Twenty-five years ago, mainstream use of digital technology was not widespread. According to the Census Bureau, only 8.2 percent of U.S. homes had a personal computer in 1984, and over 99% of U.S. households had no internet access. Most Americans – about 84% — had no cell phone. Even though the first mobile phone call was made in 1973, it took some time before this innovation reached the majority of the population.

FUN FACT: By 2010, more than 75 percent of U.S. homes had computers and over 70 percent were on the internet.

For those that did, the internet was used mostly for play and it was most definitely not defined by its speed. Dial-up technologies that used pre-existing telephone lines to connect to the internet, was the primary internet technology throughout the 90s, until faster Broadband services were launched.

FUN FACT: Dial-up had a max speed of 56 kilobits per second, and could be interrupted by an incoming phone call.

In 1994, you could go about your day-to-day life without a computer. Fast forward to today and personal technology is not only at the very center of most people’s lives, but we are moving with great intensity towards a more absolute digital connectivity of bodies, our homes, our offices and our communities/cities.

The old commercial for long-distance calls that encouraged you to ‘reach out and touch someone’ has new, even mindboggling meanings today. Practically everyone you could know is a mere few clicks or taps away. And it doesn’t matter whether you are on a PC or a Mac or a smart phone or a tablet. The world’s news, information and entertainment are all at your disposal, on demand.

This connectivity has the effect of defining who we are as individuals, in ways never before imagined. You can be a publisher or broadcaster. You can trade stocks. You can create data with devices and sensors that log your activities autonomously. You can be a coach or an influencer. Yan can run a business from a remote beach.

Yet, the demands of nonstop connectivity and of technology’s newfound inventions and conveniences, comes with a cost. Studies and news headlines are warning us that we have curbed real human contact in favor of our devices and that our technology habits are sharply curtailing time that used to be set aside organically for thought and reflection. It’s not hard to admit the truth in these warnings. Countless distracting alerts, notifications and communications – from multiple platforms and on multiple devices – come at us day and night.

Twenty-five years ago we could have barely imagined what we take for granted today. As we head towards 2020, it’s worthwhile opportunity to thoughtfully consider how we consume technology and how we can right-size our ‘Technology and IRL (in-real-life) Balance’, acting as a role model to the younger generations who were borne into an ever-connected world.

Now for some real conversation starters. Ask your kids to pick a date and related technology innovation and see if they can figure out how people lived before its invention!


According to Popular Mechanics, these are the best inventions of the past 65 years:

1954: Microwave Oven
1955: Polio Vaccine
1956: Hard Drive
1957: Birth Control Pill
1958: Jet Airliner
1959: Integrated Circuit

1960: Pacemaker
1961: Cordless Tools
1962: Communications Satellite
1963: Sketchpad Program
1964: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
1965: Kevlar
1966: High-Yield Rice
1967: Coronary Bypass Surgery
1968: Integrated Computer Systems
1969: Arpanet

1970: Fiber Optics
1971: Waffle Sole Running Shoes
1972: Electronic Ignition
1973: MRI
1974: Barcode
1975: Global Warming
1976: Supercomputer
1977: Personal Computer
1978: GPS
1979: Sony Walkman

1980: Cobalt-oxide Cathode
1981: Scanning Tunneling Microscope
1982: Computer Virus
1983: Microsoft Word
1984: DNA Fingerprinting
1985: Polymerase Chain Reaction
1986: Electronica Mailing List
1987: Prozac
1988: Internet Virus
1989: World Wide Web

1990: Photoshop
1991: Linux
1992: IBM Simon
1993: Fuel Cell Vehicle
1994: RQ-1 Predator Drone
1995: HIV Protease Inhibitors
1996: DVD
1997: Hybrid Car
1998: International Space Station
1999: Bluetooth Version 1.0

2000: PlayStation 2
2001: Wikipedia
2002: IEEE 802.16
2003: The Human Genome Project
2004: Facebook
2005: Google Maps
2006: Wii
2007: iPhone
2008: Large Hadron Collider
2009: Bitcoin

2010: Siri
2011: Curiosity Rover
2012: Google’s Machine Learning Project
2013: Atlas
2014: Hemopurifier
2015: Reusable Rocket
2016: Oculus Rift
2017: Tesla Model 3
2018: Metal 3-D Printing

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