring low-resolution, bitmappy type and an equally clunky representation of a vintage personal computer–my first thought was that it must be the something-or-other anniversary of the Macintosh.
Turns out it was a much more significant milestone, albeit for something that kind of snuck up on us 30 years ago rather than being heralded with a Steve Jobs extravaganza and a Super Bowl commercial. March 12 was instead the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web, or the Information Superhighway as the cool kids were calling it back then, yes the Internet, which I think we’re still supposed to capitalize even though it looks dumb.
What really struck me about this anniversary is that this technology has been with us for so long.
This revolution, which didn’t seem like such a big deal at first then gathered speed and ubiquity so exponentially, has been around for more than half my life. That’s an odd fact to ponder because it doesn’t seem that way at all. I remember my first encounter with email, in the form of letters to the editor at a newspaper in Alberta in the late ‘90s. I refused to participate in such nonsense and insisted someone with proper training print them off and deliver them to me. As letters. That doesn’t seem so long ago.
Needless to say, that’s all changed.
This technology is now such an integral part of information processing on every level that, like most of us, I couldn’t do my job or my life without it. And my phone has almost literally become part of me, a much-needed extension of my brain.
Which all leaves me dwelling on whether it’s all changed for the better or the worse. And kind of concluding that it’s almost a perfect balance between the two. That for every new ability to connect there’s a new opportunity to divide. That for everything we can do ever faster there’s a new layer of stuff to be done. That unprecedented access to information brings a diminishing of depth and focus. Etc., it’s easy to ramble on.
And then I get to wondering how much has really changed, after all.
Everything has become larger and louder, but, from pictographs to Instagram, I suppose we’re always people and our tools are always nothing more than that.