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Saturday, March 23, 2013

"The Waiting is the hardest part"

If it's true that good things come to those who wait and patience is a virtue, we can all thank the plethora of technological advances that have come our way for making the waiting game all but extinct.  "On Demand" is a term used more frequently today than ever before, referring to a number of services that are instantly available, from your favorite movies and TV shows to instant-brew coffee, but the concept really just reflects the spoils of convenience.

Turn the clock back to the early 80's, and if you wanted to contact someone it was either by house phone (now referred to as a "landline") or standard mail.  Pagers came along, which allowed us to give someone a call-back request, then came the earliest cellular phone, which was hardly as portable as today's models but further shortened the delay in response time.  Once cellular phones took off, our ability to wait for a response began a rapid descent, until emails and text messaging completely eliminated the need or ability to wait for any kind of delay in contacting anyone.

The elimination of waiting didn't stop with communication, though.  In the world of home entertainment, service providers have given us the ability to record our favorite shows and watch them on our own schedule, along with a library of shows we can start at any time, known as "On Demand".  The TV Guide, which was once an important piece of information, has been replaced with on-screen menus that show the schedule that used to mean the time you were required to watch the program.  People once followed the TV Guide as closely as those who dress according to the weather forecast.

Communication and Entertainment have been radically changed in terms of usability and convenience thanks to impressive advancements in technology, but the need to have the things you want immediately would still not be fulfilled until the food and beverage industry took hold of the concept.  Vending machines could be the earliest example, dispensing that must-have snack in seconds with the drop of a few coins or a dollar bill, but the single-cup coffee brewing trend is the latest example.  For years the morning routine consisted of waking up and brewing a pot of coffee, at least for those who didn't have a programmable brewing system.  The next step is the single serving concept, allowing a variety of flavor choices that can brew in less than a minute without wasting a drop, for those who found themselves tossing half of a brewed pot of coffee down the drain.

Technology, especially in the past century, has dramatically increased the quality of life for society in general, but it could also be said that it has desensitized us as well, creating a world of people who no longer have the ability to truly appreciate the lack of effort required to enjoy most of today's greatest conveniences.  One can only imagine how much further this affect will spread when the transportation and travel industry experiences the next leap forward.  Let's just hope that society as a whole will be smart enough to use it for good and re-connect with those we've forsaken in the name of closing ourselves in despite a vast array of communicative venues.