Have you noticed that there are moments that define the start or end of an era? It can be argued that The Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan was one of the “starts” of the Sixties pop culture era and the Nixon resignation helped define its “close.” For many of us, the Apple 1984 commercial marked the beginning of the modern tech era with the radical promise that computers would change the lives of everyday people. While the moments that end an era are a bit harder to recognize without some distance, I think the introduction of the TERABYTE SD card may be in the running for closing moment status.
Consider that you can now put one thousand megabytes on a thumbnail sized piece of plastic that costs about $399. Thirty years ago, I’m pretty sure no organization, let alone an individual, even had this much data (or could imagine having it). Twenty years ago, this would have been a secret weapon used only by the military. Ten years ago, it would mark a landmark event in corporate data storage. Today, we’re excited because we can put a whole lot of high-def cat videos on it.
There are a lot of wonderful infographics showing how the hard drive cost-per-gigabyte went from hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 1980s to around three cents today. I think the concept of “technology” as the defining driver of the current era has followed the same slope. It’s gone from a rare and powerful thing, handled by folks wearing clean suits, to the mere stuff of everyday existence.
In a world three cent megabytes, technology is ubiquitous. Technology is an integral part of the landscape rather than the center of our attention. The advertising singing the technologic virtues and breakthrough innovation for rotary telephones, color televisions and radial car tires seems so quaint today. Have you noticed that even well-crafted smartphone ads are starting to seem a bit strained while they tout the praises of extra pixels and batteries?
While the fan-boys and fan-girls of Artificial Intelligence find it hard to restrain their breathless delight in smart robots, their story seems a bit thin when it comes to how it will make my life better. In the post-technology era (name tbd), successful tech marketers will be less fascinated with engineering and more fascinated by human emotions, experiences and outcomes.