The 5 Technologies that Changed My Life

by Ben Bajarin   |   December 3rd, 2012

I thought it would be interesting to kick off a series where each of our columnists would share the top 5 technologies that changed and profoundly impacted our lives, along with the reasons why. Technology has shaped and is shaping many different generations in different ways and will continue to do so for long periods of time. I know I always enjoy listening to others tell stories about the products that truly impacted them for the better and some of the reasons why. So here are the ones that shaped my life up to this point.

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
That’s right the very first EPIC NES. It was 1985 when the NES came into my house. I was instantly the coolest kid on the entire block. My father being one of the first analysts in the computer industry developed a good relationship with Nintendo so he got to bring one of the first units home.

Many of you can relate to your first gaming experience, whether it be with the Commodore, Atari, NES or even the Playstation or XBOX. It was mesmerizing, captivating and seriously addicting. I couldn’t get enough, the escape that video games presents or more immersive and emotional that books or movies could ever be, for me at least. It also most likely contributed to my ADD.

Now with the addition of things like Kinect and the Wii, families are getting together and playing immersive games together. For me it all started with the original NES.

IBM PS/2
DIR/W. Ah the memories of DOS. The PS/2 was the first computer I remember using at length. We had many others before it in our home but I simply don’t remember them as well. I learned to use DOS on the PS/2 which instantly made me the go to for tech support in computer lab in the 5th grade.

Computers and computing are a big part of many of our lives. I highlight this one because it was the one I spent the most time with at a young age and the one much of my computing foundation was grounded on.

Compaq iPaq 3630 W/ PCMCIA sleeve and Metricom Ricochet Wireless Card
I had a difficult time choosing between the iPaq and the first Palm Pilot. I was at the Palm Pilot launch event when Jeff Hawkins first publicly demonstrated the device. In fact my dad took me out of school to attend the event because he knew how significant it would be for the industry. I remember thinking at the time how groundbreaking this pocket computer was. The primary reason I chose the iPaq over the Palm Pilot was because of the Metricom wireless card adapter sleeve. Although the original Palm Pilot represented a vision for a true pocket computer, the iPaq with the Metricom Ricochet Wireless card brought me the Internet in my pocket for the fist time and that was what gave me my inflection point.

Now you may be wondering why I chose this device over a smartphone or cellphone of some kind. The reason was because this particularly product, tied to the Metricom broadband service, provided the basis for my smartphone experience. Because I was highly familiar and comfortable with a pocket computer experience, I didn’t have the same profound “aha” moments many did with their first smartphones because the iPaq had provided the fundamental experience of apps and the internet in your pocket.

My first HDTV – Mitsubishi 55” Rear Projection
Being an early adopter I bought my first HDTV the second I could possibly afford one which was in 2003. That was also the year my first daughter was born, so I positioned it as a birthday present for her, which obviously no one believed.

I remember the first time I saw an HD picture on this beast. I nearly cried. I stared at it for hours and watched the most random things simply because HD content was limited and I just wanted to watch HD shows. I remember telling my wife it was like looking out a window or like actually being at the football or baseball game. She didn’t think so but I did and that was all that mattered.

The iPad
I chose the iPad for a number of reasons. Mainly because in the 13+ years I have been working in the technology industry I always dreamed of a product like this (a no compromise tablet) and this was the first to deliver. I used nearly every pen computing tablet that came to market in a variety of shapes and sizes prior to the iPad. Yes, there are a number of good tablets on the market and they will all continue to get better but for me the iPad brought touch computing to the mass market and is still the cream of the crop in my opinion.

Arguably touch computing started with the iPhone but a small pocketable screen is only capable of some elements of touch computing where the iPad represents a much more holistic touch computing platform and has cast a vision of where touch computing will go with future innovations.

So those are my 5 defining experiences with technology. More Tech.pinions columnists will share theirs and why and as always we would love to hear from our fantastic community with your comments.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Full Bio
  • Rich

    If I think about meaningful technology, I remember when I was 14 I was a sound head and designed a “speaker-amp” (a speaker and amplifier together in a small box) called the Bowsamp. I loved that device and used it all my teenage years.

  • rj

    My list, in chronological order:

    1. Apple IIe – the first computer I ever used

    2. Mac Plus – arguably the first truly useful iteration of the Mac, and my introduction to what would become the dominant computing UI paradigm for the next 2 decades

    3. the Web – likely the most important technological and social development to occur in my lifetime. In my particular case the technologies that helped fuel its development – Linux, Perl, Apache, etc were also very important.

    4. Nintendo 64 – not the most commercially successful game console, but arguably the most influential one. It was the first to provide a real 3D experience, and Mario 64 was a monumental achievement.

    5. iPhone – its all been said elsewhere

    • benbajarin

      I agree the Internet is a big one but we need the hardware to take advantage of the Internet as well. They sort of go hand in hand but there is no question the Internet and then the bulk of devices which now connect to the Internet, is clearly one of the most profound things to happen in technology.

  • http://twitter.com/samdusi Sam Dusi

    Thanks for making me feel older today, I was the mechanical engineer on the PS/2 Model 50 back in 1987. Glad to help shaped your formative years.

    • steve_wildstrom

      Sam, if Ben made you feel old, I’ll make you feel young with my installment next week.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1573495479 Rene Stein

    Wow, it is strange to think that I’ve been using tech for almost as long as anyone else. Back in ’84 and ’85 we had a string of Atari systems in my home that never seemed to work well and need to be replaced.

    The first computer I ever used was my uncles C64 that was great to play games on. Then, my family cut our teeth on an Apple IIgs in ’89. My parents are somewhat techno-iliterate, still, but were both forward thinking enough to get computers early on for their children to use and learn.

  • jfutral

    1) TRS-80 and 2) Pong changed my life forever.

    And for all the good 3) cell phones and smartphones do for me, I think they are the worst things to have ever crossed my path. Definitely changed my life and I am not so sure for the good. But definitely out of necessity.

    Everything else is just variations on a theme for me so no real 4 and 5 that I can think of. Except maybe cellophane?

    Joe

  • Losir

    Somewhat similar experience(s) as yours. Apple ][+ clone introduced me to BASIC and programming in general – my dad being a system analyst at a major mainframe company certainly didn’t hurt. My first portable device was prett late – Sony clie ux-50. It had everything except phone capabilities and 3G. That was Ana amazing form factor and being one of the first people to watch movies with an FM transmitter output in my car gave me creds big time.