As one of the first people in the world to use a wireless Blackberry, you might think I eased into our technological age. I wish I could say that, but my children would laugh at me.
It was in 2000 when Blackberry approached the CBC to test the world’s first wireless email device. Reporters and producers covering the federal election were each given a Blackberry without instruction. Those on our election coverage team with a love for new toys had emails flying in minutes. Then they tried to teach the luddites like me.
The truth is that it wasn’t difficult – but it was intimidating for those who wrongly thought they would never figure it out. That little device, which fit in the palm of a hand, intimidated me. I remember telling the producer I was working with that I thought the Blackberry was stupid, unnecessary and a waste of time. I said that because I feared I would not be successful at making it work.
But the Blackberry was super easy to use. I got hooked on the technology and slowly developed an appetite for more. Eighteen years ago, in that famous year of the Blackberry, I crossed my Rubicon. I wasn’t great at computers but I started to have fun figuring out how to do all kinds of things.
Today our heads spin with the new reality of technology being in the personal hands of more than five billion people around the world (got that fact in a second-and-a-half from Google.) The world is connected. Technology has become as common a staple as rice.
For many of us who didn’t grow up in the digital age, there is a tendency to embrace some of it and to leave the rest to young people. One thing we know from observing our children is the buzz that goes with having that thing in your hand.
The explosion of social media has rapidly changed the world. People who never had a voice now do and opinion can now be either more easily mobilized, or manipulated, depending on your point of view. Either way, the result is the same. Power is no longer the private domain of the rich and the elected.
The technology we champion is an obsession, and the obsession never fades because nothing ever gets old. There is always something new to discover and to master. Technological innovation is instinctive; stagnation appears to be impossible. The sky is not the limit. There is no limit.
In 20 years since that first Canadian Blackberry there has been so much change in every walk of life, in every profession. There have been revolutions in some, the taxi industry comes to mind, while retail stores sit on death row.
Empty stores are more and more prevalent in our shopping malls, while those huge empty Sears stores, and the recent memories of empty Target stores, add up to Amazon and other online businesses killing shopping centres.
I came very late to online shopping. I liked shopping and I especially enjoyed the action of busy malls. I had no strong motivation to change, but change can creep up on you, and then overtake you. There is no stopping it.
The day I began browsing on Amazon was the beginning of the indoctrination. It was slow, sweet and steady. It was the discovery of shopping in a totally different way while still fearing the logistics – assuming it will be a pain to return anything. But as I started purchasing online it got easier and easier. I was never disappointed with anything I bought. I found the consumer ratings on the items really helpful and honest. My first return was a dream. In a little over a week I had my money back.
Then there was that freaky day when nothing went right and I was billed almost $100 for shipping when it was supposed to be free. There was an icon for problems. I was prompted to send my phone number. Two seconds later, no exaggeration, the phone rang with someone to help me fix the problem.
Amazon made it so easy and I didn’t have to find a parking spot.
I can get to like this new world.