Does this do anything for you? Source: Wikipedia

Warning a more than slightly geeky post is about to happen! This list is not in any particular order… (warning most of the list below is linking to wiki)

  1. Commodre 64
  2. PC 1512
  3. Microsoft Windows 3.1
  4. Microsoft Word for Windows
  5. AutoCAD
  6. InkJet printers
  7. iPod 
  8. SketchUP
  9. Freedom of Information/OpenData
  10. GIS
  11. PlanningPortal and Planning Delivery Grant
  12. Kindle
  13. Twitter
The items on the list above all have something in common, yes they are technology related but that’s not necessarily it.   It is an incomplete list in many respects and depending on who you are and your interests you may wish to add and subtract from the list.

So what do they have in common?  As the title of this post suggests they are technologies, software and ideas that I consider to be ‘Game Changers‘ and by that I mean that these have changed how we do things or think about things completely.   I must stress this is a personal list and is based on my bias towards technology, but I think you’ll get the point.

The idea for this post really started with me thinking about how best to produce drawings and display boards in the office where I work.  In the past AutoCAD has been more than adequate, but now I have more choices than I know what to do with and I don’t necessarily have to choose AutoCAD!  The trouble is a lot of people’s mindsets are stuck a few years behind and if its always been done a particular way it’s difficult to change that mindset.  For example I could produce a display board entirely in AutoCAD or SketchUp or combine it with Photoshop and InDesign to get something really special.

So there you have it, a silly little idea for a blog post but one that I hope makes us re-evaluate the jobs we do now and look at things different;y.

Below is my reasonings for each item on the list, would you like to comment on any of them?  I would appreciate it!

Commodre 64 – Okay my family had the Commodore Pet and Vic20 before it, but this was what made computer ownership an integral part of the family environment.   Not just good at games it could Word Process as well!   (some might add ataris, amigas and bbc micro here too).
PC 1512 –  The first computer that looked like something we might have today in our household, with a pre windows DOS (I think MS not DR, but I could be wrong), it was mainly for business.   Working at home using a computer became a reality for us.  I first experienced Elite and pinball on this beauty as well as weird things
Microsoft Windows 3.1 – What can I say a graphical pseudo OS running that made using a PC easier for more people.  Gone was most of complexity of command line DOS and hello to world of icons, windows and desktops!  Game changing because Windows basically hasn’t changed an awful lot since then.  (I am aware of other graphical OS out there, but windows I have used throughout)
Microsoft Word for Windows – (more specifically 2.0)  Up until my first contact with Word I really had no use of anything else for I was to young.  But I’ve only ever used Word in Windows, I have been known to dabble in WordPerfect and OpenOffice but these have never come even close to the familiarity and ease of use I get from Word and all its incarnations.  Word processors allowed people to be free from typewriters and correct errors before they were printed.  Once you could do that the nature of how people worked changed, drafts could be perfected and seen by many more people for instance!
AutoCAD – My first dabble in the world of work was at an architects office where my mother worked, drawing boards and the smell of ammonia for the copier are what give me very vivid memories. Combine that with the ‘salty’ language of the resident architects and the smell of cigarettes and pipes (not from my mother on either account)!!  Here a computer was purchased and after school I got to play on it, it had AutoCAD (release 11 I think) and digitizer, there was also a plotter which used real pens to plot drawings!  Some didn’t see the writing on the wall, but the days of using razor to get rid of mistakes on your drawing were long gone as the result of AutoCAD.  My first job outside of university was using AutoCAD and every subsequent office I’ve been to has basically been at least 2 or 3 versions behind the latest release, which shows how useful AutoCAD can be.

InkJet printers – Printing at home anyone, and cheaply?  Enough said.
iPod – Not so much the device but the whole ecosystem.  The shockwaves of this product are still to this day upsetting the music industry who until Spotify came along were playing catchup to a technology and product which changed the business model entirely.   I see the iPod as having basically reduced recorded music to next to valueless in monetary terms.   Real money can be made by artists but this is from live performances, and advertising (tv/radio or to sell a newspaper).   With an electronic format why are artists not looking more at getting away from the traditional album format?  
SketchUP – 3D modelling software that is the easy to use, if you are even remotely CAD/computer literate this product is amazing and for most people free!   With its layout tool and easy export to many formats this is the way forward.   Forget AutoCAD, it is too expensive, difficult to train someone in and for the most part far too powerful for most uses.  SketchUp means anyone can make a 3D model that looks professional.

Freedom of Information/OpenData – The concept of being able to access government held information freely sounds so reasonable one wonders what we did before to discover what our elected officials and government got up to…   Forget the naysayers that dislike the amount of time which is wasted chasing up ‘stupid’ questions from the public, this has made people think about government differently.  As to OpenData well, as soon as someone figures out how to make use of the flood of data from government and make it usable things will be different.  Which brings us neatly to :
GIS – Geographic Information Systems, before this it was called a map.  Nowadays you can’t escape GIS, its everywhere and that’s why you don’t notice it.  Google/Yahoo Maps? = GIS, SatNav? = GIS, postman/courier? = GIS, rubbish/trash collection? = GIS, Planning Applications? = GIS.   Had enough yet?
PlanningPortal and Planning Delivery Grant –  A bit different this as it relates more to my profession.  The planning delivery grant in the England and Wales forced and encouraged Planning departments to get more efficient and go online by offering financial incentives to meet various Pendleton Point criteria.   Before this came in very few councils made it easy for the public to find the planning departments section of their website.   Pendleton made it a key requirement.  
Is that important to have a link on a council’s frontpage I hear you all ask?! Well yes considering that residents often need the planning department and are consulted by them as well.  Hiding your consultation documents and planning applications is hardly open and transparent is it?   Yes a paper register is kept that you can see if you visit the council offices, but who can take time off from work to do that?  Suffice to say I think the Planning delivery grant was one of the few government schemes that has increased participation of residents in the democratic process.  As to the Planning Portal, heaven forbid that us professionals are forced to stop spending money on printing and delivery of planning application documents!   
Kindle –  Yes, yes my blog post and radio debut due to a kindle blah blah…  Hang on a minute though, the Kindle like the iPod has challenged a long established industry of paper, bricks/mortar and publishers.  Yes other eReaders are available, but Amazon’s delivery method and their Kindle (hardware and software) is amazingly simple.  

Publishers must get a grip on this and innovate with the technology and not just sit there like the music industry did until it’s too late suing ‘John Smith’ for allowing his children to download music that they can listen to for free on radio…  

Oh sure there are deep meaningful conversations to be had about the nature of book reading, and the relationship between publisher, authors and the consumer.  But just remember technology and in particular the consumer adapts.   For instance I didn’t know this until recently but you can’t purchase legally any Harry Potter book for an ereader.  Why? Because of the fear of piracy?  Sorry but that ship has sailed if I want a copy of any Harry Potter book electronically I can get it now with the help of a search engine… result one lost sale for publisher and author.  I’m not advocating stealing (that’s what piracy is often) but there are ways to get good profits out of digital sales of books (not just film rights!).

Twitter – I’m not going to be a typical twitter advocate here,  after my initial scepticism and resistance I came late to Twitter.  Perhaps it was the constant twitter this, and twitter that from radio DJs (I’m looking at you BBC) but I hated the idea.  Why on earth would you share with the world your life’s smallest details??!  Who the hell cares if celebrity A is drinking with celebrity B.  

Oh and an endorsement from Stephen Fry a person I respect and admire greatly didn’t do it for me either, as far as I was concerned Twitter was for patting famous people on the back.

Then for some unknown reason I caved completely, I think I had searched for something to do with GIS and then realised a whole community for GIS users were on twitter. Damn it!  I joined up and have slowly realised that twitter is populated almost without exception with polite helpful people.  Of course this is a product of who I follow and what I’m interested in.   

The fact is that now news and information I would not have found otherwise comes to me.  Yes I still use Google and my main sites but for the most part I sit in front of Hootsuite (a twitter client) soaking it all up.  As to it being a game changer think of it this way:  

If you are in a small business advertising is a bloody nightmare and expensive too.  What if by being yourself you could talk to your potential customer base directly.   For the most part you only follow people who interest you, so my contacts are mostly GIS and planning related (as well as localgov).   This works in reverse so people will follow you and look at your links because they are interested in what you have to say.   This brings me to state the bleeding obvious “content is important” give people interesting articles or weblinks and they will trust you further and look more closely out for your ‘tweets’.

All I can say is try it out and get involved, you will see pretty quickly that twitter, far from being a social tool is a simple and potentially effective tool for communicating with prospective clients as well as gaining knowledge.

So that’s my list apologies for its length, but now I would really like your comments, anything I’ve missed out or that you agree/disagree with?  I won’t be offended, but I will be interested!


LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.