The “please turn off and store your electronic devices for landing” announcement had just been heard and our plane was rapidly descending into Columbus at 500 miles per hour.  At that moment, my phone vibrated and I realized that with all the bells and whistles of my favorite new “smart” phone I hadn’t correctly turned it off before takeoff.  I took out my phone and saw that I’d just received an email at some 5,000 feet off the ground!  Imagine that…

Back in the day, when I was first learning to write building evaluation reports, we would drop off our rolls of film at the 1-hour photo store on the way back from the site visit, so that we could buy our triple sets of 35mm color prints (one for our files, one for each hardcopy of the report) and, once developed, we could spread out the photos on the conference room table, sort them into groups, and slowly flip through them as we wrote the report during the next few weeks.  (Yes, they took weeks to write….)

Then we all had to start remembering to clip the little plastic box to our belt whenever we left for work in the morning that would beep when someone was trying to reach us and we could actually receive their phone number in space-age slanty rectangular numbering barely visible in the sunlight.

The next thing we all knew, we were able to receive a written letter on inexplicably thin rolls of Jetsons-esque heat sensitive paper within a few minutes of it being sent from the other side of the country!  Sure you couldn’t leave the paper in your car for too long in the sun otherwise it would self destruct into a horrific mess of brown splotchiness, but it was remarkable!

At some point we young kids in the industry were championing the convenience of carrying around handfuls of floppy discs for our state-of-the-art digital cameras that only weighed a few pounds, and older engineers were yelling some version of “you kids get off of my lawn!” while they resisted putting away their 35mm cameras since it would disrupt their spread-the-photos-out-on-the-conference-table technical writing process.

During the past two decades we’ve seen such amazing technological progress in the tools of the trade.  Now armed with laser tools, digital cameras, smart phones and iPods attached to our utility belts and carrying touch screen tablets while on site we look more and more like the futuristic superheroes of efficiency that we feel like when we recognize a unique building condition and know we’ve already written a very succinct and award-winning paragraph about that exact deficiency on a previous report that we can simply cut and paste into this week’s report.  What a wonderful feeling!

1-hour photo stores, facsimiles, pagers, digital cameras… this list goes on and on.  I can’t wait to see what we develop next…. Emails on my phone at an altitude of 5,000 feet?  I’m sure that will be no big deal next year.  But today, it seems very exciting.  What’s next?  Dogs that can read?