Over on GiantMidgets, Eric is talking about GoogleWave.
Wave is supposed to change the world, change how people interact, change how communications and work get done.
I doubt it will change much of anything.
But the hoopla over GoogleWave got me thinking about something I noticed earlier today at the gas station – and that’s this: more often than not, it’s the little things, not the big things that change our lives.
Rarely does big shiny technology have much impact on how we live our lives.
No, it’s almost always the little technology, the almost unnoticed technology, that alters the very fabric of how we live. It’s subtle, it creeps in on little cat feet and before you know it, the way you live is different – and you don’t even notice.
Computers and the Internet and cell phones are an obvious example. So are portable music players with an entire radio station’s library of songs onboard and no moving parts.
But debit cards are a far more subtle and pervasive example of what I’m talking about.
I needed to get some things from the store this morning and I decided to take the Jeep instead of my truck. We just had a lot of work done to the Jeep and I wanted to see how it drove. The snow is coming, it’ll be falling within the next two weeks, and that means my wife will have to put the convertible away and drive the Jeep and I wanted to make sure it was ready. It was, and in fact we probably should have had this work done a while back, it drives like it did when it was new – which was about eighteen years ago now. On the way home I pulled into the gas station, I figured I’d fill up the tank so it would be ready when my wife needed it, because I’m a really cool husband like that.
Here’s the thing, I don’t have any idea how much gas I put in.
Twenty something dollars? Fifteen? Seventeen dollars and forty three cents? I dunno.
I don’t put gas in the Jeep much anymore, I don’t know how much it takes without paying attention. I didn’t get a receipt. I never do. And it doesn’t matter. It’ll show up on my electronic bank statement – and in fact it already has. My wife can download it into Quicken, along with the week’s transactions. I don’t care what the exact amount is.
That wasn’t true before debit cards.
You’d watch the pump like a hawk, eyes tracking those little numbers as they whirled past the glass, slowing down, slowing down, and then squeezing the handle just so in order to get an even number. Exactly ten dollars, exactly twenty. So you could hand the guy in the glass both or behind the counter the exact right sized bill. Or if you were writing a check, it made it a hell of a lot easier to balance the register if you got gas in exact multiples of ten. You didn’t do this with anything else, just gas.
Nobody does that any more (hell, who writes checks? For gas, I mean?)
Well, mostly nobody.
Watch the next time you’re getting gas. You can tell who still pays the old fashioned way, just by watching how they pump their gas.
It’s more than that. Ten years ago you had to make sure to fill up within a certain time frame, or know where the 24-hour gas stations were. You had to plan around it. Now? Most of the places I fill up aren’t even manned. It’s just an automated gas kiosk in the corner of some parking lot. It’s always open. Why wouldn’t it be? I don’t need to plan around filling up my tank.
You can tell which generation somebody was born in by who they ask for information. Old people ask somebody else. Young people ask the Internet. It never occurs to the older generation to Google it, it never occurs to the younger generation not to. Woman accuse men of never stopping to ask for directions, with MapQuest on my GPS enabled Internet phone, I don’t need to.
I don’t think the Internet itself changed people’s lives as profoundly as we expected, but search engines did.
Personally, I use Google to find the 24 hour gas stations.
What little things do you notice?