I wasn't planning on doing any kind of special New Years post; predictions and retrospectives are all over the web and I didn't feel like I really had anything special to add.
But that changed on New Year's Day. It was an uncommonly warm day here in New England and the sun was shining so I decided to take my dog for a walk in a nearby state forest. Our loop is about 3.5 miles and we are at the farthest end of it when I noticed a large ivy-covered rock near a pond. Since I got my new phone (a Galaxy Nexus) I've become something of a snapshot nut and I decided that this rock would make an artsy shot.
The problem was that the sun was shining on the pond behind the rock so getting a good exposure was tough. I thought, 'I sure wish this phone had an HDR feature.' and then I thought 'Wait, maybe there's an app for that.' So I checked out the Android Market and sure enough, there was an app. I downloaded it and took a few shots. The app seemed to work OK but it was ad-supported and slightly feature limited, but there was a "Pro" version I could buy. I checked two stores (Amazon Appstore and the Android Market) and bought the Pro version for about $3, then installed that. Much nicer. This whole process took about, oh, 5 minutes maybe?
A bit later we came to a big field and the dog wanted to chase mice (imaginary ones, I suspect) so I let her run. While she ran (mice aren't as interesting to me) I dug out my phone and checked Google+ and caught up with what my friends in Texas, North Carolina and England were doing while I was out walking. Then I sorted through some email, checked my newsfeeds and finally called the dog and we headed back home.
Boring story, right? I agree, but that's exactly my point. I did all this out in the middle of the woods and didn't think twice about it and I'm sure there was nothing you thought of as remarkable in that story, either. We do 'boring' things every day that would be amazing to a time traveler from just a few decades ago.
When I was a kid I was a fan of the spy comedy Get Smart, which ran from 1965-1970. One of the great running gags was Maxwell Smart's Shoe-Phone. It was funny because it was so unbelievable, and of course because it was in his shoe. But on some level the shoe made sense because it's the one large piece of a man's wardrobe, so there's room to hide a phone inside it.
Today if someone wanted to make a shoe phone, it'd be fairly trivial. But of course a shoe phone would be much less convenient than the tiny earpiece that connects wirelessly to the also-tiny box that is the modern smartphone.
My admittedly vague point is, we're living in the future; we just never stop to realize it. The tech we take for granted would've blown the minds of the geeks of 20 years ago, and if my 10 year old self had been watching what I was doing today it would've seemed like he'd walked onto the set of Star Trek. Or for the Star Wars fans out there, remember the "training droid" that Luke Skywalker had to practice against? That little ball that zipped around him? We're getting close to that already:
So maybe I do have a prediction for 2012. I predict that if we can set aside our geeky cynicism, we'll be amazed at what our personal tech will do for us in the next year. CES is a week away and it should kick off 12 months of new advances and refinements to the tech we love.
I can't wait to see what the year brings, and I hope you'll stick around to explore it all with me!
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.