Software

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Tech history repeats itself

Facebook phobia is a carbon copy of what happened to email

Written in the bar of a hotel in Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia and despatched via a free wi-fi service in the lobby.

This morning I was talking to an industry leader in the USA about recruiting young people and he grumbled that they didn't even know what 'cc' (carbon copy) and 'bcc' (blind carbon copy) meant.

He then went on to complain these young candidates used texting and Facebook to communicate instead of email.

His comments took me back to a world long gone when we had typewriters and typing pools. That world started to disappear as soon as people began complaining about anyone who continued to write letters instead of using email.

Remember all those facile media and education debates about letters and paper being better than email? What a waste of time.

But it appears we never learn. The next phase of technology has prompted a repeat performance but this time texting and Facebook are the media being denigrated.

Just for fun I decided to conduct an experiment and walked over to a stationery supplier to search for some carbon paper. Of course I couldn't find any and I asked the young assistant if they had some.

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Her retort set me back a little. "Carbon what?" she exclaimed. And then she proceeded to call the senior manager. He seemed to have a vague memory of such a product but that was a long time ago and they hadn't stocked any since then.

Why then would we expect young people to get it? Just what value is cc and bcc in their lives? They conduct their affairs, rightly or wrongly, in a spirit of freedom and openness.

I was moved to try a further experiment, asking young people at random what they thought carbon and blind carbon copies were. I received some wonderful replies.

Many admitted they didn't have a clue, while others went down the road of genetics and embryo research. The most amusing account was that bcc must be the result of some tragic genetic experiment that went wrong.

It all brought a smile to my face. I had to concede that they might just have a point.

Clearly at senior levels in industry we are seeing a failure to evolve with the technology. The new breed of tech-savvy recruits are gradually producing a mutation of the established business world that can only grow with time.

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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