An old laptop and a Mosaic browser – how things have changed!

The Badger cleared a spare room recently and found a long-forgotten Toshiba laptop hiding in the back of a cupboard. Well, it’s called a laptop but it’s more of a ‘transportable’ given its size and weight – perhaps not surprising given the Badger first used it in 1994. Does it still work? Yes. The Badger applied power after doing some checks and surprisingly it started up (slowly) with its built-in 50MB hard-drive screeching unnervingly like a banshee.

The installed Mosaic browser reminded the Badger just how much has changed since the ability to access the internet started arriving on computers in the 1990s. The Badger used Mosaic (and subsequently Netscape) as the standard tool for finding information and knowledge on the internet in those days. Since then, of course, computer, communication and information technology has developed exponentially, and accessing information and knowledge using your choice of modern browser is instantaneous today from any device.

So that’s a good thing isn’t it? Yes. But whereas in the 1990s your browser returned information essentially based only on its search algorithm and the question you asked, today’s returns are additionally influenced by ‘business’ and the desire to grab, manipulate, and keep your attention. Indeed, in an interview on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme recently an ex-Google executive confirmed that today’s digital world is totally focused on this very point. Grabbing and manipulating your attention is apparently the design criterion for creators of today’s apps and platforms. It’s a shame, but these days the giants of social media and the internet know more about you than you know about yourself. That wasn’t the case in 1994!

So what else did finding the old Toshiba remind the Badger of? Two things. Firstly, the speed and impact of change in the IT industry and the world driven by technological advances. The Badger finds it sobering to remember that 25 years ago mobile phones were not widespread, desk top computers and laptops were cumbersome, slow, and had low storage capacity, mobile networks provided voice and SMS, public and work access to the internet was only just blossoming, and social media platforms didn’t exist! ‘Digital Transformation’ is one of today’s hot buzz phrases, but in truth digital transformation has been underway for at least the last 25 years.

Secondly, if you enter the workforce today then the way you currently live and work will change dramatically by the time you are 40 years old. Change driven by technology doesn’t stop then! When you get to 40 and look forward, you’ll realise there’ll be many further changes to the way you live and work before you take your pension. By then you’ll also probably be hoping that Buzz Lightyear and the robots will have taken us all ‘to infinity and beyond…’

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