On a recent flight to Las Vegas, it dawned on me while we slowly taxied to the runway at Gatwick just how much technology is taken for granted. In all of many flights I have been on, there’s still a certain magic about it for me. This despite now being 30. Of course my perspective has changed from thinking (as I once did) how cool it is to be on a plane, to just being in awe of the workmanship and the technology that goes into providing the fast, safe air travel we are all used to.
This was my first ever flight in business class and consequently my first ever flight facing backwards. I had a great view of the wing and the huge Rolls Royce engine of the Boeing 777. The engine’s spooled up with a glorious sound of raw power and the plane powered forwards. As we accelerated down the runway I was just gazing out the window waiting for the plane to lift off and the ground to suddenly disappear into the distance. Yet all around me were other passengers who were simply reading newspapers or books. No one else was appreciating the moment as much as me.
Now I admit I’m a little bit of a plane geek and would love to have the money to take flying lessons, but when you think about the thousands and thousands of hours invested into the design and construction of that engine alone, never mind the countless thousands of hours invested in that aircraft, it’s flight systems, avionics, wings, flaps and every other system involved in getting that plane off the ground and safely into the air.
The technology is mind boggling and a great testament to the ingenuity of humanity. Yet so many take it for granted. Those reading news papers were missing out on the magnificent views of London as we ascended to cruising altitude, or the icebergs in the ocean as we crossed nearer to Iceland. These are spectacular views that were it not for the technology we would almost certainly never get to see.
The same applies to smartphones. We take for granted that we can check Facebook or Tweet on the go. That we can find restaurants nearby with an app or even a google search. To be able to set a program to record on the Sky box at home while on a train in another part of the country. The list goes on and on, yet how quickly we forget that just 6 years ago before the original iPhone smartphones were really not that smart.
The internet was at best a basic and seriously cut down series of WAP sites on smartphones. Most navigation was done using a stylus on a touchscreen that could not comprehend a tap in more than one place at once. The peak of operating systems was Windows Mobile 6 which was horrendous by modern smartphone standards. Yet at the time, it was the most usable of all “smart” operating systems.
Then Apple dropped the iPhone on the world and everything changed overnight. Suddenly touch screens were multi-touch and finger friendly. Interfaces no longer required a stylus! The internet was the real internet, full web pages on your phone with proper desktop class rendering. Sure the original iPhone wasn’t perfect, but it was radical. It was new. It caught the entire mobile phone industry off guard. Phone manufacturers had to completely change entire product line ups or face going out of business.
2007 was a time of excitement, of change, of the realisation that we were in a technological revolution. Now just 6 years on, that excitement has faded. Smartphones are no longer the domain of business, but rather something consumers buy out of preference. They are everywhere and in hot demand. The world has changed, but sometimes it’s worth just taking a step back and remembering what the world was like before the iPhone.
The same applies to all technology, just take a few minutes today really think about the changes you have seen in your lifetime. Be grateful for the innovators who have changed our lives, whether it be with phones, planes, cars or anything else you can think of. Technology is wonderful.