Emerging Technology

During the last 10 or so years, the large number and variety of digital devices available to people in Australia is changing their behaviour a great deal. Online Banking, once looked upon with suspicion has been widely adopted as has online purchases. Online banking is one way technology, and in particular the internet, is changing our lives. A decade ago there were over fifteen thousand more bank branches. Today, every computer connected to the internet can be an access point to a bank. Even smart phones and tablets have this capability now.  Internet users can be their own bank tellers.

What else has changed in the last decade or so?

Email was a novelty but today it is one of the most common forms of communication. Mobile phones were large, expensive, analogue and not as reliable. Newspapers are now regularly read online. TV can be watched on computers. The internet is a key research tool. SMS text messages are commonplace, and can now be sent and received from some fixed phones. The internet can be used to make cheap long-distance phone calls. PDAs and mobile phones act as digital cameras and can be used for video conferencing.

What factors helped these changes to happen?

A decade or more ago, Australian communication systems started the change from analogue to digital signals. Unlike analogue, digital signals may be stored, sent and received any number of times without any loss in quality.

Around four decades ago, the internet began with a few computers connected for research purposes. At this point, internet was mainly text based and required specialist knowledge to use effectively. By the start of the 1990s, internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee had come up with an idea called the World Wide Web, a system for organising and access the online information that made using the internet much easier. He also devised a web browser and editor called WorldWideWeb. In 1991 he posted a summary of the World Wide Web on an internet newsgroup and launched the web as a publicly available internet service. In 1993 a GUI web browser called Mosaic was developed. This became the first widely popular web browser (available for PCs and Macs), and is commonly credited with aiding the internet boom of the ’90s. Web browsers made the internet a user-friendly device for information transfer, storage and retrieval.

Communications technology improved at the same time and became more available to individuals as well as businesses. We are rapidly moving to replace copper cabling with the faster fibre optic cables.

Today, it is easy to see the results of these changes. Over seventy per cent of Australian homes have an internet connection, and the use of broadband is growing rapidly. There are even more homes with DVD players, digital cameras and computers. These devices all have large amounts of memory and are cheaper, smaller and easier to use than in the past. However, we still need to boost the speed of our broadband to match other parts of the globe, such as the USA.

With these changes have come challenges. Cybercrime has spread, intellectual property is under threat on many fronts and devices are becoming obsolete much more quickly.

It is conceivable that the internet will eventually merge with the phone system, TV and other digital networks. Within a decade, it is believed that most Australian homes will have a continuous internet connection via extremely fast broadband such as the NBN, making these connections almost instantaneous.

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