Steve Jobs, Technology and Travel

Steve Jobs’ passing should come as no surprise.  We are all going to die someday.  What seems is so different about his is that it is about someone who in the span of sort of 30-35 years brought about a revolution in how technology fits into our lives.  Or better said, of how our lives are enabled by the technology around us.

Let’s not overstate it (e.g., he didn’t invent microwaves, cable TV, remote controls, cell phone technology).  Yet, nothing in technology has become so ubiquitous and so TRANSFORMATIVE as the personal computer and the derivative devices that made him so iconic (iPad, iPod, iPhone).  Yes, the microwave transformed a potential kitchen slave into a cooking-slacker.  No small contribution there and this writer is especially thankful.

Yet, the technology that we now live with and cannot live without – and which a generation ALREADY ALIVE will not understand how the world operated without it – was brought forth by innovation and a wave of creativity that Steve Jobs helped unleash.

The power of technology to transform our lives is evident to all of us and we can all think about how it has made our lives easier.   I think about how travel has been made so much easier because of how technology has revolutionized just about every aspect of our lives…

Back in 1991 I was sent to Chile to work for a few months.  Some of the ways I had to operate and live were so much harder due to being abroad.

  • Back then ATMs existed but the international network either did not exist or did not exist in Chile.  I could not withdraw money for my daily life as I would use in the U.S.  Now security and communications technology make this a no-brainer.  In fact, sometimes I may not need cash or a credit card but could use my device!
  • To call the U.S. and speak with family was prohibitively expensive, at the tune of $2/min.  Forget about calling friends.  I remember one of the most expensive calls was calling my grandmother in Miami.  We talked for about an hour.  Looking back it was money very well spent as it would be one of the last times I ever talked to her.  Now?  Goodness, first, international LD is not that expensive; callback schemes make it even cheaper.  Skype has made it even free if you have the right connection!  And, let’s not forget – I can be walking around town and talk to someone.  Back then maybe a cordless phone in the apartment was the extent of the freedom (we forget even these small details!).
  • Expensive phone calls took care of staying in touch via live voice but surely a quick mass email, no?  No.  It was snail mail or nothing.  I did write a few letters – I had to keep in touch with my Mom, sister, grandmother, Father, relatives, etc.  But who wants to sit down and write a letter on paper?  Back then I was used to it as I wrote to my grandmother usually once or twice a month but when I was in another country, making new friends, exploring in my early 20s, who wanted to sit down and write a letter by hand??  Use MS Word you say?  It did not exist in our work PCs (in Chile OR in the US).  Now we can SMS from our phones, email from any Internet kiosk or handheld, tweet every thought anywhere as we move about, etc.
  • I explored a bit of Chile and loved Santiago.  Sharing that with friends?  Mailing post cards to my closest friends was the extent of it and some did not arrive.  No posting tweets about the sight I am currently looking at, nor blogging about the discoveries I was making.  Much less anyone clicking Like or leaving a comment to let me know they got it, they liked it, and that I was not forgotten!
  • As I explored, I loved taking pictures of everything and anything that struck my fancy.  That meant buying film, developing it, throwing away many pix, realizing some pix did not turn out how I wanted & regretting the lost chance, and then I had to carry TONS of pix back to the States when I returned.  My family and friends, if they ever saw them, had to wait until I saw them in person to see my pix.  And how many sessions of show-and-tell did I really want to do anyway?  My friends in Chile (which included other expats from the U.S. and Argentina) also took a lot of pix and we all wanted copies of each others’ pix.  I remember a session we had one night at my apt where everyone brought their pix and negatives and every marked which pix they wanted a copy of so then they could be made.  And everyone paid for their copies.  Think of the logistics!  Today?  God, so simple:  the moment you take the pic you know if you have what you want; load them in Flickr, Facebook, whatever, and your family and friends can see what you are exploring; having them uploaded, other friends who traveled with you can get their own copies made and no work for you.  SO SIMPLE!
  • Even how we research, book, and manage our travel is so much easier and user-friendly.  First, we have the Internet to do research with whether it’d be travel sites, Twitter, etc.  Before it was just books.  Second, we can price shop from the comfort of our couch and do it at our pace, etc without being forced to go to a travel agency.  Third, we can book/modify/cancel at the click of a mouse.  Fourth, we can use tools like TripIt and Kayak’s MyTrips to keep track of it all!  Before, it was once you get the paper ticket, hold on to it carefully, put it all in one place, and maybe write down by hand the specifics of your itinerary.
  • In a new town and all of a sudden out of ideas of where to eat or what are good places?  Before, you were limited to the local info or the travel book which could be dated.  Today?  Jump on TripAdvisor and check out the latest reviews and contribute your own.  Not sure where the restaurant is?  Click on the address and find it on a map that is telling you exactly where you are as well.

I am glad I have been alive to see these improvements which have greatly enabled me to enjoy my travels even more!

So Steve Jobs (or his company) may not have invented all these things but he was a catalyst for bringing computing power and technology into the consumer’s hands – literally.  His influence has shaped our world and helped improved how we live.  He and other innovators and creators have transformed the world during my lifetime through technology.  He was the most visible of these and, as the icon of this technology revolution, he will be missed.  RIP.


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