Sunday, March 14, 2010

Generational Technology.

It's no secret that I live in Silicon Valley. It's the heart of technology where the latest and greatest is invented. We spend our long days and nights birthing the technologies that make this blog among other things possible. It's pretty amazing that we take sand from the beaches and eventually make websites like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay and others. We live on internet time, and that's compared to dog years, where seven years equals one. It's exciting, it's amazing that the pace of change is so amazing.

But sometimes I think we lack ambition, we are always looking for the new new thing, but we forget about what happens to the new thing. And with this I struggle. Right now the hottest thing in the "Valley" is the iPad. 50,000 of this latest wave of technology were pre-ordered on Friday. In all the Facebook and Twitter updates, people are excited. Saint Steve is not likely to disappoint, he rarely does. But for some reason the excitement isn't there for me.

I am pretty much a pack rat, and recently I've been shuffling some of my stuff from one place to another. Been giving some of it away and repurposing other stuff. One of the things I uncovered were a few PDAs, an Palm Pilot Pro, a Palm Vx that I have in the original box (hey I said I'm a pack rat) and a Tungsten T3, and these sit collecting dust. Now these devices are functional, they serve great as calendars and address books. And in some cases they will even interface with the modern computers of the day. But they sit unused. A quick check on eBay shows that everyone listed has zero bids, so basically it's junk.

So this is what gives me pause about information technology, and I'm not talking about computers and IT equipment I'm talking about anything that can be reduced to data. You can buy a toaster from 20 years ago and it will still work. Granted, it only does one thing, but you can still use it. You can even use a toaster from 40 years ago. But for computers, from five years ago and it's a quaint museum piece ready for the Computer History Museum but in any real way it's not usable. Think of the 8-track, cassette tapes, MD players, all relegated to obsolescence. Even now, this funny trick called Blu-ray is likely to make is such that it will be the only available format and everyone will have to upgrade their DVD players to get a movie from their local video store. And where do those old technologies go?

To the dump most likely, or in my garage if I buy it. So that's why I hesitate to get an iPad since I know that there is something else around the corner, that's what we do. I'm right now reading Cradle to Cradle (book) where the last step of a product is not the dump, but to a place where it can be the next product. Silicon Valley has always been ambitious, but in this regard I don't think it's ambitious enough. If you can think of how the last product can be the next product then you're really innovating. Otherwise my garage is running out of space.


At 10:20 AM , Blogger Dianna said...

well, i pretty much live in that dilemma; out here in NOT-high-techville, i rarely upgrade unless forced to, and even then i'm completely annoyed at the necessity. nothing i own is current-generation. ipad? pft! maybe if and when ipad 5.0 comes out and someone gives me their original, still-working ipad when they upgrade. early adoption is for suckers.

At 5:30 PM , Anonymous Raymond said...

yeah if feels like things are changing too fast sometimes

At 2:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel compelled to comment on this topic -- Cradle to Cradle, the book, is not significantly different in content than William McDonough's public talks. If you have the chance to see him present, please do -- I find his message more inspirational in public (despite how boring he sounds) than in the printed word. Maybe it's because of his selection of slides? Not sure what it is.

Anyway, excellent book and/or excellent talk, either way, Cradle to Cradle is the way to go.

The big question now is, how do we make C2C hip, in fashion, and deliver on its promises en masse?

At 2:19 PM , Blogger Charles said...

I agree, Cradle to Cradle is not here yet. But I see signs of hope. Patagonia has fleece jackets made of recycled bottles that themselves are recyclable.

I am also really impressed by Ray Anderson of Interface carpet and how he is leading. More about him at (

We have take out at my work, and people are in the habit of getting new throwaways. It's biodegradable but I try to help out by bringing my own containers.


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