I doubt that this fact has escaped you. But we live in a digital world, a global technopolis in which all business is pretty much beholden to the information technology it uses. It is at least beholden to the users of this technology.
This wasn’t always the case. Historically the business world was based on trading, goods like spices and sugar were shipped through port towns all over the world by boat – nowadays the trading is in company shares bought or sold through a smartphone.
It’s an amazing progression, but it’s really just a transition to different forms of technology. Business was impossible without a boat in medieval times and now it’s impossible without the internet. But you can’t help but look in awe at some of the things that make business not only more profitable but more efficient. Our personal lives too are governed by technology, so it’s natural to think to yourself‘How would we cope if all of this went away?’
How Far We’ve Come
There are many different aspects of information technology that make it great for business. But the truly amazing thing is that computers have not been used in business for very long at all. Indeed, by the 1990’s a lot of businesses that perhaps weren’t on the cutting edge of industry were still entirely analogue.
The more high tech businesses like technology or software developers have been using computers for much longer. The world’s first general purpose computer, constructed at the University Of Pennsylvania, was known as ENIAC, and was built at the tail end of WWII – naturally it took some time for the technology to trickle into other areas outside of secret government projects.
When I’m looking online at jobs or trying to book a flight using my latest app, it sometimes strikes me that it’s unbelievably impressive how far we’ve come – in such a relatively short space of time. I’m of a generation that grew up with the internet, so it seems normal to me – but if you jumped in a time machine and showed some of the technology we have now to your grandfather’s generation I’m sure they would quite literally freak out.
Looking back to my childhood I remember desperately wanting a better graphics card for the family PC so that I could play my favourite game. Now, that game is available as an app on my phone and I could download it within 5 minutes and play it on the train, plane or bus with the best graphics the game could possibly output.
There are a lot of different pieces of hardware; most of them help us as consumers or in business. The phone is an interesting thing. Nowadays we all have amazing phones that are pretty much essential to our personal or business lives. I remember seeing someone in an airport going insane because their phone wasn’t working – so it’s safe to say we can’t live without them. Beginning in 2007 there have been many ‘smart’ phones that have gone far beyond the abilities of many early computers. And the trend is only increasing.
Phone communications have helped business no end, many businesses handle large volumes of calls – and the internet has made this far more manageable. Most businesses use what is called an IP phone system in which calls are treated as blocks of data and can be sorted, transferred and stored very efficiently. This is important for many industries that play a big role in the economy. Areas such as customer support, recruitment and charity fundraising are almost totally dependent on this sort of system
The software and interface of these new devices is probably the most important aspect that makes them really useful. Obviously without some method of interaction there is almost no point in a smartphone. Touchscreen technology is now almost universally used on phones, and this trend has meant that a truly new way of interacting with our equipment has come about. I remember using a touchscreen for some kind of informational exhibit at a museum as a kid, it didn’t really do much. You could press buttons that appeared on the screen and that was about it.
These days, the software has improved massively. Along with phones becoming a kind of mini-computer in terms of hardware, the same is the case in terms of software. Calendars, notes, word processors and even internet browsing capabilities are now completely normal. I suddenly feel a bit of sympathy for the man I saw losing his temper in the airport, our phones are now literally integral to our professional and personal lives – and there’s definitely a feeling of isolation when you don’t have your phone that I’m sure we can all relate to.
Professionally speaking, many companies rely on software to do business. Intranet software, requirements management software, call centre software or project management software can greatly increase efficiency and allows for an incredible ease of collaboration – even for huge multinational corporations.
Many applications are used by creative fields these days, and they’re almost essential to the business. Whether simply word processing software, video editing software or even graphic design software – it’s all gone digital. Architects too now use software to plan their designs. Gaming has also evolved hugely, driven by hardware it is now possible for developers to create immensely expansive gaming environments which have helped revolutionise entertainment.
Technology We Need
At the end of the day, it’s probably not possible for us to live without technology – once we create it, it becomes a necessity. Whether a boat or a smartphone – if either went away it would have a huge impact on the business world.
In our personal lives too, it would be quite a shock to the system to lose the interconnectivity and organisation that our modern technology has given us. So, it’s not possible for us as a species to live the same way without tech – all we can do now is watch in awe at the wonders of the latest and greatest inventions and try to guess what might be next. Could it be artificial reality? Augmented reality? We shall have to wait and see.