My co-workers in those days, now a circle of close friends for over 20 years, fondly reminisce from time to time about what we refer to as the “McCaw Era“.
I think this will be looked back upon by future generations as the beginning of an age of technology that forever changed humankind, moreso than the light bulb, the motorcar, or the television set.
But there was something else developing during this era. The personal computer.
It was difficult to distinguish back then which would be more transforming – the personal computer or the portable cellular telephone -because during this time the industry was already predicting a convergence of the two. And we assumed that the broadcast networks would also be a big part of this convergence.
Yes, telephones, televisions and computers would somehow merge into one device – we were sure of that. But though I can clearly remember the industry articles and predictions, I also remember that none of us (and I’m sure my McCaw Alumni will agree) could quite articulate just “how” this would evolve.
As I think back to those days, I remember envisioning a future where content was pushed out to us, the way it always was, through the traditional cable and radio channels. And so in our minds, we were all seeing a future of miniature radios and TVs combined into our cell phones.
And yet, we somehow couldn’t seem to get too excited about that, because frankly there really wasn’t anything “cool” or compelling about that idea which matched the hype of the industry’s (somewhat inarticulate) vision of the coming convergence.
If only we had understood the what the term “personal” computer would truly come to mean.
I’ve told this part of the story several times over the years, but it’s only recently dawned on me what was missing in our vision back then – because it’s taken more than 20 years to actually realize what that vision is today.
In essence, the big difference between the future we imagined and the future that became today’s reality is the element of personal empowerment, or the empowerment of the individual.
Little did we imagine back then that it wouldn’t be the broadcast networks pushing out their content to us, but rather, WE would be the authors of rich content, sharing it with each other.
Who among us could imagine back then, that we could capture an incredibly personal moment in time: our newborn baby’s first giggle, a puppy’s funny mishap, an incredible moment in a trip to a foreign land, and instantly share it as a high definition image or video to our circle of friends?
It’s the individual empowerment of personal technologies such as these through our social networks that drove the vision of a future which we couldn’t imagine back then, yet we take for granted today.
For those of you old enough to remember, and not young enough to have “never known” what the future would bring, I hope I’ve shared as much of an “ah hah” moment for you as it was for me.
It is an incredible time to be an individual, in this age of individual empowerment.