The Game Changer Print E-mail
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Written by Peter Bigelow   
Thursday, 31 May 2012 14:47

Technology isn’t a vision unto itself; it’s the vehicle for even better ideas.

Technology and vision are words that conjure imagination, have a mystique that challenges one’s creativity and are synonymous with our extended electronics industry. Regrettably, however, I must report that they are also sorely missing from day-to-day life.

I know, I know, we are the industry of technology. The vision of Moore’s Law saw birth in the electronics industry. Every device that we hold, look at, speak to – not to mention those devices that connect other devices together – are examples of cutting-edge technology our industry developed, refined and made readily available. I am proud to be a (small) part of the mosaic known as printed circuit boards that is an integral piece of the fabric we all think of as vision and technology.
But that’s not the technology and vision I’m referring to!

Vision is dreaming about the unthinkable – the game changer – the things we only dream about. Technology is developing new, improved tools that enable transforming a vision into reality. Technology makes vision a reality, while vision sparks the ingenuity to create technology.

If you can embrace those definitions of technology and vision, then sit back and think about the stuff we have been creating for the past quarter century. Yes, neat stuff! Gadgets and game-changing ways to improve communication, lifestyle, comfort. But, with all due respect for Messrs. Jobs, Gates, et al, are any of these “new” technologies we have diligently toiled to create really items that are “unthinkable”? Are the technologies being developed transformational? I increasingly think not.

For the past several generations we have been blessed to have benefited from – and been awed by – true visionaries who dared to think the unthinkable. During the first half of the 19th century, the unthinkable was self-propelled transportation, from which technology was created to enable steam and, later, gasoline engines. During the latter half of that century, the unthinkable was a tool for instantaneous communication. This vision led to the telegraph, then telephone and finally wireless radio. Transportation and communication were truly revolutionized, inspiring and enabling future generations.

During the first half of the 20th century, the unthinkable vision was the concept that a machine could be made to transport people in the air over long distances, high mountains, and deep oceans. A technology called airplanes transformed that unthinkable vision into reality. During the next half-century, the unthinkable was to send a man into the unknown expanse of space, off the earth. With confidence inspired by those from previous generations, an unthinkable vision challenged us to “send a man to, and safely return him from, the moon.” And as daunting a task as that vision appeared, it was accomplished only by developing unthinkable technology to achieve an equally unthinkable vision – all within 10 years from the date that challenge was first made!

In each case, over a period of very different eras, consider the obstacles that were overcome. Imagine the game-changing results achieved from committing to making an unthinkable vision reality by applying the best minds and effort to create the technology to make it all happen. Maybe I’m naive, but talking on my BlackBerry, looking at my iPad or even using directions provided by my GPS seems more an extension of what I have been doing for years, rather than providing the “wow” factor “visionary” technology brings.

But maybe that’s because I am of an age that can remember being herded into a school auditorium to watch on TV those early space flights. And I remember hearing those even older than I recall when Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, the first to make the unthinkable nonstop solo flight across an ocean. Those were the technological marvels of truly game-changing vision!

I wish the current generation had such lofty dreams, unthinkable vision that provided the lust that drives game-changing technology. I question if they could have such vision, as they are a generation that experienced many technological advances – and are continuing to push the bar higher – but they never have experienced that real “wow” factor of seeing, experiencing, being a part of making an unthinkable vision – a lofty dream – into reality, a reality that truly changed the game and created a whole new paradigm.

Maybe we need to rethink what we are all working on and why. Maybe we need to send a message that if government is going to blow trillions in taxpayer monies, rather than saving a currency, a bank or the status quo, that money would be better invested in fulfilling a crazy dream, an unthinkable vision. We all need something to challenge our intelligence and our imagination. That is what we should be measuring those two simple words “vision” and “technology” against.
And if we use our imagination, think outside the box, pretend we are young again, there are unthinkable challenges in technology worth the vision and worthy of investment. I would gladly trade all my i-Stuff for a transporter like they had on Star Trek to “beam me” to my destination without needing to deal with traffic, airports or loss of time. Not your thing? Open your mind and dream.

Until an unthinkable vision truly captures the imagination of the masses, and the commitment is made to develop the technology necessary to make it happen, the status quo will continue to see incremental improvements. Moore’s Law will prevail; things will get smaller and faster – and like a closet, we will consume that incremental speed and size with more of the same. For most of us that will provide opportunity, and existing technical capability will continue to be adaptable. As has been the case, we as an industry will continue to chug along, moving from continent to continent as we seek the most cost-effective venue to adapt our technology. But imagine, just for a moment, what if?

Peter Bigelow is president and CEO of IMI (; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . His column appears monthly.

Last Updated on Friday, 01 June 2012 14:54


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