A quiet revolution has taken place in the last eight years, and many of us have hardly noticed it. It is not that this revolution has literally been quiet. Quite the opposite, in fact. It has been in our face, on billboards, television commercials, in newspaper articles, and, for many of us, in our pockets. No, it is not that this revolution has been quiet, but rather, most have not seen it as a revolution.
The revolution, of course, is the advent of the smartphone. These little devices in our pockets have revolutionized just about everything in life for those who have participated. It is hard for me to believe that the smartphone only came about in 2007 with the first iPhone. It seems like longer than that given how accustomed I am to reaching into my pocket to check the weather, email, sports scores, IMDB, and countless other queries I may have.
The reason I call this revolution "quiet," is because for many, no real revolution took place. The smartphone was just the next incremental improvement in the cellphone market that has been making these incremental changes since the 1980s. In that view, wireless phones went from being suitcase-size devices gradually getting smaller over the years until the impossibly small Nokia 8210
which I purchased through T-Mobile in 2001. Then came the flip phones. Then came the flip phones with color screens, and finally the flip phones with cameras. Finally, a few bought Blackberry devices that had full keyboards and limited internet capabilities. Again, in this view, the iPhone, and the subsequent smartphone market was just another incremental change in the continuing development of telephone technology. Here is an image depicting the evolution of the cellphone.
The reason this revolution has gone largely unnoticed is that we still call these devices "phones." Whether we call it an iPhone, or a smartphone, we have kept the name "phone," and this is deceptive and does not allow us to realize that we are really dealing with something new. In my next post, I want to talk about a few of the implications that arise from this revolution and the failure to truly see it as a revolution.