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Amazon is a very smart company, let me come right out and say. Way back when, in the e-ancient history of 1994, Amazon launched a basic service over this amazing new “internet:” selling books. Think of the concept: people could no longer have to get in their cars to go get the latest bestseller, they could now have it delivered to their door! As amazing as this was back then, let’s fast forward to where Amazon is now, 17 years later, in 2011. A quick search on Amazon reveals a plethora of goods: BluRays (a sidenote, those 17 years also spanned two generations of home video), computers, light bulbs, lawn mowers (who buys lawn mowers from Amazon?), hammers, potting mix, candy…you get the idea: one website now spans the role of bookstore, eletronics store, hardware store, gardening store, candystore…a Swiss army knife of a website. However, despite all of this expansion of convenient access to items, Amazon has made one decision that has influenced and surely will continue to influence tens of thousands of literature purchases worldwide: they introduced the wireless, internet connected E-book reader, the Kindle.
All over again, people were confronted with a “Amazon 1994” moment: now, who even needed to go to a computer to get a book; you could get one from my bed, and you don’t even have to wait for it. Now, I’m not implying that one day, we will all buy our lawn mowers and candy from a Kindle. However, I do think that Amazon has, once again, brilliantly tapped into the technological spirit of the times, currently centered on shifting people’s digital lives away from being centered on computers, moving it both into smaller and smaller tablets and smartphones, and even integrating it into utilities and homes. This expansion of small convenience will surely, one day, make our current digital lives look like the stone age to even the next generation.
However, I think it’s important not only to look on this as an advance in technology, but also to see it as a way to make further balance between our technological lives and the kinds of lives people led before the personal information wave. Facing the truth, our current information lives leave us sitting at a desk if we want to do a lot of modern leisure activities. However, with the advent of small technology, it will be able to reach places which, traditionally, computers haven’t taken as much of a hold, places like science field work and music performance. No longer will we have to look up on a computer and then print out a recipe, rather a portable tablet, taken into the kitchen could fulfill that role. A person hiking in the woods might use their portable device to help identify a potentially poisonous plant. I could go on forever with the examples, but for brevity’s sake I think I need to cut them off here.
So, there’s the kind of picture we’re looking at: a world where, by and large, very big computers have been scaled back in their home usage, small (and energy-efficient, I might add for those who prefer to look at that sorts of stuff) and ultraportable devices: tablets, phones, iPods, all of these things that can do what computers have recently done for our lives. I predict that, save for areas such as heavy home computing (such as gaming) and the entertainment industry, these small devices will ultimately supersede computers as the dominant driving force of our modern lives.