There Is Nothing New Anymore

By | January 21, 2015

I bought a new computer this week. It was a top of the line PC for $1100. But, it really is no better than the last high-level computer I bought in 2009. In fact, it is worse, because it has Windows 8. Other than the interface change, I don’t think I would notice the difference if I used both computers side by side. This is a huge shift from previous decades, where when every few years I would buy a new computer and it would be a huge change in my life. The new computer would be 2-3 times more powerful, 2-3 times faster, have vastly more hard drive space, and have other handy new features (like built-in wireless, USB ports, DVD writer, etc.). I would feel refreshed, ready to conquer the Internet, at least for another few years until my new computer became out of date.

Same thing with cell phones. 5 years ago I switched from a Blackberry to an iPhone. A whole new world opened up for me, and it totally changed where and when I could do business. More recently I went from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 5, and it was a big nothing. Then there is the iPhone 6, which I care even less about. It used to be that at least new technology was always smaller even if it was not better, but now I am supposed to upgrade just to make my phone bigger?

Domains are another area where there is nothing new. Over 15 years ago the .com world was in a frenzy when various country domains like nu., .ws, and .cc became available to anyone, and in the 2000s the same thing happened when domains such as .biz, .co, and .mobi were launched. Yes, it may be different this time, and even a game changer, with the thousands of new domain extensions currently being introduced, but it is still really just the same old scenario played out on a larger scale.

For the past few years everybody has been all aflutter about “The Cloud”. But, that is really just a more modern, user-friendly term for the Internet. The Cloud is great, and I love using it, but with a little work all of this was able to be done back in the 1990s (I know, because I used to do it). You could always put photos, videos, or software on servers. You could always have flexible capacity when hosting a site (using load balancers, for example). The Cloud just makes it much more convenient and much much cheaper. The Cloud is not so much a use of new of technology, but a reflection of the huge decrease in server related costs, the wide-spread availability of high speed internet service, and the paradigm shift towards mobile devices.

Even Bitcoin (cryptocurrency) is not is something totally new. Digital currencies (such as E-gold) have been around since the 1990s. But, Bitcoin is a gigantic step forward in both the technology and the move towards mass adoption. It really is something new, useful, and innovative. The problem is that there are too many problems with it right now. Mt Gox went bankrupt almost crashing the entire market leaving thousands of customers penniless (bitcoinless?). More recently another leading exchange named Bitstamp had around $5 million stolen from it, and had to temporarily shut down (it is back up now). And even more recently Bitcoin payment processor EgoPay shut down amid rumors that founders of the company may have stolen millions in funds from clients. This is all in addition to the hundreds of low-level cryptocurrency scams and illegal cryptocurrency sites. Cryptocurrencies are the wild west of the Internet, filled with hackers, thieves, and cyber dangers. There’s gold in dem der hills, but finding it is not a risk that most people want to take until things settle down.

Drones? I used to fly remote controlled airplanes and helicopters like that when I was a kid 40 years ago. Now they just scotch taped a camera to it. Plus, almost all the good stuff that can be done with drones violates FAA rules. Amazon and others are working on getting this changed, but until then it is all a big headache.

Virtual reality is cool, although not really something new. In the early 1990s Sega made a VR headset for arcade games. In 1992 Computer Gaming World magazine predicted “Affordable VR by 1994”, and it was a hot topic in movies (Tron, Lawnmower Man, etc.). Now in 2015 Google Glass is $1500, and it is not really VR in the classic sense (it is more “augmented reality”), and the public can’t even buy Google Glass (only developers can). The Oculus Rift VR device looks great, but you can’t buy that either. Once it launches, it may really be something amazing. I want one. But, it may not come out until 2016. Magic Leap is also coming out with an amazing VR device that changes how you see the world around you, but it may be years until that comes out also.

When the Internet entered the scene in 1994-1995, that was an exciting time. When the Blackberry and iPhone (or even the iPod) were invented, that was an exciting time. I am sure my parents would say when they first bought a TV or Microwave or VCR they felt the same way. When I bought my first TiVo DVR in 1999, that was exciting. When I watched a video online for the first time in 1997, that was exciting. When I made a video phone call with my new webcam, that was amazing. I want more of that. I want my technology hunger to be fed. I want to be shocked and surprised. I want to see an ad for something and feel compelled to run to the store to buy it (ok, I will just open a new browser window to Amazon.com and have it overnight shipped to me). I am dying in a wasteland of rehashed ideas and new and improved things that really aren’t. Stimulate my brain. Lighten my wallet. Give me something new to play with.

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23 thoughts on “There Is Nothing New Anymore

  1. Michael

    That’s true, nothing new under the Sun, yet things grow and evolve at a similar pace now I think. We just don’t notice it as much as before.
    I got a new phone recently, its processor has 8 cores! And it’s not even top of the line model. With the major chinese cellphone producing companies starting to sell globally the prices are dropping and the extra features and computing power in phones is increasing even faster than before.

    We are still seeing some new technologies appearing though. The 3d printers will soon be available everywhere, so that’s something to play with..

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      Yes, your new phone has a lot more power, but does that really matter to most people? If my new iPhone had 20 cores and 100GB of RAM I don’t think I would even notice. My iPhone4 or 5 is just fine. Yes, I would like a better/faster PC, but they don’t seem much better in the past 4-5 years.

      3D printers are something new, and look like fun to experiment with, but for the average person like me I am not sure I could really do much with it. I will probably buy one once they get cheaper though.

  2. Konstantinos Zournas

    A bit down today? I feel that way sometimes too.
    I know you don’t enjoy crowds but I would have loved to have met you at NamesCon.

    Some people say that nothing is new. Never. Patent offices would disagree. 🙂
    But it actually depends on how you view it.
    Does your new PC have a SSD drive? That is new. USB 3: new.

    Some would argue that your 2009 was not new. It was the same as 1999 but faster and with more space.
    You yourself describe faster as new when maybe it’s not. Or is it?

    And some with say that your iphone 4 was not new either. It made calls and was a small PC.
    Nothing is new and yet a lot of things are.

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      That is exactly my point. Even if the new PC has and SSD drive and USB3, which are new, I don’t think it really makes much of a difference. The average person would not even notice. It used to be when you went through the ritual of buying a new computer every few years, it was a huge leap forward.

      My 2009 PC was nothing new, it was the same type of PC I bought 3 years before that and 3 years before that, but at least the experience of using it was something new. I needed it to be faster to surf the web, I needed more space to hold all my important stuff. Getting the new PC really made a big difference, even if there was no new technology.

      My iPhone4 was similar to other smartphone before that, but again, what was new was the experience it offered me. My blackberry had such a bad browser I really just used the device for email only. The iPhone put a PC in my pocket, and that changed everything.

      So I guess I want things that feel new to me. It is not just about the technology, it is about how it effects my life. Luggage has been around for many years, and so has the wheel, but nobody had ever thought of putting wheels on luggage until the 1970s. That made my life easier in airports. There is lots of new stuff that gets invented/patented, but few things make my life better, easier, or more exciting.

  3. Travis

    Too bad you can’t read your posts from an outsider’s perspective, because they are refreshingly awesome. The Lawnmower Man…what a trip lol.

  4. Bernard

    My 2 cents: a lot of ideas you’re seeing done these days are ideas that were tried earlier, but were not economically feasible or were too complicated for the mainstream. Given improvements in tech, a lot of good ideas are being revisited, and some are finding good business models. The IoT is going to be huge, and I feel like the interconnectedness of a huge gamut of devices is a game changer. Maybe not what you are clamoring for, but IMHO it’s going to change a lot of lives.

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      I agree, I thought if the idea for TiVo back in the early 1990s but hard drive space was too big and expensive back then, just like I was doing the cloud before they had a term for it, but that too was not very economically feasible and it was a big headache. I had a cell phone in my car when they first came out, but it was huge and too hard to carry around outside of the car. Then everything got smaller and cheaper for all these technologies and they became mainstream.

      The Internet of Things (interconnected self-aware devices) is poised to explode and is exciting, but like VR and drones, it is at least a few years away from becoming mainstream. It will change lives once it becomes cheaper and more available.

  5. Shane

    I see where you’re coming from but I think it really depends on how you look at it. I spent $5K on a computer 10 years ago that had the power to crunch the numbers and video that I needed with a big fancy screen. The new top of the line cylinder Mac I just bought can do that 100 times over and is $3K. I can have every application open, including all my email from 2008 to now WHILE editing a video and watching another on a separate screen.
    Technology has changed so much in the last ten years that I can keep up with and promote two companies when I didn’t have the time or money to do just one. 10 years ago I was still paying YellowBook $10K a year. Yes all this stuff existed before. But before Kickstarter you had to call and email friends to try and raise money for projects. Now you spend the time building a good presentation and put it up and the crowds will tell you. That’s an example with thousands more.
    Things haven’t changed but the way they have “evolved” is amazing and wonderful. If anything its entertainment and information overload. There are too many ways to make money. For a business minded person there are more opportunities to make money than there have ever been. It’s hard to put the focus on one because another opportunity distracts you.
    And finally the phone. Has it evolved.? Absolutely In my tired eyes its fantastic. That larger phone has changed my world. I don’t have to take my glasses out every time to read an article. I can actually get work done now.

    I am on the opposite side of thoughts here. I can’t believe how things have changed so quickly. In one 10 year period a whole generation has changed how they spend their day. We have had to change how we connect with people constantly. Email, then texts, the Facebook, then Twitter and Instagram. We have to change the entire Internet presence to make sure it can be seen easily on a phone. And that is all in the last 10 years.

    …………..or maybe I’m just old 🙂

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      I don’t think you are the typical computer user though, although a lot of people do what you are doing. Editing videos and using 2 screens is not the norm. For complex things like that, you do need the latest video card and a lot of memory.

      Yes, Kickstarter is a game changer. Lots of websites are. I was thinking more about non-internet things. Things have progresses/evolved and the technology world is much better now. And, as you said, there are many many more ways to make money now, due to the Internet and mobile devices. It is a whole new world to be an entrepreneur. What used to take a year can be done in a few days.

      As for a larger phone, iPads have been around for a long time and had a large screen, but I know that is not the same for people who also need to use it as a phone.

      It is not that I don’t think things have changed, life is very different and better due to the Internet (email/texts/websites) and mobile phones. I just feel an inner need for a new “big” thing to come along like the Internet did in 1994-1995, and Tivo did a few years later. Maybe Bitcoin is like that, maybe Drones are, maybe 3D printing is, maybe VR is, but none of those seem to be taking the world by storm like some things in the past have.

  6. Joe

    I agree 100% and this has been one of my recurring thoughts for the past 10 years. The last decade has witnessed an evolution in technology so fast that every new version of almost every tech product is just a minor upgrade or has new features that most people don’t really need.

  7. Aaron Strong

    Drones are far different than a remote control airplane or helicopter. A radio signal sent to a servo is far different than a pre programmed route guided by GPS and other sensor related software. Drones are autonomous. The autonomous capabilities are growing at a staggering pace, creating many new uses for drones in many industries…..So when it is mentioned that “There is nothing new anymore,” when drones are mentioned, I respectfully disagree…….Although, my new computer has nothing new as you mention…Great article!

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      Drone technology is new, but the vast majority of people and companies are not able to use drones for much other than just playing around with them, due to FAA regulations. For companies already in the airplane/helicopter/stealth fighter type business this is huge, but for me just sitting around my house I can only do so much with a drone.

      1. Aaron Strong

        Point understood….The FAA is currently far behind the advancements in Drone Technology and the commercial space is very limited, requiring FAA exemption. The current laws being drafted by the FAA do not consist of the many autonomous features like “geo-fencing” and “crash-avoidance.” For that reason many entrepreneurs and large investment companies have gone to third world countries for research and development. Regardless of American laws, this technology is advancing at a staggering pace.

  8. Samit

    I think the reason you feel this way is because for the last 15 years or so we have been living in the future. Technology, both hardware and software, is improving so fast it seems like nothing much has changed, but it has, and how.

    I remember as a kid, Star Trek’s Communicator was fascinating future tech, now everyone has one and with video too! Movies used to be limited by camera tricks and locations, today you technically don’t even need actors to put out a photo-realistic fantasy scene.

    Things are way faster, and cheaper, allowing for more innovation and really lowering the entry bar for the average joe, you have a global audience, and a cheap way to reach them. And that is a good thing, we’re seeing improvements in leaps and bounds, even for non-tech products and it’s only going to get better.

    And like some of the comments have said above, new tech like 3d printing, nfc, rfid, solar and medtech are all going to make the next few decades extremely interesting.

    Though yes, there are still limitations, which are frustrating at times, we’re still far away from Scotty beaming up anything but Win10 is almost out, it’s way better than Win8. 😉

    1. Steve B

      We’ve probably been spoiled with the advancement in technology in such a short amount of time.

      From the late 80s to early 90s is when all of this tech boom started. Computers got faster, more memory, the Internet, smart phones, video game consoles, etc..

      We’re sort of bored now. Nothing new. Yeah, things are faster, but it’s nothing new.

      New is something that excites us. Something that replaces older technology. For example: When DSL overtook dial-up, or when we replaced our pagers with cell phones.

  9. Joshua Davis

    There has been some amazing advancements in biotech, artificial limbs, organ growth / stem cells, transportation, (tesla motors and plans for the hyperloop), space (landing on an asteroid and mars), holograms, weapons of course, etc.

    I know what you mean though it kind of feels like been there, done that. Even the electric motor that powers tesla cars was invented 1892 and similar advancements have been improvements on old technology or ideas. There are many ideas that never see the light of day because either the person that came up with them had no money or influence or no one saw a way to make money off the idea.

    Personally, I’m still waiting for smell-o-vision

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      All those advancements you mentioned amazing, but none of them are for the general public or for small-time entrepreneurs like me.
      The Tesla car is pretty exciting actually, but no good if you have a bunch of kids (not roomy enough), and not enough charging stations yet to make it convenient (as compared to gas stations), and also it is expensive.

      A bunch of companies are actually working on smell-o-vision type technologies.

  10. Michael

    You are right Eric! Nothing really cool and exciting has come out in a long time! I am sure billions of people would want a food replicator! Who is working on making that for us? I would also be happy if the price of solar power was cheaper and better and it would only take like 6 months to pay the system off and have free power for ever! I think that would bring in new technology if something like that happen because we need more power! My bill is $400 a mouth for electricity and I really don’t think I have that much stuff running at my house lol

    I think the next amazing invention will be super cheap power!!

  11. Josh

    Fun article and mostly right, but if you still had an iPhone 4 and installed an update in the last year, you would be wanting a new phone. The last iOS update I installed was around a year ago, and my phone has been sluggish ever since. I’m going to have to upgrade in the very near future.

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      Yes, but that does not mean the iPhone 5 is really any better. It just fixes a problem Apple created themselves, that was never there before, forcing you to upgrade.

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