Steve Jobs, guru of Apple creativity, died yesterday. And, as I sit here in my Upper Class (business class) “pod” on a Virgin Atlantic flight to Australia, writing this blog on my iPad 2, I am amazed at how technology has changed over the last twenty to twenty five years……
When I first joined started work as a fresh-faced graduate some twenty four years ago (note to self – how scary is THAT!?), people were driving around in cars which run on leaded fuel and “air-conditioning” meant winding down the window (no buttons) or, if you drove a Ghia, opening the tilting sun-roof. Nowadays we have hybrids with stop/go technology and the emergence of the electric car.
Now I am not saying that in the next five years we’ll all be wearing Lycra space suits and commuting to work our personal hover boards, but given the pace of change of technology, I wouldn’t bank against it. I must start that diet. Lycra is so unforgiving……
I never saw a computer throughout my school or university years. When I first started work we shared one computer between six or eight of us. It sat in the middle of the room. It was not a desktop. It was more of a centre piece. A talking point. It sat in pride of place and blinked at you from its green screen. And, it was useless. All it possessed was a word processing function. Or, at least, if it had anything like spreadsheets, I didn’t know how to use them.
Even the word processing function was shite. Any official document or communique would have to be typed. It was one of the most daunting challenges of a fresh-faced graduate to have to brave the typing pool. A coven of middle-aged fading beauties lusting after fresh meat. Urgent stop messages stop were sent or received via telex with their stop urgency stop clearly written stop at the top.
Indeed, the office environment was much different back in the day. We weren’t open plan. We hid our commercial secrets in big filing cabinets behind closed doors in offices which were filled with the aromas of cigarette smoke, stale Nescafe, and lunchtime drinking.
Seniority was advertised by a desk looking out of a window and a different colour of carpet tile. Or, by an old school or regimental tie and a funny handshake.
Communication was by way of face-to-face or by one-on-one telephone calls. The “telco” or “videoconf” had not yet been invented. We had mail (paper) or faxes, and we stored our data on floppy disks or microfiche.
Outside of work, we relaxed. There were few ways to bring work home except in a briefcase, on paper. We watched four channels on a TV the size of a small caravan. At the weekend we rented a video. We listened to music on cassettes, and, we only ever phoned home when we knew that someone would be in.
These were the innocent days before Steve Jobs. Before mobiles and Bluetooth and touch screens, plasma and wireless. This was back in the days when we pushed buttons with our fingers, not our thumbs. And, the Internet was something only Star Trek had thought of.
Looking back, it was a time when work and life were balanced. You left home to go to work and when you left work you socialized. You socialized, not virtually, but in person, by talking, without the distraction of a text or an email or by being nudged, poked or Skyped. Receiving post could be a joy. Friends were people you’d met and who you knew.
Today it is….different. I am in constant communication. I am totally available. I have an iPod, and iPhone, and an iPad 2 and I’m fully synchronised, wirelessly connected, and, hands free. And, as such, my work life balance is screwed. Doing stuff is easier – I have an App for that! Keeping in touch is easy. Gaining and sharing information is easy. And, if you missed your favourite TV programme then you can get it on demand or via iPlayer.
But, there is no longer the possibility of shutting the door on it. Of being unavailable. Of getting away from it all.
Now I am not saying that all technology is bad. Far from it. I am Mr Gadget. I love my toys. Technology has helped the spread of revolution, freedom and democracy across the world. But, with it we have lost a lot of ourselves. We have lost time for ourselves. We have lost space for ourselves. We have lost ourselves in an ever smaller world of real-time connectivity.
RIP Steve Jobs………RIP innocence.