We are getting to a point in history where there are some younger adults who do not remember life before cell phones and everybody carrying the internet around in their pockets. At all times.
This way that life has changed in the past 10 years, with the advent of popular smartphones and the widespread availability of mobile data plans, is not currently explored as much as the way life has changed overall with common internet access. However, in many ways these changes were similarly sweeping.
True, the changes that cell phone internet has brought seem like, and in many ways are, an extension of the ways that online communication have transformed the world. However, in order to appreciate how radical some of these changes were, it is worth examining the changes brought on by the initial world-sweeping phase of popular internet use.
When the World Wide Web first took hold in the early to mid-1990s, it was still somewhat of a novelty to many, but still amazing. Although some more ardent computer experts had already been connecting to the internet for years, it was now possible for the average computer user to shop, get up-to-date news, research the world’s knowledge and communicate instantaneously with people anywhere from the comfort of their own home. However, it is that last element of the initial internet revolution – connecting from one’s home – which has changed drastically.
In those early days of the Web, you needed a computer with sufficient processing power and a modem. Most people were still using desktops at home or the office – and even if you had a laptop you needed a connection. Most modems available to and affordable for the average consumer were painfully slow by any modern standard, and many people used external modems – yet another piece of hardware.
If you were out and about and you want to look up something, check your email, do online shopping or anything else that required an internet connection you were out of luck until you got home, turned on your computer and waited for it to boot up, fired up your modem and dialed into your connection. And depending on your internet service provider, your time was limited unless you wanted an extra, heft fee on top of your internet bill.
When some cell phones finally became sophisticated enough for internet browsing just over a decade ago, connections were slow going at first. You usually had to pay an additional fee to connect, and browsing was slow and primitive. However, in the mid-2000s something started to happen. As cell phones became more and more ubiquitous they also started to become more and more sophisticated. Having a built-in browser and email app became standard, and “smartphones” became the norm rather than the exception.
These days, you can do just about anything with a smartphone that you can do on a computer. As incredible as it is that this technology is often available on the go, an increasingly large number of people are using their cell phone internet connections while in their own homes – thanks to routers and broadband connections. While high speed internet connections away from home are still often spotty, with a good ISP you can use your phone to its full potential – including everything from checking email to shopping to streaming music and podcasts to watching movies. With increasing technology and better than ever broadband connections, who knows what the next decade may bring.