Nice post, Rich. It's hard to believe the Internet has only been around for 20 years. It seems like forever. I can't think of any technology that has distrupted more industries than the Internet in the last 100 years.
As for the Al Gore reference. He did make an important move early on. As a senator, he co-sponsored the bill that took the military's online system and made kit available to the public, thus "creating" the Internet that first appeared 20 years ago.
Even before the Internet, there was a healthy, budding online world that was used primarily by special librarians. I used tlo cover it in publications such as Online Review and Information Today in the mid-1980s. Even back then, the move to online storage of data had publishers worried.
You're right, Rich, that the cell phone has really changed things, but I would even go further and say the iPhone really made a massive impact, leading to the development of new smartphones and changing the way we do things. It was the first phone to really put the Internet at people's fingertips and also has caused people to start using the iPhone camera instead of other digital point-and-shoots, and also carry their music on their phone instead of a separate device. Speaking of music, the iPod really changed the game for music, and even led to the near-demise of the record industry and record stores by making music digital. While these inventions didn't have the massive effect of the Internet, they still were pretty important and continue to have an effect today.
Given the high starting rates for engineers, it's surprising we're not graduating more in this profession. I've seen stats that indicate Mexico is now graduating as many engineers as the U.S., and China is graduating ten times as many each year.
My school (the University of Illinois at Chicago) didn't have petroleum engineering either when I was there. But as long as I can remember, it's been around at other schools, particularly at schools in Texas, such as Rice University, I believe.
I agree, Rich, I can't think of anything in the past 20 years that has had the impact of the Internet. Cll phones are a close second, though. The editor of Wired Magazine has said that 3D printing will have a bigger impact than the Internet, but I'm not sure I buy that.
It does seem like the Internet has been around forever, Rob. Most people in their 20's can't recall a time without the it. I can remmber the first time I heard about. I was doing a story at Cray Research. They told me how they used the Internet to exchange technical information with the national labs. I recall telling them that I had never heard of the Internet. I believe that was around 1990.
That's interesting about 3D printing, Chuck. I agree that it won't have as massive an impact as the Internet but it will still pack a pretty big punch, and I think it already is. I am actually working on something now about 3D printed body parts, and it's amazing how the technology is revolutionizing medicine. The Internet was so revolutionary because it touched and changed nearly ever aspect of our lives. 3D printing also will hit on a lot of aspects, though probably not with the same impact, as you noted.
If the question is what technology "changed more lives", I don't think there is any question but the answer is the Internet. At least, I can't think of any tech development that is even close. The cell phone has made an impact but it wasn't nearly the same kind of "new" technology. Good question.
I agree, Chuck, that 3D printing will not have anything like the impact of the Internet. We're still watching the effects of the Internet. It destroyed the newspaper industry, nearly destroyed the book industry. It turned the music model from selling recorded music to selling concert tickets. It has also impacted the gift industry, tourism industry, manufacturing, phone service, the post office, flower industry, even spare parts for all industries.
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