The Communication Revolution

The Communication Revolution or why I don’t understand teenagers

Alexander Graham Bell’s research into hearing devices for the deaf culminated in him being awarded the first US patent for the telephone in 1876. Whether he anticipated its phenomenal success or that it started a communication revolution, I am not sure. He refused to have one in his office, regarding it as a distraction. Bell died in 1922 and would have been aware by then that his invention had played a big part in the profound social changes of the Industrial Revolution.

The Communication Revolution has, for the most part, followed a steady trajectory, but mobile phones and the Internet have transformed it from the Industrial Revolution’s little brother to the main event. With the invention and rapid adaptation of computer technology, the Communication Revolution got a twin brother: The Information Revolution.

Not a month goes by that we don’t hear about yet another “dot.com” entrepreneur having made billions, usually from a product or service that, at first glance, appears utterly useless. Young people may not have been the main drivers of the Communication Revolution’s early stages, but always were the most enthusiastic and early adopters of new innovations. High cost prevented past young generations from playing a more important role, until now!

In a laissez-faire economic system the impact of supply and demand and high volume production are well understood. Couple that particular dynamic with a staggering array of scientific breakthroughs and it should come as no surprise that the Communication Revolution turned into an explosion. Innovation in computing technology also supercharged the Information Revolution. Perhaps both have always been just two sides of the same coin. Be that as it may, our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube Billionaires got their first billion or two from a decidedly youthful section of the population.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to come to grips with the fact that we evolved opposable thumbs not only to allow us to descend from the trees, where we had been busy killing each other (only to continue killing each other on the forest floor), but also allowed our teenagers to enter (mainly useless) information into impossibly tiny mobile devices.

To add insult to injury and to speed up input of this (mainly useless) information, teenagers nowadays use abbreviations that are unintelligible to anybody over thirty. They insert inscrutable emoticons to add contextual content, which was lost due to using abbreviations in the first place, and LOL* at our pathetic lack of comprehension, all the while             ** at us.

Did I mention that they listen to music from the black ghettos of America that has no relevance whatsoever to their comfortable lives in the lucky country? At least they have taken to killing each other (mainly) in virtual reality war games. Mind you, virtual or not, they look so bloody real, it makes me gag just catching a glimpse in passing.

Being a fair minded sort of chap I had better admit that my father laid similar charges against me in the 60’s. He couldn’t understand why my head would bob up and down uncontrollably to the sound of The Animals “We Gotta Get out of This Place”. I would explain (indignantly) that I was identifying with Europe’s Youth trying to escape the drudgery of decaying industrial towns. He would remind me (equally indignant) that I was the product of a loving family living in a, relatively affluent, semi-rural town in Germany and that I would hear bells ring without the aid of a record player if I didn’t get back to my homework immediately.

In case you wonder: I did! You don’t argue with a man with a leather belt and plenty of practice using it…

* LOL – Laugh Out Loud

* * Blowing Raspberries