Monday, December 19, 2011

what's the next big idea?

My niece and I were recently having a conversation about the next big entrepreunal idea. She was lamenting the fact that she and I, budding bakers, totally missed out on the cupcake craze (cupcakes in lieu of wedding cakes, remember that?) which apparently is now dwindling down, much to the chagrin of the many who invested their life-savings in cupcakes-only bakery stores. So essentially, we dodged a bullet there, unless we had become really famous and had our own TV show by now, it coulda happened! We also acknowledged that we were probably too late to get on the food truck* bandwagon, not that it would have made any difference since neither of us are good cooks, by any standard, in a regular-fully-staffed kitchen, never mind the claustrophobic and awkward prep space in the back of a moving vehicle.

*For the uninitiated and/or un-Lalaland citizenry, food trucks were quick to replace (in reputation and bottom-line dollars) a LOT of brick and mortar traditional eateries, here in sunny southern California. They mostly cater specialty items, and those who have "made" it seem to have quite a loyal following.

She of the ripe old age of 18, was wondering what would be big next, so that she could hop on board and reap its first (and handsomer) rewards. At 18, I was having my first and massive existential angst, not entrepreneurial pangs, have times changed that much?

Which led me to ponder about my --and millions of other's-- favorite life-changing ideas of the last few decades, most of them sponsored by the magic that is technology. More specifically, computer technology.

I remember when I was doing my undergrad computer programming on this monstrously huge machine which covered my entire desk, in DOS, the internet as we know it now was not even a glint in Bill Gates' dad's eyes. Okay, I'm exaggerating. Bill was probably in a basement or garage somewhere plotting his future empire, or had maybe even set up his first building by then, I haven't kept track... but you get the gist of it. Then came Windows 93, following by Windows 95, etc, etc. Ahhh, the pleasure of not having to type up EVERY freaking command, but have files, you know, FILES, to click at. So much jubilation ensued!

What about cell phones, you ask? You do ask very good questions! My first cell phone was about 10 lbs (okay I don't remember but it was heavy alright?) and I had to carry an almost similar size battery which I would need to replace after about 10 minutes of talking-time (again, given with a grain of salt, to be taken likewise). Let me put it this way: we had no FaceTime or Skype on it :: gasp:: the inhumanity!

What was a relatively large machine that you strapped to your shoulder, along with its battery pack, and had to rewind when your cassette ended (anyone remember the Walkman or am I really THAT old?) is now a tiny little ipod, and you can fit like five of them in the palm of one hand. You don't have to wait for your song to come on the radio or MTV anymore, you can download it and make it yours forever, with one click!

With the tablets, the satellite spectrums, the possibly soon-to-be-available hologram keyboards, what's left to do? We can already look up people, contractors, maps, weather, and ideas instantly from anywhere. We can sell and buy things from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. We can store 30,000 books in one little flat device that fits in our purses. We can communicate immediately, i.e. our message is sent even before it is fully formed in our head (remember the Telex that the Fax made obsolete in the mid 80s?). We can even watch TV, without commercials whenever we chose (Who remembers not making any other plans and waiting for Sunday nights to watch the latest episode of Dynasty? Having to wait to do all of our talking and snack-bringing during the commercials?) My DVR-generation daughter doesn't understand the concept of waiting for a televised show, but then again she tries to operate any electronics I give her by touch. (She automatically moves her finger on the screen to change it and gets genuinely surprised when it doesn't.)

The QR code for my blog... neat huh?

The other day, Jon Stewart was making fun of a stamp-sized bar code-ish new application that gave exclusive access on one's iPhone to more information. You take a picture of the code with your smartphone and bingo! you are directly connected to the website embedded in the code. I have started seeing the very same QR codes propagating everywhere. Is that the next It thing?

As it is now, every time I am trying to catch up a friend to the happenings in my life, I find that I quote my blog more and more (I already wrote about it, carefully selecting my words for maximum impact and story telling fluency, why must I repeat myself and mess up the story, on the fly?) Are we going to successfully reduce entire conversations to a simple website address? Will we stop using words altogether? Will pixelated images be our new language? I have one of those already on my iPhone to pay for my usual Venti Vanilla Soy Half-Caf Latte and, for illustration purposes, just created one for you that leads you back to here. Should I get one for each memory or each thought?

So what do you think is the next big idea? But more importantly, how can my niece make some money off it?


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