Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Information Age

I recall back in my primary school days, an encyclopaedia salesman called to our home. My parents wanted us to have more opportunities than they had and they saw education, learning and qualifications as the key to a better future for us. Money was tight but they looked on an investment in the latest offering from Colliers as an investment in the future of their children. And so, several weeks later, a consignment of beautifully bound volumes arrived and took pride of place in a custom-made book case in our sitting room.

My father passed away in 1990. I often wonder, if he were to be granted a return, what he would make of the many technological advances that have happened since then. Bear in mind that in 1990 we had just about seen the introduction of the analog mobile phone network in Ireland (with handsets the size of shoe boxes). He would have been aware of laptops computers. I had the unimaginable excitement of bringing one home from work one weekend – a magical device with a flat screen in glorious amber monochrome. He would not have been aware of the internet – few people were, really. It was the mid-90s before I understood what it was and got to experience the long wait times while you downloaded one of the few websites available.

These were early days of pioneering technologies being deployed to the masses, which have evolved into the amazing wirelessly interconnected environment we live in today. My generation witnessed the change as it happened. Gradually we adopted it and adapted to it. For my son’s generation, however, they will never know a world without a personal computing device at their disposal through which they can connect with people and access information anywhere. I don’t imagine they experience much wonder in it – it’s just the way things are.

For me, though – and perhaps it is because I am a self-confessed geek – I never cease to be amazed by the impact of technology on our lives. In particular, I am constantly wowed by the unprecedented level of access to information. Perhaps it is because I have experienced the ‘before and after’. The aforementioned encyclopaedia collection could now fit on my mobile phone. That would have astounded my Dad! But who needs it stored on their phone? All you really need is a browser – there is practically unlimited information out there in the ‘cloud’ awaiting the click of your mouse (or the tap of your finger, if you’re on a phone or tablet device!). The world is, literally, at our finger-tips.

I think if my father were to return he would be shell-shocked at how society has changed. We are truly in an information age. We can be online and connected 24x7 if we so choose. Sure, this brings its challenges. We are social beings and while virtual connections have taken hold in our lives (and they certainly serve a purpose), there can be no substitute for direct human interaction (I’ll say more about Social Media in particular when we reach ‘S’). Let’s use the automaton, not become one.

I leave you with a final thought. Once I finish writing this post on my PC, I will upload it and publish it to my blog site. It will then instantly be available to anyone on the planet who has a browsing device connected to the internet. Isn’t that amazing? If anyone bothers to read it, that will be even more amazing!


  1. Love this piece John. Technology available now still blows me away! It's good to connect but good to be able to switch off too, sometimes.

    1. Thanks Carol. Switching off is important. :-)

  2. Great stuff John.
    I remember when school projects were done by searching encyclopedia... just about :D
    My 83 yr old dad was on a video Skype call to my hubby's 90+ gran aunt last Christmas - he had no idea what was going on lol
    Great post ;) x


  3. Thanks Annmarie. You comment about your dad skyping with your hubby's gran reminded me of this video on YouTube :-)

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