It is hardware, not software, stupid (part 2)

My day job is in education and it depends on the spoken and written word almost entirely so changes in how words are accessed and produced directly impact on the process of educating the next generation. The latest technology is very much having...

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My day job is in education and it depends on the spoken and written word almost entirely so changes in how words are accessed and produced directly impact on the process of educating the next generation. The latest technology is very much having an impact on words.

Consider the technology of mark-making, latterly becoming writing. Charcoal and oxides on walls, rocks and slates were replaced by inks on papyrus and paper. Moving through time Caxton’s press prepared the way for mass distribution of print which has continued all the way to e-books and papers on Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad. Indeed Amazon has launched a simple publish your own book web service (they take 30%) which will further increase our consumption and production of words.

There is no sign that our appetite for consumption of the written word is abating. It has continued to grow as each new technological advance displaces the former.

In the above, advances in the technology of word-delivery drove and drives the consumption of the word. A modern twist on the word is the code. There is, in case you have not noticed, a current burst in code writing thanks to the smart-phones and the slates. Enter the “app”. “Never in the history of computing has so much been written by so many for so little purpose” might a cynic say.

Such technological advances however require access to first-world technology and money, software development does not. Cometh the tool, cometh the code. So the on-a-chip computer is just getting going (viz the slate and smart phone) and developments in global high speed infrastructure is creating that abstraction we know as the Cloud.

So going back to Part One; sure, institutions are sadly locked in to software for ever, but that “for-ever” is qualified.

It’s as usual, a partnership of software being locked into a hardware technology, it will happen again with the slates and phones but at least it will benefit second time around from a notion of open standards and the knowledge that open source software can compete with closed code software. It won’t be perfect but it may not be as bad second time around.


Prediction

The next generation of consumer computer technology will take many forms but what one can be sure of is that it will lead to the consumption and production of more words and more code.

As this happens the worth of each “word” will diminish. Think of the reverence for the Word of Caxton’s English Bible (one of barely over a hundred titles he printed) the think of the billions of words as text or code generated and published every day...this blog included of course.

So to not-quote Shakespeare, as said by the white-ear-budded youth:

“If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die...oh yeah
And the same for software lock-ins”