A brief reminder how we grew up with digitization

April 2, 2022
9 min

I was born in 1993. We had a family computer, which nobody really knew how to use except me and my father. When I got older, I got my first personal computer.

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

It's funny that older generations often don't realize that my generation – born in the mid-80s and mid-90s – remember things like how to reverse cassettes with a pencil. Digitization absolutely was part of our whole lives. But our generation literally grew up with the digital revolution.

I don't feel like a digital native or digital immigrant at all.

For me, computers were always there. They just happened to improve incredibly fast. But at this time, computers weren't the solution to everything at all.

Real human connection still was the way we were raised. There were no social digital platforms in my childhood.

Growing up with technology 🌱

Speaking from my personal experience, I have always been fascinated by technology and computers. The internet was great too, but at the time it was slow, there was a lot of text, and you didn’t really know what you were looking for.

first interactive touchpoints

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I started to play around with interactive programs like Microsoft paint. Some years later a teacher showed us a program where you could draw and even interact and playback what you just drew. It was kind of a “presentation” program for children.

For me, that was a magical moment. I remember asking my teacher for the CD so I could try it myself at home.

The idea to draw something, interact with it, and even playback what you drew, absolutely blew my mind!

Time went by and computers got faster. The Internet got faster. You probably remember the time when virtually everyone illegally downloaded tons of music titles and other stuff from infectious servers.

Security wasn't as big of a thing as it is today. It felt like the whole Internet was just an imaginary wild west.

Somewhere around this time, chat applications like MSN (Oh, sweet nostalgia) appeared. I remember hours and hours just chatting with friends. Laughing, crying, dramatizing.

But the feature I liked the most was the ability to create your own smileys and even share them — quite some time before emojis were a thing.

A few years into experimenting with programs, using Microsoft office at school, embracing online chats, and even starting to use the early versions of social media platforms, the digital environment started to get bigger and reveal its potential. Games like tycoon roller coaster, Sims, and similar simulation games helped to get used to complex interfaces.

I discovered the 3D architectural program my father had.

And I LOVED it. Similar to Sims, you could just pull up walls, you had procedural objects, there was a huge library with pieces of furniture and decoration, you could even modify the landscape, etc., etc. So it was a fullscale 3D Application.

This was probably the first moment I worked in a professional program.
Photo by Floris Bronkhorst on Unsplash

I remember how we built a treehouse, and at some point, we reached our limits. For the first time, I mapped out a baseline and reconstructed the treehouse digitally as well as I could in order to design it.

I honestly didn't have any idea what I was doing. I was just thinking, trying, doing, and having fun.

interfaces designed for humans

Sometime after that, I got my first MacBook. I was so unbelievably excited. It was visually appealing, it felt way more stable and professional, and it open up new ways of interacting with a personal computer. I have a great interest in music, so I remember playing around with the music software GarageBand from Apple.

I found it fascinating to have control of so many instruments at a touch of a button.

I was composing some random songs and I bought myself a cheap microphone so I can play around with voices and pitches. And to be honest — compared to today — the quality was absolutely outstanding. I thought it was magical what my small laptop could do.

I did not only learn how to use the programs, but I actually learned how music works. Being in touch with all these technological possibilities, make me smarter in terms of how things work. The beauty of the digital environment is that you can test out things at home on your computer.

I think digitization made me a better problem solver.

Digitization and communities

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From here on everything sped up unbelievably fast. It was hard to keep track of all the revolutions in hardware and software. The first global social networks totally displaced their early predecessors. Obviously, the elephant in the room was Facebook. Since so many people were on this platform, there was no comparable alternative.

For the first time, people could publicly share content in a unified network every friend was part of.

I don’t think this is something we could have avoided.

Humans want to be part of communities and feel understood. This probably was just a matter of time, because it's natural. Looking back at what Facebook made a successful business then, was just the fact that your friends and the people you interact with were there.

There are so many communities now that it's impossible to keep track. They don't rely on the social media platform they're on. Social Media Platforms which all started as communities themselves, established themselves to provide a space for subcommunities to evolve, even across multiple channels.

You will find representatives of any community on any social media platform.

Today we are speaking about communities ALL THE TIME.

If you want to build up a brand, if you want to create more values for your business, or if you just want to get in touch and help other people with their issues; the best thing you can do is build a community around your subject so you can gain support and reach a wider audience.

Connecting the dots.

Fast forward to today, we had all these touchpoints with the digital environment. We've learned that communities are groups of people with similar mindsets. And today we can build platforms for these communities so they can embrace their full potential of being a community with the same goals.

One example that comes to mind is Blender3D

It is a free, open-source application mainly for 3D visualizations and animations. But there are many other things you can do with it. They created a global community of users and programmed their software in a way that everybody can contribute and share their solutions to problems.

Meanwhile, it seems like it’s going to be a pocket knife for any 3D-related content.

Without going too much into the details, this is what you can do with completely free software and only a few hours at home (with some help of tutorials by the community), today:

Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash
Photo by Mingwei Lim on Unsplash
Photo by Snehal Krishna on Unsplash

Needless to say, this is astonishing. Compared to the prices of similar “commercial” software like Cinema4D this is just not comparable. The larger the community gets, the faster better solutions will be available for any given situation. This is the pure power of communities, bringing free software to the level of industrial standards. Granting access to even more people who can't afford other alternatives, which in turn again feeds the community.

Blender3D is a perfect example of the exponential growth and the huge potential that lies in communities.

Communities are one part of the picture. A community cannot contribute if they are not connected. Also because we have so much potential, we reached a limit of hardware capabilities. So the solutions are interconnected systems.

Clouds and connected servers

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By now probably everybody knows how cloud storage works. It's either on a server somewhere, or there might be many local computers connected with each other (there are probably other considerable solutions as well ). The point is to have access to servers from everywhere can increase performances by a lot. At the same time, the individual doesn't have to worry too much about their own storage system.

Companies like ADOBE keep pushing their customers to use their cloud solutions. And everybody who worked from remote in a team probably had this conversation about if they should use the collaboration functionalities and cloud-stored libraries.

If we do use these solutions, we store our files elsewhere. But at the same time, it is important to be able to work efficiently. With cloud-based storage, you don't need to duplicate files. It's all right there, available for every team member.

Today, it is hard to evaluate what is better for your intention.

There are many things happening in digitization and technology these days. It would probably be impossible, to sum up all of them in one article. But there is one last thing that will play a major role throughout the next few years:

AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

It is surreal. It is big. And it never had so much data ever before. This is true for every day by day.

“Processed data is information. Processed information is knowledge, Processed knowledge is Wisdom.”
– Ankala V. Subbarao

Even today artificial intelligence is everywhere. When you're you are using any search engine, when you're speaking with Siri, when you set up accounts, even if you just have noise-canceling earphones. AI is everywhere and it will revolutionize every single aspect of our lives.

Artificial intelligence will automate all kinds of processes.

Being a designer I get in touch with these minor changes that are happening right now a lot. For instance, let's take photoshop:

If someone told me I had to cut out the hair of this one person standing in front of a colorful tree only a few years ago, I would've probably mentally shot myself. These days I just select the major part of the person and with one other click I just say “refine hair”, and it's done for the most part.

Of course, this is a very small example of what it's capable of. But artificial intelligence is evolving incredibly fast. With all the new tech-products that will appear on the market in the next few years, it is safe to say that all of them will have artificial intelligence incorporated into their software.

I am very curious about where this will lead us.

Given all the circumstances we are facing today as humanity — in my opinion — the only chance we have is to use artificial intelligence and robotics to get us back on the right track.

Since the baby boomers after world war 2, the number of people has exploded far too high for us to handle with our bare hands and feet. Artificial intelligence might be the answer and the last hope we have to survive future humanitarian catastrophes.

Without further ado, I want to leave you with this thought in mind:

Technology is not something we can stop. But it's something we can embrace. Like every other innovation, you can always use it for the good or the bad. How we are using it, depends on the decisions of us humans. I want to see it as a chance and I want to use technology for the better. That's why I think it's sometimes better to go with technologies instead of fighting them. Because if you're fighting technology other people will decide for you how they want to use it.

I will never send more than one email per month, I promise!

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