The Efficient yet Inefficient Cycles of Technology


Pleasant day to all readers,
Within the daily decor of your life, there probably exist numerous objects which are the result of evolution. Of course, the word decor here references a metaphorical type of decoration, the type which enhances and touches all of those activities which you perform throughout the routine (or lack thereof) of your day. Some of these are fancy, like that shiny new purse you wear whilst walking around, or perhaps less noticeable such as the toothbrush with which you stroke your teeth with at night. Wait, that latter one placed in that context just doesn’t sound… Quite right… My apologies.
It is humanities nature to advance, and perhaps nature itself is built purely on that foundation. Evolution is not just the simple evolvement of animals and plants, it is something which takes numerous trials and errors. Do you really think the first toothbrush felt pleasant to use, all soft and effective? No! It was a chew stick. That’s right. A chew stick. A branch which was cut out to contain a portion with which you scraped your teeth, while the other end was used to take any other dirt away from within the mouth. The first real toothbrush was made of hog hair, and I wouldn’t imagine this felt any better than using a chew stick — although it got the job done.

Technology to the present time

Virtually every technological invention we have had up to this point comes from cycles, and we call the people who try to predict them in terms of the market economists. What a boring job, right? Sitting there all day, trying to see how patterns in the world will bring about the next big thing. Just kidding, economists. You do bring a valuable asset to our world, I promise. I could probably fill out the rest of this post talking about history, and how even the telephone took a few cycles to become what we call the modern smartphone. I don’t think I will do that, for it might drive you to insanity and me to a feeling worse than that of a badly trimmed chew stick. Instead, I am here to discuss the cycles of the web, and how the upcoming 2015 year connects back to a world 20 years ago.

My past technological experiences

1995. I was only a four year old child back then, oblivious to the world around me, ready to throw my cereal at the wall. Elsewhere, the world wide web just started taking off, with the world being out of the era of BBS (bulletin board systems.) That is to say, web pages were already in existence, but they were not that great for the casual user. Try to find tutorial videos from that time on how to use the internet, and I guarantee all of them will describe visiting a website in a complex, multi-step process. Today to us this is laughable. You can simply open your browser, and as long as you are on a Wi-Fi network, you are in 90% of cases ready to rock those innocent sites you attend to on a daily basis.
The super ironic part of this is that in 1995, websites were also very simple. No colourful animations. No flashy banners of ads for the most part. America Online was a major hub of content, so the information you gained was most likely gathered from one source or network. Search engines started to take off around that time, but these were simpler directories of various services and pages for collected information. There was no inherent complexity about this, just simple lightweight pages. Since you also had higher restrictions on your internet speeds, chances were that the pages you did load did not take up more than 20-30 kilobytes.

Today, the average page is at least 100-300 kilobytes, + any other video or flash content it might load which could range well into the 20-100 megabyte range.

The growth of technology in the “modern” time

Then, 2000 hit. The world did not explode and there was no Y2K, but the internet surely was on the brink of explosion. We had instant messaging revolutionizing the lives of teenagers across the globe. Social networks began soon after in 2004, and the internet suddenly became a huge scary complex interconnected continuum. Yet people did not need large tutorials on connecting and establishing their web presence. Services like GMail and e-mail programs made it simple to automatically set up a lot of needed services. Social networks meant that you no longer browsed for screen names within AOL directories, you could now simply look a person up by name. Sooner than later, video publishing became the thing, and people began snapping videos from their fluffy cat to concert performances.

And another cycle begins

Quietly underway was the other cycle of technology. As the web became more complex, smartphones and tablets forced simplicity. With smaller screen sizes, there was a need to have data presented in a way that humans do not feel overwhelmed by clutter and content. As the older generations jumped on the band wagon of tech, they could not understand a million services to use. So things became consolidated. Instant messengers went by the wayside, to be replaced by Facebook chat and social media-based messengers. These also began eating away at the idea of e-mail, and nowadays people only e-mail when they wish to professionally speak to someone. Flash, a premiere platform for designing eye-catching pages was slowly made obsolete by HTML5, a more streamlined approach to designing new content.
In order to minimize clutter for these smaller screens, efficiency was required. In 2015, there is a drive to return to designs which are simple to grasp, dynamic, and expandable. This is nothing like the websites of the 90s, yet it is slightly familiar. While the need for simplicity back then was driven by inadequate resources for the pulling of large data, the need today is created by compacting information.

Cycles in other parts of life

There are many other technological examples which are similar to this. The cell phone used to be huge and blocky in the 80s, because the analog forms of communication they used required large antennas and power-hungry components. In the 90s and 2000s, we shrunk down to ever-smaller phones, believing that tight jeans are the answer with tiny pockets. Thin-form phones were made, with virtually no screen to accommodate people. Yet Ever since 2010, smartphones have begun to once more increase in size, now approaching the 6-inch form factor for some.


Even still, the cycle continues. With smart watches and other wearable technologies, we are once again returning to the smaller screen, so that we may carry our data round us and read it whenever we can. While I do think smartphones will stop growing and remain at their current form factors, watches and glasses will give us the craving for compact devices once more. This will continue indefinitely of course, and telecommunications is but one area where there exists a rather unpredictable cycle that creates innovation. While on the outside, this cycle seems inefficient, on the inside it helps spur growth and prepare us into the future.
A future where we perhaps might not have flying cars or hovering skateboards, but one where we become increasingly connected. Are you ready to see the next cycles which will appear within your daily life and routine? For the toothbrush you use might be soft and light now, it might not stay that long. Unless, of course, that cycle takes a turn no person can predict. And this is why we do have economists, because dear reader, the roller coaster has been going for quite a while now.