Thursday, December 24, 2009

Decade reviewed (4): techno dictatorship

With more technological gizmos churned out this decade than at any point in human history, the impact on the way we live and interact has been immense.

When I was a kid, back in the days when only the lucky few owned a Commodore 64, the year 2000 was universally seen as the epitome of everything "futuristic".

From flying saucers, to aerodynamic-looking cars, to people routinely zipping over to the moon for an afternoon powdered drink, the fact itself that a year could start with the number '2' conjured up images of a super advanced and technological world.

And ok, our car doors may not open like the motors in Back to the Future II and hoverboard racing is yet to be invented, but overall predictions weren't wide of the mark.

The noughties have been defined by technology more than any other decade in history. By far. And certainly so at the most routiny, ordinary, individual level. Micro chip-driven objects have become integral part of our most menial actions and we don't even notice anymore.

Even back in the mythical year 2000 few would have envisaged a world were masses carry sophisticated mini computers (complete with instant internet access) in their pockets, hop in cars that speak to them and tell them exactly where to go, update their 'facebook' status and check for 'feedback' and thumbs up, spend hours glued to superfast internet while they chat to virtual (or not) friends, book their cheap flight online, stick 'mp3s' on their 'USB', print off bits from their wireless printer only to then head home to watch a movie downloaded on torrent while also yakking away on a handfree set.

Technology has become run-of-the-mill. Whereas, say, vinyls ruled for generation or the old walkman for at least twenty years, we have now kids that change gizmos more often than their underwear. In ten years we went from what we thought were "ultra-mega-new" minidiscs to the mp3 and then the iPod, the mp4, and the mp5.

Televisions magically lost more weight than a Mr Motivator devotee could ever dream of. They also became digital, with the channels multiplying and often turning multilingual, with films that you can watch 'HD' on Sky and pause if you need a quick slash and then burn on a hardrive and a DVD or BlueRay Disc as well.

Then there's the digital camera. Compare the simplest one available now with the most sophisticated one around ten years ago, it wouldn't stand a chance in the most battered of bargain bins. Or take computers, with your average hard drive at least ten times more generous than in 2000 and laptops now dished out like club night flyers outside Camden tube station.

The noughties were the decade where mystical words like "interface" were heard day in day out - while a lot of people, myself included, didn't (and still don't) have the faintest clue what the actual meaning might be.

Also, I only recently discovered that the so-called Playstation is already Jurassic material. In ten years there's been almost more consoles than Tory leaders: from Dreamcast through Playstation 2 all the way to Xbox360, Wii and PSP3.

And forgive me if I'm being inaccurate and disco vicar-like but, I'll be absolutely honest: with new stuff being churned out more often than crap from an IBS sufferer's bum, I've literally lost track.

The good

Cheaper everything, easily accessed music, better and slimmer PCs, faster internet, newspapers and infinite resources online, TVs that are easier to carry if you move, digital cameras.

The bad
People monging out and developing red-eye syndrome, attention spans nosediving, the near death of online privacy, entire social evenings centred around iPhones, music physically turning into disposable rubbish.

1 comment:

Anita said...

Good piece.
A humble addition though if I may:
Google and Wikipedia. Ten years ago one wasn't as massive as it is now (remember old 'altavista'?), the other didn't even exist!
And God alone knows what would happen if they both disappeared!!!