The evolution of communications is progressing at breakaway speed. During my lifetime I witnessed incredible changes that leave me pondering where this medium will go next. To give you an example let me chronicle how phone communications have changed.
As a child growing up in Idaho we had one telephone in our house. It was a black rotary phone mounted to the wall in our kitchen. Our neighborhood still utilized the “party line” system. For those of you unaware of what a “party line” is, everyone with a geographical area shared a common phone line.
Each household had a distinctive ring that signaled when you were getting a call. If the ring sounded differently that meant the call was not for you but rather was destined for one of your neighbors. This also meant that at any given time you could lift the receiver and listen in to your neighbors phone conversations. I cannot even imagine what the personal privacy lawyers would do if these were still in use today.
Ultimately we received a “private line” specific to just our house. We did retain our rotary dial phone until after I graduated from high school so please don’t be too impressed with our technological advancement.
My first cell phone did not come along until after I was married and had moved to Arizona. I remember how amazed I was that there was technology that would allow you to communicate with each other without having a wire connecting the two parties.
I completely glossed over the fact that this phone was the size and weight of a brick and could only make or receive calls and even that was not consistent. I would go through several iterations of cell phones before I finally had one that allowed me to store a list of phone numbers or contact information.
I felt I was fairly well connected having a cell phone, a two-way pager, a personal digital assistant, and a Sony Walkman. Of course with all of this gear I ended up needed a Batman utility belt to carry it all with me. Heaven forbid all of these devices go off at the same time. I feared the power would be like having my own personal defibrillator.
My life became significantly simpler on January 9, 2007. During a presentation Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. It set a new precedent for managing information. For the six months following that date the hype around the iPhone reached epic levels. Finally on June 29th the iPhone was released to the public and was an instant success.
While the original iPhone was an amazing device, it was the second generation that realized the dreams I had for using a “smart phone”. The iPhone 3G was release on July 11, 2008 in twenty-two countries around the globe.
I happened to be in Idaho on vacation when the iPhone 3G was released and I ventured over to the local AT&T store to see this new device. People had been camped out for days waiting for the introduction. I had no intention of camping for a phone and as luck would have it I didn’t have to. As I stood there in line the three people in front of me were from outside the country and therefore ineligible to purchase the iPhone 3G.
The iPhone 3G was the most amazing device I had ever owned. It not only allowed me to call anyone but also check my email, text my family, surf the Internet, and more than a million other things.
When Apple introduced the iPhone 3Gs I did not anticipate upgrading. That changed when my daughter needed a new phone. I gave her my iPhone 3G and I moved to the newer model. The 3Gs was much faster than the 3G and the battery life was much better than I could manage with the older model.
Apple again pushed the envelope with the redesign of the iPhone 4. I eagerly awaited the release of this new generation phone. It just so happened that my youngest daughter had an accident with her iPhone where it fell in the pool killing it. She was therefore very motivated for me to upgrade so she could have my iPhone 3Gs.
This time I realized I would be forced to camp out at the AT&T Store if I had any hopes of getting a new phone. So in an early summer night I spent the night in a parking lot in a sleeping bag along with several other crazed individuals all for the opportunity to buy a phone.
I would have never guessed it would come to this that I would be so enthusiastic about a product that I would be willing to spend the night sleeping on a concrete parking lot just for a chance to buy a phone. We’ve come a long way from a rotary dial “party line”.