It was the middle of 1982, and as my business partner and I were making our way through The Netherlands Schiphol Airport, we decided to stop by the local Duty Free Shop. One of the busiest stores in the terminal, they carried some of the most recognizable brands and designer items. As we made our way through their many aisles, we stopped at a new department featuring some of their latest products.
Our eyes were immediately drawn to a new electronic device which was getting a great deal of attention. And there it was, the Commodore 64 computer, the first of its kind. Up until that time, my partner and I had never utilized any technology for our business or personal lives. So, without hesitation, we both lined up and each purchased our first computer. We both struggled to learn how to use it and had no idea how this simple computer would start a revolution that would change our lives and how businesses would operate in the future.
For the past few years, I had been hopping around the world with only telephones and faxes (very expensive!) as a means to communicate with business partners. All meetings were conducted face to face. I was making monthly trips to Europe and at least 4 trips a year to the Far East. There were several instances when I would fly to a country, meet with associates in the airport to sign agreements, and hop on the next plane home.
As the ‘80s moved forward, Microsoft introduced their first Windows computer, while Apple launched its initial Macintosh unit. Companies started to provide their staffs with desktop computers for word processing. Computers started to pop up in homes. The Age of Technology was in full swing, and in the mid nineties, AOL started offering Internet access through telephone lines. However, it would take time before any work could be done away from your desk.
Moving through the ‘90’s, technology gradually crept into our lives. Computers became more powerful, and laptops became a necessary accessory. Toward the end of the decade, handheld devices started to enter the market. The blackberry became a staple as a pager, email provider, and a rudimentary means of access to the Internet. Starting in 2001, Apple entered the handheld market with its first iPod, offering music and other features, such as the ability to listen to books through Audible. The introduction of the iPhone in 2007 was a game changer. Google’s Android followed shortly thereafter, in 2008. Starting in 2010, tablets were introduced by both Apple and Google.
All of a sudden, we became a mobile society. No longer were we tethered to our desks. We were able to communicate and access information on the road. As we moved through the decade, it was possible to leave our computers at the office and home. Phones and tablets became mainstream, as handheld devices outsold computers. It is estimated that in 2021, the number of mobile devices operating worldwide stood at almost 15 billion, up from just over 14 billion in the previous year.
I have been writing this document on a number of different devices from several locations. In the past, this could only have been accomplished by saving the file on a “flash drive” and transferring it from device to device. Now, with the advent of “cloud storage,” it can be accessed on any computer I use, as well as a phone or tablet.
Growing up, television was still in its infancy. Listening to the radio was mainstream. We now have “Smart TVs” with Internet access. Why go to movies with the advent of “streaming?” Isn’t it ironic that radio has returned in the form of podcasts which lets us enjoy programs similar to how we relied on radios 70 – 80 years ago?
I often look at my life through a prism of “pre and post technology’s infancy.” I have written about my overall discomfort with corporate life, particularly the travel that was involved, prior to the Internet becoming mainstream. Having made the decision in the early 90’s to change careers, what would have happened if I hadn’t recognized the potential of the Internet and decided to be a computer tutor and technology consultant? At 52, where would I have turned. I had a successful corporate career, but needed another challenge. Looking back to nearly 30 years ago, the world of technology offered me the opportunity to pursue a second career, which has been rewarding and exciting.
As I complete this article from my handheld device in the park, thank you Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Case, and the many others who have made this ride so enjoyable.