I bought a new computer this week. It was a top of the line PC for $1100. But, it really is no better than the last high-level computer I bought in 2009. In fact, it is worse, because it has Windows 8. Other than the interface change, I don’t think I would notice the difference if I used both computers side by side. This is a huge shift from previous decades, where when every few years I would buy a new computer and it would be a huge change in my life. The new computer would be 2-3 times more powerful, 2-3 times faster, have vastly more hard drive space, and have other handy new features (like built-in wireless, USB ports, DVD writer, etc.). I would feel refreshed, ready to conquer the Internet, at least for another few years until my new computer became out of date.
Same thing with cell phones. 5 years ago I switched from a Blackberry to an iPhone. A whole new world opened up for me, and it totally changed where and when I could do business. More recently I went from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 5, and it was a big nothing. Then there is the iPhone 6, which I care even less about. It used to be that at least new technology was always smaller even if it was not better, but now I am supposed to upgrade just to make my phone bigger?
Domains are another area where there is nothing new. Over 15 years ago the .com world was in a frenzy when various country domains like nu., .ws, and .cc became available to anyone, and in the 2000s the same thing happened when domains such as .biz, .co, and .mobi were launched. Yes, it may be different this time, and even a game changer, with the thousands of new domain extensions currently being introduced, but it is still really just the same old scenario played out on a larger scale.
For the past few years everybody has been all aflutter about “The Cloud”. But, that is really just a more modern, user-friendly term for the Internet. The Cloud is great, and I love using it, but with a little work all of this was able to be done back in the 1990s (I know, because I used to do it). You could always put photos, videos, or software on servers. You could always have flexible capacity when hosting a site (using load balancers, for example). The Cloud just makes it much more convenient and much much cheaper. The Cloud is not so much a use of new of technology, but a reflection of the huge decrease in server related costs, the wide-spread availability of high speed internet service, and the paradigm shift towards mobile devices.
Even Bitcoin (cryptocurrency) is not is something totally new. Digital currencies (such as E-gold) have been around since the 1990s. But, Bitcoin is a gigantic step forward in both the technology and the move towards mass adoption. It really is something new, useful, and innovative. The problem is that there are too many problems with it right now. Mt Gox went bankrupt almost crashing the entire market leaving thousands of customers penniless (bitcoinless?). More recently another leading exchange named Bitstamp had around $5 million stolen from it, and had to temporarily shut down (it is back up now). And even more recently Bitcoin payment processor EgoPay shut down amid rumors that founders of the company may have stolen millions in funds from clients. This is all in addition to the hundreds of low-level cryptocurrency scams and illegal cryptocurrency sites. Cryptocurrencies are the wild west of the Internet, filled with hackers, thieves, and cyber dangers. There’s gold in dem der hills, but finding it is not a risk that most people want to take until things settle down.
Drones? I used to fly remote controlled airplanes and helicopters like that when I was a kid 40 years ago. Now they just scotch taped a camera to it. Plus, almost all the good stuff that can be done with drones violates FAA rules. Amazon and others are working on getting this changed, but until then it is all a big headache.
Virtual reality is cool, although not really something new. In the early 1990s Sega made a VR headset for arcade games. In 1992 Computer Gaming World magazine predicted “Affordable VR by 1994”, and it was a hot topic in movies (Tron, Lawnmower Man, etc.). Now in 2015 Google Glass is $1500, and it is not really VR in the classic sense (it is more “augmented reality”), and the public can’t even buy Google Glass (only developers can). The Oculus Rift VR device looks great, but you can’t buy that either. Once it launches, it may really be something amazing. I want one. But, it may not come out until 2016. Magic Leap is also coming out with an amazing VR device that changes how you see the world around you, but it may be years until that comes out also.
When the Internet entered the scene in 1994-1995, that was an exciting time. When the Blackberry and iPhone (or even the iPod) were invented, that was an exciting time. I am sure my parents would say when they first bought a TV or Microwave or VCR they felt the same way. When I bought my first TiVo DVR in 1999, that was exciting. When I watched a video online for the first time in 1997, that was exciting. When I made a video phone call with my new webcam, that was amazing. I want more of that. I want my technology hunger to be fed. I want to be shocked and surprised. I want to see an ad for something and feel compelled to run to the store to buy it (ok, I will just open a new browser window to Amazon.com and have it overnight shipped to me). I am dying in a wasteland of rehashed ideas and new and improved things that really aren’t. Stimulate my brain. Lighten my wallet. Give me something new to play with.