The Life Cycle of High Technology

Tech gadgets
The thing about technology is it only stays cutting edge for so long. Eventually, the “high technology” or high tech as it’s commonly known, eventually become ubiquitous and ordinary, then inevitably becomes outmoded and obsolete. While most people are only familiar with this process on the consumer level, the truth is the high tech gadgets we get our hands on are, in fact, already old news to someone else. The life cycle of high technology, as it turns out, is one which begins far away from store shelves and ends with its own self-destruction and rebirth.

On Battlefields and Campuses

The most advanced technology we have today originated either as a military research project, an academic research project, or a combination of the two. Consider the internet, which began as the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANET, which was originally spearheaded by the United States Department of Defense and utilized by a few college campuses before becoming the widespread phenomenon we know today. These days we can’t imagine a world without the world wide web, but once upon a time, it was a top secret government project.  Atomic power is another example of this, originating as an ultra-advanced weapon of war developed by university researchers recruited for the war effort during World War Two and later becoming a source of energy used to power cities and countries around the world.

In Factories and Office Parks

The next stage of high technology is its implementation in industrial and commercial applications. This is where the handheld gadgets we take for granted find their footing as larger, bulkier versions of their future selves. For example, the computer-assisted precision of used Mori Seiki lathes from the late 1990s – state of the art stuff for the time and still in demand today – represents the joining of digital infrastructure and heavy-duty hardware which made home 3D printers possible 20 years later. The same can be said for the Xerox printer – the big burly version we were introduced to in offices and libraries several decades ago was slowly shrunken down to the desktop printers we all have in our homes today.

On Shelves and in Garages

As alluded to in previous sections, the last stop for high technology is the consumer market. The smartphones of 2018 have in them the digital DNA of the missile guidance systems of the early days of the Cold War. Aerial drones – originally a form of death from above – are now the technology of weekend hobbyists. Yet to say this is the end of high tech is to ignore its inevitable rebirth; tomorrow’s military scientists and academic researchers are busy tinkering with the seemingly old-fashioned gadgets and gizmos available to them today. They will learn to improve upon the technology of today to develop the state-of-the-art technology of the years to come, and the cycle will start all over again.

It’s probably hard for most people to imagine, but that brand new iPhone they just released a few months ago was already outmoded the day it hit the store shelves. That’s because, by the time we consumers get our hands on high tech, it’s already been developed by the military and academia followed by getting perfected in the private sector on an industrial or commercial scale. Only then will this technology finally make its way to us, where it will inevitably become obsolete while simultaneously providing the inspiration for the inventors of the future.

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