As a solid Gen-Xer and seeing the growth of technology first hand, I have always been fascinated by what we call “legacy” technology today. I can vividly remember standing in line with my mother at the local DMV, watching a clerk carefully enter information about my Dad’s motorcycle in a big terminal. Looking over her glasses, with the proper forms filled out and clipped on an arm attached to the terminal, she carefully entered each piece of information, following the flashing green cursor for guidance into the Mohawk Data Sciences terminal, eventually hitting “SEND” and writing a number on the form with a red pen. A few moments later the very loud printer clacked its way through printing the registration form. When presented with the paperwork, I saw the very “high-tech” lettering on the form and I was excited. This was the future!
Of course, I’m now sitting in a Starbucks, where I flashed my smartphone in front of a scanner attached to a scant slab of silicon posing as a cash register, typing a blog entry on a slightly bigger piece of silicon. This iPad I’m using has the capacity of literally thousands if not millions pieces of the equipment that was once used to power the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
And we take it for granted.
Legacy computing is wicked cool to me because we were discovering this new era of technology and trying all sorts of different things to try to make our lives better. The future would be high-tech and we’d be smarter because of it.
Now people are falling into fountains while trying to take a “selfie” with their phone while making duck faces.
Google I/O, the big developer conference for the company that has become a verb, is taking place this week and I watched part of the keynote today. The one thing that struck me is Google is still thinking of new ways to do things, kinda. I’m confused as to why we would want an AI voice to call a car rental reservation system when theoretically the AI should just be able to connect to the system without acting like a human. I mean, having a robot call a restaurant to place a reservation, when the restaurant most likely has an electronic means of way of accomplishing that same task, is like taking the time to type a note into Microsoft Word, printing it, and then sending it by fax. Yes, it can be accomplished but is it the most efficient or practical way?
Sometimes our legacy thinking gets in the way.
Even though I gripe about new technology doing things the “old way”, I still admire the effort. I just wish we could get past the entrenched paradigm and start thinking outside the box. Back in the “legacy computing” days I admired people thought outside of the box to get into the box we seem trapped in today. Google’s announcements today aside, too many computing companies are playing it too safe. I keep waiting for some company to apply legacy thinking to today’s technology and take us to the next level. We shouldn’t be complacent, we need to be explorers.
I want the forward thinking that brought us legacy computing to bring us the next big thing. What will we do to move forward?