Monday, 11 January 2010

A Blast from the Past

Yesterday while  looking for something on my bookshelf, I found this. Don't laugh.

Okay, I know you laughed. I remember when I bought that cell phone back in 2002. That phone was the hottest thing on the market and there were ooh's and aah's when I bought my new Nokia. Now, it's nothing more than a paper weight. I never got rid of it because it was my first phone and then, my kids could probably laugh about it one day, the way we laugh about 8-tracks with our parents. I can hear it now.

- So ummm...what did this phone do? Could you take photos with it? Can you check email on it? What about blogging...can I send a blog post with it? What does it do?

- could call a friend and get calls could send text messages!

- That's all??

But it goes to show how communication has changed and keeps changing. 2002 was not that far off was it? But then, think even further back to when we used to put pen to paper and write letters. In high school, pen pals were all the rage, You paid like $5 and got 4 pen pals, and you would spend your weekend writing letters in your best penmanship to teenagers like yourself in Africa or Europe or North America. You would wait weeks for a reply and would light up like a bulb when you got home and there was your letter, waiting to be opened.

Then came email and the death of personalised stationery and the birth of the term "slow mail" which now described that fun activity of writing out those epistles to friends in foreign countries. But emails allowed not only faster delivery of your messages, but also allowed you to send photos and helped to foster these relationships on a deeper level since you could communicate more often, without any expense.

Chat came and the email was not the popular kid anymore. With instant messaging services like MSN and Yahoo, who needed to sit and write an email and wait for the person to check it and hopefully respond immediately? Now you could see if the person was online and talk in real time with him or her. With chat later came video chat and stuff like Skype, which signalled the near death of the telephone in our homes. I cannot tell you the last time I got a phone call on my landline.

Facebook became the ultimate relationship builder and social hot spot. So I had one of those slow mail penpals and after a while, we just sort of stopped writing and lost touch. After almost 20 years, guess where we reconnected? You guessed it. Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with dozens of people I just simply lost touch with and now it is where we all keep in touch, some simply want to macco and some like to be macco'ed (don't deny it!), share their opinions on stuff and meet new people.

And worse than me picking up the phone in my home, is me picking up a newspaper. Besides getting that yucky press ink all over my hands, the www world has made getting the news so much more convenient and accessible. And with newspapers going electronic and also with media gurus and just people with opinions on the news creating blogs and forums, feedback and discussion on current events is more prevalent and there is no longer that one-sidedness which news was all about in the past. Sure you had letters to the editor, but you had to hope your letter got chosen and then that in itself is limited cause noone can comment on your letter in real time, if anyone chooses to at all.

Blogging has brought so many different topics to so many different people. There are blogs about everything - sports, technology, food, fashion, travel (yaay), media, entertainment, sex, dating - you name it, there is a blog out there that hashes out the issues and has readers hashing right back. Isn't it fantastic?

And for the people on the move, who want to process info quickly, who want to not have to scour the cyberverse for details, there is microblogging. Twitter has really exploded over the past several months and Facebook also allows people to just simply answer the question "what am I doing now?" as well as share links to articles, news, videos, podcasts etc.

Businesses have come a long way too. The way we communicate in business has evolved as well. I always smirk when I have to print a memo in this day and age, but paper trails are still important, though I think cyber trails can work as well. Some businesses have harnessed the power of technology and employees are keeping in touch via email, Office Communicator, intranets, internal social networking platforms similar to the external ones like Facebook and Twitter.

And you were no longer slaves to your pc, but the mobility of communication changed too, with laptops and wireless internet almost anywhere you go so is it any wonder you see people sitting in airports, coffee shops, on the beach, in their hotels, typing away - getting things done, staying in touch, downloading, meeting people.

And then, coming back to the cell phone I dug out of the stone ages, there came the smart phone - which allows you to do everything discussed above, bringing you right at the edge of the action, 24/7. I sat in a room once and everyone was inflicted with BB-itis. Symptoms - dropped head, eyes locked on Blackberry screen, oblivious to life around them, fingers tapping away at keyboard frantically.

It's a serious ailment which has afflicted many people around the world, in addition to iPhoneitis and other smart phone related afflictions.

But it's immediacy on the go. You can now send an email or an IM and get a response faster than the time it takes to get a cup of coffee at your favourite Rituals or Starbucks as the case may be.

And to think, I loved that phone so much that I did not want to let it go. And to think, everything mentioned here is just the tip of the evolution iceberg as far as communication is concerned. If I had to talk about everything out there, my head would hurt. There is so much happening out there that soon some of these things may be as dead and archaic as that old Nokia, with its analog service. It's exciting find out though.


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