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Thursday 11 March 2010

Some of us are too old to use cellphones, so they stick us in a phone booth to get us out of the way

Again many thanks to Ed Yourdon for this excellent shot. Thanks Ed.
This was taken at Broadway and 74th Street. The man sitting on the right is collecting donations for some charitable institution; I don't know who was in charge of the old woman on the left...

Note: this photo was published in a Sep 22, 2009 blog titled "When the Universe won't leave you alone…." It was also published in a Jan 10, 2010 "Hot Mobile Phone Offers" blog with the same title as the caption that I used on this Flickr page

Looking back on some old photos from 40-50 years ago, I was struck by how visible the differences were between the culture of then, versus the culture of now. In some cases, it was evident from the things people wore, or carried, or did, back then which they no longer do today. But sometimes it was the opposite: things that didn't exist back in the 1960s and 1970s have become a pervasive part of today's culture.

A good example is the cellphone: 20 years ago, it simply didn't exist. Even ten years ago, it was a relatively uncommon sight, and usually only on major streets of big cities. Today, of course, cell phones are everywhere, and everyone is using them in a variety of culture contexts.

However, I don't think this is a permanent phenomenon; after all, if you think back to the early 1980s, you probably would have seen a lot of people carrying Sony Walkmans, or "boom-box" portable radios -- all of which have disappeared...

If Moore's Law (which basically says that computers double in power every 18 months) holds up for another decade, then we'll have computerized gadgets approximately 100 times smaller, faster, cheaper, and better -- which means far better integration of music, camera, messaging, and phone, but also the possibility of the devices being so tiny that they're embedded into our eyeglasses, our earrings, or a tattoo on our forehead.

So the point of this album is to provide a frame of reference -- so that we can (hopefully) look back 10-20 years from now, and say, "Wasn't it really weird that we behaved in such bizarre ways while we interacted with those primitive devices?"