Remember the erector set? A masterpiece working model of structural metal with pulleys, gears, wheels, and electric motors. A.C. Gilbert invented Erector in 1913 as a way for young men to learn about buildings and working with motors. An educational toy that was perfectly timed at a point when many of our most necessary and innovative technologies were mechanical in nature. At home, boys were using Erector to create buildings, bridges, cranes, and conveyors. In 1949 an Erector was used in the Yale School of Medicine to build a functioning prototype of the artificial heart.
As popular as Erector was, imagine what might have been if virtually every family in America had one. How much more innovation and progress might there have been in a 20th century already marked by incredible breakthroughs? What if it had appealed to girls as well as boys? What if it seemed relevant to almost everyone and owning one was a social expectation?
We have something like that today. Chances are you used it a moment ago. It’s your smartphone.
With smartphones we’ve gone from making calls, to reading email, to using applications, and making video calls. What’s about to happen is using cell phones as programming devices. That’s right, get ready to start programming with your cell phone. Two things caught my eye this week. First, Wired Magazine’s article on the Internet of Things and a little start up in Silicon Valley called Play-i. Check out the Wired article to understand how you’ll be programming your air conditioner to engage 30 minutes before you arrive home and how to feed weather information into your lawn sprinkler system to optimize water usage.
See the Play-i blog to learn their innovative plans to teach your five-year-old to program using a robot and a smartphone.
The pace of technological change we’ve experienced in the last 20-30 years has been amazing and it’s been fueled by a miniscule fraction of the population knowing how to code. Try to get your head around the pace we’ll experience in a world where most people program. Let’s hope one of these five-year-olds creates apps to manage that.
© Copyright Jim Lucas 2007-2013 All Rights Reserved