As you may or may not know, my parents were immigrants, arriving first in Canada after leaving The Netherlands, and then settling here in the United States just a few years later.
With all relatives nearly 5,000 miles to the east, communication consisted primarily of hand-written letters that took anywhere from a week to ten days to cross the distance.
Slightly over fifty years ago, in response to some family issue, if I recall correctly (I was maybe 5 years old at the time) my parents decided to make a phone call instead.
This was in the years well before direct-dial was available. The process instead consisted of dialing the local operator, who then contacted an “overseas operator” in New York, who in turn contacted an operator in The Netherlands who made the final connection. The process would take something like half an hour to accomplish.
The process was not only time consuming, but also quite expensive. For all the cost and effort, my parents spoke to my grandparents for at most three minutes. (Even then there was disagreement about just how long the call was, and since the cost difference was not insubstantial, I believe there was a billing dispute not long after.)
Half an hour to make the connection, three minutes of conversation, exceptional cost, and audio quality that left much to be desired.
State of the art in 1962.
A few minutes ago my desktop computer signalled me that I had an incoming call. Two clicks later and I was instantly connected and speaking with my cousin in The Netherlands. With video. For free. With sound quality that, to be honest, is better than even today’s cellular and land-land audio.
State of the art in 2016. Even earlier as a matter of fact.
And hundreds, if not thousands, of people do it every day, across almost any distance planet Earth has to offer.
I know that many take it for granted. So it is with each generation’s technology.
But it’s still worth stepping back from time to time, and taking a moment to deeply appreciate what’s possible, and all that we have at our fingertips.
I love living in the future.