Chris Gabriel takes a look at technology based Christmas gifts and how the IT leaders of the future may well be influenced by what they receive this year.
As Christmas draws closer, ‘pester-power’ is reaching a crescendo. Parents around the world are being nagged to buy the very latest offerings from all manner of sellers hopeful that their product will be the killer gift this year.
A good proportion of those gifts will be technology based, from the now ubiquitous smart phones and tablets, to the latest consoles and games.
This is nothing new. It has been a feature of Christmas for decades. Forty years ago, in 1975, Atari launched the first home console game – Pong, a tennis simulator. Seven years later the Commodore 64 came to the fore (in the UK, the Sinclair Spectrum). For me it was a Dragon 32!
In the end, these technology gifts satisfy one of two types of people; users or adventurers.
The users, obviously, use the device for its intended purpose – playing games, trying out the latest apps, texting and so on. The adventurer, meanwhile, engages in a more creative way – writing programmes and actually developing their own games.
Now I’m not saying that playing games, communicating and socialising online are activities without merit. But I suspect parents would like their children to be digital adventurers and explorers rather than plain digital natives.
This year, two potential gifts mark out the difference between user and adventurer in stark fashion.
This Christmas sees the launch of a new Star Wars film, accompanied by a rather sophisticated action figure (of the robot BB-8). According to the marketing blurb:
“…the app-enabled Droid whose movements and personality are as authentic as they are advanced. Based on your interactions, BB-8 will show a range of expressions and perk up when you give voice commands. Watch your Droid explore autonomously, guide BB-8 yourself, or create and view holographic recordings. BB-8 is more than a toy – it’s your companion.”
Wow! For the ‘user’ that’s quite a prospect. But what about today’s adventurer, the child who will one day create toys like BB-8?
Maybe they will be nagging parents to buy a raspberry Pi based ‘build your own computer and programme it ’ kit – Kano, for instance has produced just such a kit, and is suitable for ages six and up. Once the computer is built, those adventurers can write ‘mods’ for Minecraft and even write their own version of Pong – what goes around…
In forty years time today’s digital adventurer, by then approaching fifty, may well look back and chuckle at the simplicity of a toy that responds to voices and creates holographic images. And, thanks to a relative with foresight, will be grateful that a gift in 2015 set him or her on the path to a successful career in technology leadership.