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America Technology

Before-Digital and Post-Digital Ages

I’m fairly certain that at some point in the future, the dividing line between ages will be BD and PD- much like the dividing line we use for BC or AD (Before Christ or After Death was what I learned in school – which was wrong but sticks in my mind anyway). So yes, we will have the years where not much is known – the years when there was no digital photographic or audio recording technology and the years where everything was captured. A good example of that rose to my attention last night – in the 1960s the teleplay Man of LaMancha aired on TV. There are no recordings of it because at the time there were not video recorders (which were linear but close enough to the digital tech age that much of what was captured on linear data devices has been translated to digital and saved). There is a gray area where this linear tech exists – roughly from 1960-1990 – when things like records, audio tapes, video tapes, photographs, and even hand written or typewriter written documents were still the norm but were transferrred to digital technology with the aid of scanners, digital recorders, DAT, etc. Not all of these captured moments have been digitized, but enough that there will always be a clear picture of the transition from non-digital society to digital society. By and large, we can say that the generation that grew up from 1960-1990, my generation, Gen-X, was the last non-digital generation and the first digital generation. The way of life that existed during our childhood and adolescence will never be foggy, like that of the generations that came before us, but it will never be crystal clear like those who follow. I’ve already noticed that Hollywood is mining this treasure trove of light mystique and that trend will only continue.

It’s funny to think of how difficult these changes have been – we are still going through them. Our world is as different from the world of 1989 as the world of 1989 was from the world of 1589. Yes, we’ve gone through 300 years of change in just 30 years. The age of flight was nothing as compared to the age of digitalization. A man from 1589 could have been normalized to the world of 1989 – yes, there were planes but Davinci had proposed flight and French balloonists were flying close to his time of 1589. A car might have been shocking, but ultimately it is a carriage run by a combination of mechanical processes that could be easily understood with explanation – even in 1589. But a digital camera? A cell phone? The internet? A smart phone with a camera, a virtual assistant, the internet, phone capability, digital music, and Google Earth – try explaining that to someone alive today – let alone to someone from 300 years ago. It would be a stretch to explain that to an adult from 1959. But, you probably could explain it to someone who came of age in the 1970s or 1980s – at any time.

I feel fortunate to have been alive at this time. To have borne witness to this change of epochs. To be clear, I think my generation got the worst of both worlds – we got the shaft because we will not get the full benefits of the mature technology that will emerge in 10-20 years and we did not get the 300 year security that our parents were born into. The magnitude of this shift won’t be clear for a long time – at present – most people aren’t aware of it at all.