An Event Apart marked its 10th birthday by asking friends and collaborators to look back and remember what they were doing back in 2006. They shared the results in four installments: one, two, three, and four. Here’s my contribution:
Ten years ago, I lived in Paris, where I designed websites and built a designer-friendly content management system.
Back then, I assumed that digital interfaces would always sit inside a big box on my desk. I naively assumed the web would always be tied to screens. Now I design digital interfaces for phones, living rooms, cars, clothing, jewelry, and asthma inhalers.
Ten years ago, my watch couldn’t tell me the weather. When I asked my living room to “turn on the lights,” it ignored me. I watched my favorite TV shows in agonizing weekly intervals, an hour at a time. When I needed a car to take me somewhere, I had to go into the street and wave my arm at yellow automobiles. Keeping in touch with friends required individual communication via phone call, email, or ink scratchings on a sheet of wood pulp. A tweet was the sound a bird made.
Ten years ago, my primary phone plugged into the wall. People left messages on a recording device that sat next to it. I occasionally typed text messages into a cell phone, using a keyboard labeled 0–9.
Ten years ago, there were two screens in my life: my PC and my TV. Now I have eight. When friends went out to dinner, none of us looked at our phones, ever. When I browsed the web, I didn’t see the same ad following me everywhere. There wasn’t a microphone in my living room allowing one of the world’s biggest companies to listen to everything I say. I didn’t feel beholden to my bracelet to walk a certain amount of steps per day.
2006 still seems like yesterday, but since then, technology has changed the entire fabric of our lives. Through it all, An Event Apart shined a bright light not only on the best techniques for crafting that technology, but the values that should shape it. Thank you, AEA, and happy birthday. You look just great.