We didn’t like the future in the past, either.

princetonThe late Howard Strauss, former manager of academic outreach at Princeton, collected and reported on faculty comments regarding the introduction of electricity at the university in the early 20th century. (Spelling uncorrected by Strauss or your humble blogger.)

  • Electricity is just a fad, just as silly as the Wright brothers flying, it wont survive
  • We could buy a years worth of candles for the cost of cabling up the campus
  • They will use it for non-academic purposes like reading trashy novels, and we shouldn’t be providing for their non academic life.
  • It will allow night classes so we will have to work more hours and it will turn universities into learning factories

The Apple Watch Watch

My grandson asked if I was planning to buy an Apple Watch.

“No.”

“That’s funny,” he replied. “I figured that you’d be one of the first people to get one.”

At which point, I asserted Grandfather’s Privilege and launched into a rambling explication of watches, form factors, and other thoughts too loose to join together.

The short answer is “No.” The slightly longer answer is “Not yet.” The truthful answer is “I don’t know.”

Wearables (watches, wristbands, clip-ons, glasses, and, soon enough, implants) are The Next Big Thing. Each device has its own purpose. Some are for fitness and health monitoring. Others help us see or sense the world around us. Still others give us computer-like communication on a screen barely larger than our thumbs.

With few exceptions, new technology is greeted with an emphatic “Why the heck would I want one of those?” That is because, so far, for the most part, we’ve lived pretty good lives without one of these things. How will our lives be better as the result of spending money that we didn’t have to spend before?

We don’t know.

Ten years ago, we would have pulled out photos of our kids and grandkids to share with others. Now, we gather around our phones and look at those same pictures and dozens more because we can carry images of our daily lives in our pockets.

“Nobody has any idea of what a new invention will really be good for,” says Wired editor Kevin Kelly. “The crucial question is, what happens when everyone has one?”

Even Apple didn’t fully appreciate what the iPhone was or would become. “iPhone is a widescreen iPod,” said the 2007 press release. Most of us who own smartphones don’t use them for music. Or as phones. These devices are our cameras, calendars, and communication hub. In the past week, a busier than usual week, I made five calls and received seven on my mobile phone. (My mobile phone is my only phone.)

The smartphone became a replacement for our traditional phones in ways that we couldn’t imagine. I expect that the Watch or its kin will do the same.