Happy 40th birthday for the humble mobile phone! It was American engineer Martin Cooper who made the first mobile phone call 40 years ago in the middle of New York City, baffling passers-by in the process. No wonder when you consider the phone Cooper used resembled a brick held to his ear at over 10 inches high and weighing close to a bag of sugar. The mobile phone has changed beyond recognition since 1983 but then again, so have we. Those legendary ‘bricks’ were released for sale to the general public in 1983 and we went crazy for them.
Phones continue to evolve with more of us choosing to accessing the internet with them rather than talking through them. If you lived through the 1980’s however you will remember the clarion call society heard about the brave new era of technology: New technology would free us from the tyranny of paper pushing and memo writing, driving efficiency into both our working and personal lives. Technology would free us from the mundane stuff we did and provide us much more time—time which is the only currency we truly own and is our most precious commodity—for family, sports or other pastimes and interests. Looking back however and today’s always on society powered by the wonder of Wi-Fi, 3G and now 4G makes the 1980s seem rather quaint.
We know technology makes us work more efficiently but one questions if we are working harder/longer as the distractions of email/twitter/247 news, blogs to read and Ted Talks to view (guilty m’Lud) gather around us demanding to be read, thought through, forwarded and liked? Research firm Forrester undertook a survey of US workplace attitudes at the end of 2012. The results reveal that just over one third of respondents see technology as making them work harder and longer. We all know technology makes us smarter but for some of us it makes us work longer—my suspicions focus on our own “DQ” or distraction quotient that we all carry. It’s now just too darn easy to lose an hour or two searching the internet and now that distraction has gone with us wherever we carry our smart phone. And those lacking iron wills need tools and guidelines to help navigate the new complexities of the digital age, otherwise, that feeling of working harder and longer will only grow.
PS: One for the Brits that remember the 1980s—Check out life before the ipad.