I remember my first experience with computers, now over 3 decades ago. I was a young Boy Scout in California on a field trip to a computer center. What I observed was a keyboard attached to a big box, no monitor, and some very big printers. The computer technician demonstrated the processing power of this giant computer by running a horse-racing game. Each of us Scouts picked a horse number, the technician started the race, and we sat in amazement as the computer printed consecutive sheets of paper each showing the progress of the race.
As I sat watching this new technology, I was truly amazed and thought to myself, "these computer guys must be the smartest people in the world." I then asked the smartest guys in the world a question, something like, “do you use TV monitors like you see in Star Trek?” One technician started to laugh while one responded by stating my comment was science fiction and he couldn’t see any use for monitors attached to a computer. He went on to explain that printers were superior: they could store more data as print-outs and you didn’t lose data when you turned the power off. Looking back today, I can see those computer technicians had a great job using the new technology and thought to themselves, "it doesn’t get better than this."
As an observer to technology, my mind is continually opening to new ideas and concepts. When I see the computer printing horses, racing from page to page, I imagine the new direction offered from a Star Trek episode. As the user, I become personally invested, the technology is almost an extension of my personality, and radical new ideas may threaten what I am doing today.
The truth is technologies are eventually outdated, users will need to move on, and our ability to learn new tricks must be a way of life. As technology advances, power-users need to become observers again and look for a new home for their skills. Here is a great example; I just ordered a new game console that plays both the original Nintendo NES and 16 Bit SNES games in the same box. Now that’s some great new technology.
Bubble-Bobble or Legend of Zelda anyone?