I have always loved gadgets and gizmos. I grew up in the age of Star Trek, Apollo 11, and Color TV. I remember that it was a big deal to make the leap from Black and White TV to Color. Disneyworld in Orlando had its grand opening when I was around ten years old. A trip to Orlando in the 60’s and early 70’s was all about how our world would be shaped and made better through science and technology.
I remember that our family had one of the first “automatic garage door openers” in the neighborhood. Push a button from the car and the garage door goes up and down, like magic. I remember charging the kids in my neighborhood a quarter to push the button. I guess it was my destiny to find a career in the technology space, as I was always looking to be the one who gets to “push the button” on the next gizmo or widget. Anything wireless or “remote controlled” was super cool when I was a kid, that was for sure.
My two sons came home from college last night. Both are in the School of Business at Universities in Connecticut. They have access to all of the latest “gadgets and gizmos” for education. Laptop computers, high speed Internet, iPads and cell phones. Their state-of-the-art college libraries have real-time access to just about everything ever written, spoken, recorded, videotaped or photographed. They can videochat with professors, fellow students, or when they feel like it, with their parents back home. Both boys had the last of their last final exams yesterday. While driving home, they were able to log in from the car and see their final grades for the semester, within hours of handing in their last exam.
We are living during a time of a global network of friends on Facebook, cars with talking GPS, and kitchen appliances connected to the Internet. We are living in the time of instant communication, no matter where you are in the world, including the International Space Station. Walt Disney would be proud to see his vision and dream of “Tomorrowland” come true. Or would he?
Our two sons arrived home at around 11pm last night. We all sat in the kitchen for at least an hour, maybe two. Just my wife, my two sons and our dog Bella. No cell phones, no videochats, no emails. The hot chocolate was made from scratch (no microwave was used). I made it a point to listen, not speak. I make it a point to watch the expressions on the boy’s faces as they described their last few weeks at college. The relief of being finished with exams, and how good it was for them to be home, sleeping in their own beds. They told stories of their experiences, their professors, their friends, their roommates, dorm life, everything. I did not want to interrupt, I wanted to just sit back and soak it all in. No technology was involved in the making of this moment. It was pure human interaction.
There are various quotes about how “money simply amplifies who you are”. The idea is that having access to money makes good people better, and that access to money makes bad people worse, or something like that. I think the same thing applies to having access to technology. Last night was a very “low tech” evening - and yet - the quality of the communication was outstanding. The boys were tired from the driving, and they went to bed around midnight. But I could have sat at the kitchen table all night long, watching their expressions, and listening to their stories of college life, and how technology is playing a role in their world.
I love technology, and I love my job selling and promoting technology. I think that the world is a better place because of the magic of automatic garage door openers, cell phones, and the Internet. The next time you are in the car and you come up to a railroad crossing, you will see a sign that says “Stop. Look. Listen”. That is about as low tech as you can get, regarding something very important indeed (your safety). Try an experiment with your customers, with your friends, and by all means, try this with your family during this holiday season. Stop, look and listen to what people are saying to you. Stop, look and by all means - truly listen to what they are trying to communicate. Let it all soak in, like people used to do in the days before Facebook and texting. Let the magic of today’s communication technology simply “amplify and magnify” what messages you are already sending and receiving. Stop, Look and Listen.