We live in an amazing, awe-inspiring, and breathtaking time.  However, from a purely technological perspective, we are almost oblivious to realize the vastness of these changes due to slow incremental rates of change in technology.  Yet, these changes, when measured over a grander span of time, are astonishing.

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If you consider the level of transformation that has transpired over the past 50 years alone, we’ll within many of our lifetimes, it is a massive leap forward.  We have so many technologies today that all work to make our lives better, but we are mostly immune to them as they are just cosmic noise humming away in the background of our daily grind.  Sure, there is technological carnage wasting away by the roadside of life as the pathway to the future is always a messy route.  But, what has survived the journey is still rather terrific.

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.  –  Carl Sagan

The younger generations have not seen what the older folks have, so the metamorphosis is less impactful for them.  But for the baby boomer generation it has be shocking to ponder.  So what has actually changed in 50 years?  Let’s just consider what was invented from 1969 to 1980 alone.

  • In 1969, mankind went to the moon.  The entire world stopped to watch the exploits of these brave astronauts as they boldly went beyond our imaginations.
  • Smoke detectors did not exist 50 years ago, but they save lives every day today.  In 1969, they need special regulatory approval as they carried minute partials of radioactive materials inside them.
  • Calculators were only emerging in the early 1970s, so how did we do math back then?  Slides rules and in our minds, that’s how. I still have mine – the slide rule, not my mind.
  • The first Intel 4004 processor emerged in 1971 paving the way towards the CPU based computers, iPads, smartphones, IoT, and literally everything else.
  • Pong arrived in 1972 as the world’s first video game for the masses.  It weight hundreds of pounds and was 6 feet tall. But we all loved it.
  • The first cellphone emerged in 1973, albeit an analog device that weighted in close to the weight of a brick.  I had one, did you?
  • In 1974, a package of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Gum was the first product ever to be scanned at a supermarket with the advent of the bar code.  QR codes are now advanced beyond bar codes.
  • The Altair 8800 kit computer emerged and started the personal computer revolution.  It was aided by Gates and Allen who wrote the original BASIC Interpreter and later founded Microsoft
  • Apple was founded in 1976 by the late Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and a rather unfortunate Ronald Wayne, who sold his founder’s equity stake in the world’s most valuable company for $800.  Ouch!
  • In 1978, bored, with nothing better to do, Christensen and Suess created CBBS, a dial-in forum system that became the first BBS.  There was only one phone line, so each participant had to wait until a previous user hung up to gain access.  Was the forerunner to social media?
  • In 1979, when Sony introduced the Walkman, you could finally listen to your choice of music, in private.  This reduced family bickering, made it possible for workers to listen to their own music on the job (when appropriate, of course), and gave a lift to the entire music business.
  • A nod for 1980’s innovation of the year to a failed project. ENQUIRE was a project developed in 1980 by Tim Berners-Lee while he was at CERN, and, in many ways, can be considered a concept prototype for the Web.

So, there is just a decade of innovation from 40 to 50 years ago.  Imagine the transformative impacts to our daily lives as a result of these innovations – what would life be like if any of them did not happen?

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What will the next decade hold in store for us all?  It will be driven by many new and important technologies.  These may include:

  1. Blockchain
  2. Internet of Things (IoT)
  3. Digital healthcare, in hospitals, clinics, homes, and extended to the wearables
  4. Generative adversarial networks
  5. Human and artificial neural networks
  6. Incremental improvements, the slow and steady shift forward
  7. Quantum batteries
  8. Quantum computing
  9. Artificial intelligence seamlessly woven into everyday life
  10. Dynamic security agents
  11. Edge computing, largely displacing the cloud
  12. Autonomous everything – cars, buses, trains, and airplanes
  13. Smarter cities, along with smarter everything
  14. Seamless and fully integrated AR, VR, and data visualization
  15. Healthy food that is tracked from the farm to the fork

Photo by Best DSC!Are there more innovations expected?  Yes, of course there are, but how do we predict what has not been dreamed of yet?

From a trends perspective, we are seeing a shift away from a centralized model towards a distributed architecture.  We are pushing intelligence closer to the edge and the user.  Another trend that is already on the fast track is the shift from batch processing to real-time systems.  And finally, we are see the advent of deep learning starting to bubble up and take the stage to support the user experience.

The future is as absolutely mind-boggling as the past.  The journey continues…


About the Author:

Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies.

He is a business and technology consultant. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).

Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V). 

He serves as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now Ontario Tech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. 

He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.