PZ has made a post about a video about Zebrafish development, which originally came out on VHS. He made a throwaway comment “If you don’t know what that is, ask your grandparents”, which got me to think about VHS tapes, and what technologies similar to those, that I have seen the rise and fall of in my lifetime.
Off-hand I can think of:
- DVD (to some degree)
- Tape (well, didn’t see the rise, just the fall)
- Compact Discs/CDs (to some degree)
- MiniDisk (very limited rise)
- Digital Compact Cassette/DCC (very limited rise)
- Digital Audio Tape/DAT (very limited rise)
LPs could probably be included in this list, though I didn’t experience their rise, and the final part of their decline seems to be stretching out.
- 5¼-inch Floppy Disk (well, didn’t see the rise, just the fall)
- 3½-inch Floppy Disk
- DLT (very limited rise)
- Zip drive (very limited rise)
- DVD (as a computer media)
- Polaroids (which has made a comeback)
- Disposable cameras (their niche was pretty much killed by the cameras in phones)
I could continue, mentioning things like different computer types (C64, Amiga etc.), technologies (cordless phones, anyone?), file formats (remember when BMP was king?) and so on.
These lists indicate how much things have changed since in my lifetime, but they only show part of the picture. What they don’t show is how widespread many technologies have become compared to the past. Yes, I did come across 5¼-inch Floppy Disks, but they were hardly a normal household item, like e.g. USB sticks are these days.
Those of us who were born in the seventies and eighties have experienced some major changes, most notable the world wide web and the mobile phone, which has been incredible game changers, for better and worse. When I graduated high school in 1993, it was hard to imagine how the world would look 25 years later, and a lot of the work avaliable now, couldn’t be imagined back then (and a lot of the secure work back then, has since become redundant).
This is something I think is important to remember.
I think most of us groan when we see yet another article complaining about the Millennials, but it is worth remembering that these are usually written by people who haven’t kept up with the development – usually because they don’t have to, since they are secure in their debt-free houses and jobs. If their jobs suddenly becomes threatened, they are quick to blame others (e.g. Millennials, immigrants, robots), rather than facing the possibility that they have become obsolete, much like the many of the media types I mention above.
So, where am I going with this? Well, basically, I am trying to say that it is fun to try to look back and see what you have experienced, and what has changed in your lifetime, but I think it is more important to look forward, and try to keep up, and develop, along side with the technology. The type setters became obsolete, because their function were taken over by the computers – this was not something that was generally considered a possibility, until it suddenly happened (the speed was helped along by the behavior of the type setters, who by all accords were quite difficult to work with for everyone else).
In other words, it might be worth looking around at the technology you are dependent on today, and try to figure out what alternatives there are in the future, and see if you can start preparing for either the change (e.g. reading up on the new technology), or for moving elsewhere in your career (get qualifications needed for new positions). It is not easy, but unfortunately, most of us are not in positions where we have much of a choice.
Johnny Vector says
I remember a trade show back in the 80s where some company was introducing their new 256kbit RAM chip. Some engineer I talked to was complaining about how fast things were changing, “I’m going to have to redesign my memory boards again!“. Meanwhile everyone from my company was annoyed that the new chips weren’t shipping in quantity yet. “When can I get my hands on these? I need them to improve my design!”
It seemed bizarre that an electronics engineer of all people would be afraid of the future, but there he was. I expect he’s looking for work these days.
a few questions:
(a) Why aren’t the various kinds of cartridges and removable flash memory devices in your list? Plenty of those rose and fell in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.
(b) Similar for various kinds of internal storage? I recall hard drives that pretended to be a floppy drive (and replaced an internal floppy drive) , “hard card” hard drives that required an ISA slot, IDE hard drives (of many different size formats), SATA drives, firewire, SCSI, and usb drives.
Kristjan Wager says
Llewelly, yes, I could have included many more things, and I probably would if I could remember all the different names – I had a hard enough time remembering the names on the list