From typewriters to Twitter

How technology has affected society in the last 30 years.

I know that this shouldn’t be the case, but I can’t help but be amazed at how much technology has affected society in the last 30 years.

As I spent the last few days putting the finishing touches on a presentation on social media that I will be giving at two conferences this coming week, I reflected on how my own life and career has been changed by advances in equipment and the birth of the Internet. My memory went all the way back to high school, where we would sit in a classroom after school, using a mimeograph machine to crank out the latest issue of the school newspaper.

I recalled my college experience, hauling a reel-to-reel recorder with me to do interviews when I worked for the campus radio station. I remembered my first newspaper job, in the advent of the computer age, typing stories on my VDT terminal and storing them on a floppy disk—they really were floppy back then. We would hand the disks to a production person, who would then print out the articles on strips a special paper, cut them and paste them on boards relating to the page layouts our editor has sketched so they could be photographed and be printed. (I also learned how touchy these union employees would be if you attempted to move copy on one of those boards, but that’s another story.)

In my second newspaper gig, the publisher used a mainframe to collect all the stories, eliminating the need for floppy disks—but not the need for cutting and pasting. Today, that mainframe is called a server, and in our case it’s hundreds of miles away, as is the company that prints FoodService Director.

We are as likely these days to communicate via email as by telephone, and when we do call someone we are more often than not using a cellular phone, rather than a land line. Our children prefer to use texting, instant messaging and Facebook status updates to keep in touch with their friends.

As each of these changes have occurred, I have evolved, sometimes willingly and sometimes not. I still have not taken the step of using my cell phone to surf the Web and do my banking, but I have embraced Facebook as a great way to keep tabs on friends and relatives and share my joys and trials. I don’t know what’s next on the technological front—I’m sure that videoconferencing isn’t far from the mainstream—but I do know that each new advance will come more and more swiftly. It will be intriguing to see what the next five to 10 years will bring. Are you up for it? I hope I am.


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