In 1976, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs launched the Apple I, one of the world’s first personal home computers.
In 2001, Apple launched a revolutionary music listening device, the iPod.
In 2007, Apple introduced the touchscreen cellphone: iPhone.
In 2010, Apple conceived a tablet computer, the iPad.
If you look into the academic history of technology, these four Apple triumphs fall amongst the ground-breaking inventions of: TV, digital cameras, satellites, lasers, nuclear power, radar, plastic, telephones, and all the way back to candles. Yes, candles (which were invented 1-2 million years ago, by the way).
Inventions can be miraculous things… products and systems that change the way we communicate and survive. However, some inventions serve the human race better and more practically than others.
Chainsaws for example, invented in 1905 by Samuel J. Bens, drastically changed the ways in which people were subject to hard labour – cutting wood for building homes and for building fires.
Another example, the X- Ray, invented in 1895 by German physicist Wilhelm Rontgen… a system that has since been saving lives and improving health care for those in need.
And what about printing? Yes printing! In 1450, Johannes Gutenberg created the modern printing press… printing letters on pages, of which could be bound into books. Without the printing press… most of history would likely be lost!
All of these things were extraordinarily revolutionary in their time.
But are all technologies as liberating as these? I would argue no.
Technologies like refrigerators, microwaves, rubber, and cars have all made our lives easier, absolutely. But if you look anywhere past the point in history where computers came onto the scene, most of our current technologies are solving problems that never really needed to be solved… some of which were never really problems at all.
Let’s break it down. The computer was developed, along with the WWW to aid us in communication practices. This then lead to emailing, gaming, and Internet surfing for information. Unlike other forms of technology, whose creation was completely original, the computer-borrowed inspiration from everything that pre-existed. Think about it.
– We could already send mail to one another (plane, train, hand-delivered)
– We could already call one another.
– We already had board games.
– We could already go to a library to read information we were seeking.
There was no lack in our lives – except for an enhanced quickness…which continues to grow even more quick with every passing day.
I then have to wonder… how much simpler life would be if computers had never been developed…. if the great minds of our time had simply said, “We have invented enough, we are pleased, let’s stop and just enjoy what we have”.
But of course, that never happened, and will never happen, ever.
Technology of the past, developed slowly and over time. Technology now, is sold and redeveloped every few months, weeks, and even days – ever notice how often you have to update the apps on your iPhone?
This alone tells us that we are no longer patient, we are never satisfied, and we always want our products to work better and faster than they did the minute before – holy.
When I think back to my parent’s youth I can only imagine what life was like. Yes, they had televisions and radios, but the personal computer had not yet come out, nor had the MP3, or even the CD.
My parents went to the movies to see a film, they didn’t stream for free online. They gathered as a family to watch a television program live. They bought 8 tracks to play on a record. They had to call each other up on their landline if they wanted to hang out or make plans with someone. They had no Tinder to date, no Facebook to re-connect, no Instagram to post pictures. They took real pictures and actually printed them! Wild!
Looking back even further to my grandparents youth – they never owned a television set. The idea of owning such a machine would have sounded absurd. They wrote letters to communicate over distance. They walked miles, unless they were connected enough to catch a ride with someone who owned a vehicle, or were somehow able to buy a vehicle. My grandparents were poor. My grandparents had trouble even keeping food on the table…
And with all of that in mind, I feel incredibly stupid, spoiled, and ashamed.
My generation was raised in a time where personal home computer use was exploding with popularity. My brother and I did play games outside of course, but our favourite hobby was to be online – playing Oregon Trail, I Spy, Tonka Trucks, or Reader Rabbit CD-ROM’s. We were raised by a generation that was told: CD-ROM games are good for children, computers were good for children, and that technology could be a friend to your child. Our parents were also coached that TV programs could act as their child’s babysitter.
Keep in mind that mothers at this point in time had begun to return to the workforce instead of staying home to watch the kids – so, when they got home from work, and were dead tired, and needed to make dinner, and didn’t feel up to playing with their kids, the TV seemed like a saviour – a box of endless entertainment.
Now, I don’t blame my parents for allowing me access to all of these things… which of course later turned into obsessions with SEGA, and GAMEBOY, and XBOX, and PLAYSTATION, and Nintendo DS…. because they didn’t know any better.
When new technology was starting to come out at a rapid pace in my youth, the shiny promise of yet another entertainment box would not only sell me, (who wanted to be entertained, cool, and would beg on end), but it also sold my parents, who were burnt out from being over-worked and needed some help keeping us kids busy.
The problem here is, as my brother’s and my obsession with technology grew… we began to give up our childhood pleasures: riding bikes, playing with chalk, going to the park, and playing in the backyard with friends. Suddenly, it was more fun to stay inside our rooms, or in the basement, and play alone.
Now when I talk to other young adults my age, I find our conversations about technology almost always turn nostalgic – of past times in which our cell phones didn’t rule our every thought and move.
I miss playing outside. I miss going on the swings. I miss making up songs and dressing up and performing for my parents.
But that little girl is gone, and so is my technology innocence – I’ve been overexposed and I can’t go back.
These days, I sleep with my cellphone in my bed. I literally sleep beside it – isn’t that sick? I need help.
I’d even go so far as to say I love my cellphone and if it were to break, I know I would embarrassingly feel devastated and upset… WTF is up with that???
Reflecting upon all of this makes my head both shake and spin….
It also makes me want to vow to myself that I will do whatever I can to get my kids outside… That I will play with them as much as I can…. That I will buy them blocks, and paper dolls, and nothing that flashes or beeps… That I will read to them instead of putting the TV on…. That I will make sure “Siri” is not one of their first words….
I know I’m not yet a parent, and I know this is all easier said than done but I truly hope I have the will power to withhold a majority of personal technology items from my future children – not to punish them, but to reward them, with a childhood filled with something much more meaningful than Candy Crush or Angry Birds.
Basically, I want them to eat an apple and not be owned by one.