Adventures in Digital History

The Rise of Phones and Information Overload

The rapid evolution of technology has always been a fascinating subject to me. In today’s day and age we have generations who have grown up with little-to-no technology usage at all, as well as generations who have been constantly surrounded by new technologies and their uses. It’s no wonder that people have taken to calling this the “Digital Age,” even though I do have some issues with that title. Implying that this is the digital age means that everything we do is digital and that everyone is proficient in the use of all digital technologies, which is something I resent because that is not true for everyone everywhere.

I am one of three discussion leaders for this week, and the topics we’re focusing on are the rise of phones and information overload. Both of these topics are fascinating since they play hand in hand with each other. The telephone is something all of us are familiar with, especially since phones are now one of the most common commodities now days. Phones went through a similar evolution to computers, starting big before growing smaller and smaller, with more and more features added with every iteration. It’s interesting how what we considered a phone when we were children is not the same thing it is today. I grew up in the country and still remember landlines and corded phones. One time an electrical storm knocked out the landline and we were virtually cut off from the rest of the world. However, a boom of the landline is that even without power we could still make calls — as long as the line wasn’t electrocuted, like I mentioned before. Now days the concept of a “line” is totally different. For everyone that has cellphones, you pay for “lines” despite there being no physical line! It’s the jargon left over from semi-obsolete tech that has developed an entirely new meaning! In fact, cellphones are not actually phones anymore! They’re mini-portable computers with a call feature! The entire thing operates off cell reception and satellites, making it accessible pretty much anywhere!

A humorous prediction of the phone revolution made by David Gerrold.
Schindler, Esther. “” Twitter, March 28, 2018.

While the phone evolution is bound to produce some great content in the coming days, information overload is an interesting byproduct of the evolution of technology and the internet. I find it fascinating to hear professors discuss the ways they had to conduct research twenty years ago, and now we have access to everything they did and more at the push of a button. I’ve even had one professor show me her old floppy discs, which contain information that is now harder to access because the format is now obsolete. While all this access to information is great, it can also be bad. Think about it. Day after day, every hour of every day, you have your computer, your phone, and even your watch keeping you up-to-date with all information you (or the algorithms you feed information to) deem relevant. How many emails do have in your inbox(s)? How many apps are downloaded to your phone? How often do you receive notifications from them? How often do you use social media? And while you’re scrolling through social media, how often do you see ads tailored to your personal viewing experience? These are all things that are blaring at you day after day. I don’t know about anyone reading this, but I enjoy being able to put down my phone, silence it, and simply disconnecting from the digital world. All the information, all the time, is just… stressful. And irritating. And nine times out of ten, it makes you mad! So, is all the information really a good thing? This is a question I think I’ll pose to the class this week, just to gauge what they think.

One Comment

  • Nancy

    I can relate with your professor’s floppy disk issue. I have a single video of a family Christmas from 1986. It was originally recorded on a VHS tape. Eventually it was put onto a DVD. At some point I will need to buy the hard- and software to save it to the internet (or at the very least a thumb drive), or hire someone to do it for me so I don’t loose that precious footage. Crazy!

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