a tale of two photos


A study in contrasts

The thing that I should find most fascinating in this photo should be the technology itself.

But no. There’s so much more 1.

We need to start somewhere, so…

  • 10 years ago: 3 laptops. 4 Nokia phones (an N70, a 6670, a 6680, a 3310?). 3 portable MP3 players (my iRiver, 2 Creative Jukeboxes). A ~100 GB portable drive and (of course) a watch-with-USB-storage device.
  • Now: 3 laptops (2 Airs and a Pro). 3 iPhones (2 of the iPhone6, 1 6s). 2 tablets (1 Mini, 1 Air). A nearly invisible 32 GB USB storage. And a Nexus 4.

The 2005 smorgasboard of devices (MP3 players, phones, laptops, external storage) seemed to be the only way to complete a picture of computing. As in, each and every one of those devices had to continue being around us for years to come.


Not quite. Today, storage is largely ignored, only remembered when you run out of  cloud storage or something has not synced to where it should be. Expanding/external storage? Not truly a “thing” anymore, again not really something people consider. Portable MP3 players of course went the way of the dodo thanks to the smartphone, though in all honestly, we did see that coming. Even back then our primary cameras and music players were slowly moving to what Nokia shipped on their phones (making this experience for me all the more weird, a year or so later). Laptops do live on, but everyone seems to be in agreement that some sort of tablet-hybrid thingy will replace them in the next 5-10 years (Surface Pro or iPad Pro, anyone?)

The 2005 brands. Laptops: an Alienware, an IBM, a Toshiba. But phones? All Nokia. And probably rightfully so, most of those phones represented the pinnacle of how smart you could make a featurephone-style device 2.

And now? There is 1 manufacturer behind (almost) every device on the table: Apple.

The 2005 weird device is probably that watch. I could just say we were way ahead of the curve in terms of pushing the limits of what watches (or as they are termed now, ‘wearables’) could do, literally a decade before wearables went mainstream. But really. We just thought a watch from which a USB cable could be extended out so you have “wearable” storage was cool.

Now? The odd one out (but by no means the weird one) is that Nexus 4. I finally gave up midway through eking out its 3rd year, and with that started the slippery slope of Apple-ifying my technology existence. And as typically happens with current technology, the device performance itself hadn’t super suffered over 2 years of OS updates. The battery, of course, had.

The 2005 philosophy underlying all that technology seems to be storage, storage, storage. Those portable players were the shitz – it was so important to be able to carry it all with you. And, a more subtle point, design. For us, at that point.. design was about the specs. Everything else seemed secondary, coz you could make things work as you wanted them to.

And now. Raw specs and “cool” technology have been replaced by practical considerations: Does it work well? Will it last? Whats the battery like? Is it made well? Is it made in a way that ensures I will use it? 3

But very seriously.. the thing that most jumped out at me when I assembled those photos together? The people in common between them. My erstwhile partner-in-crime, Prasanna, and of course, myself. It’s pretty widely accepted that 10 years is an eon in technology. For 2 of us, this past decade has so been much more. We were kids, really, back in 2005. Barely finished our Masters’ in the UK. We were months away from deciding and launching severeanomaly.org. Living it up online. The arguments and debates we used to have about technology (at least what I can remember of those conversations) seem quaint, almost naive when I think about them. I could talk about how our lives themselves have changed, but there’s too much to list in the space I’ve allotted.

Interestingly though, we still debate such things today. Guess we never learn.

Back to that study in contrasts. Have to wonder if it will be just 3 devices in another 10 years 4.

Written in collaboration with Prasanna, of course. Who does not have a blog anymore. A story for another day.

  1. Yes, the photo on top is mislabeled. Not sure why. 
  2. Back then, Nokia seemed infallible (the N82 will probably always be one of Prasanna’s top devices ever). Today, there is literally no real technology brand associated with the name Nokia. The other big brand from those times: Motorola. Per the latest, we’ll be lucky to see the name ‘Moto’ on devices made by the parent company. 
  3. And, based on our choice.. it appears we believe Apple is the best company in all of those aspects. Latent Mac-tardism, ahoy! (With special acknowledgement of Prasanna, who was previously renowned for his hatred of all things Apple. But then I did say our lives have changed) 
  4. Maybe more though. Kids will want their own [insert future crazy ass technology here], and those will probably join ours on that table? 

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