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Digital Technology then and now

If you’re thinking of studying a degree in Digital Technology, there has never been a more exciting time to start. Studying a course in Digital Technology is a fantastic way to gain insight into the rapidly evolving digital world and learn how modern technological innovation has rebuilt business and infrastructure from the ground up.

In this blog, we’ll dip into the history of Digital Technology, how it has affected our lives, and the exciting future of the digital world.

Samuel Lovesey
Web and Content Assistant (student placement)

Then

Our world today is surrounded by Digital Technology. It is a huge part of day-to-day life for a significant portion of the world’s population - so much so that is hard to imagine life without a mobile phone, a laptop to work on, or a games console to kick back and relax with at the end of the day.

However, this has not always been the case. Digital Technology is so deeply ingrained in our society that it is hard to imagine life without it. Early computers such as the ENIAC, first introduced in 1946, were so large they took up an entire room, and could only perform basic operations that seem relatively trivial when compared to the power of even low-spec computers today. These computers were not built for the everyday user, but instead for trained technicians who used the computers to perform calculations and solve numerical problems. It wasn’t until 1974 that the first true ‘Personal Computer’ was released, targeting a more general audience.

One of the most important advancements in Digital Technology was the introduction of the mobile phone in 1973, followed by the first laptop, the Osborne 1, in 1981. These concepts were gamechangers. The portability of the laptop computer allowed for workers to operate from more locations than just the office, and the mobile phone allowed for an unprecedented new level of adaptive communication for everyone.

Another revolutionary advancement is the widespread deployment of internet connectivity. Introduced in 1991, the World Wide Web has brought us to a new age of connectivity and communication. It has given customers global access to businesses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and has streamlined the transmission of information and knowledge sharing.

Technology in film and sound production was far more basic in the past, compared to what is seen today. Westworld (1973) was a pioneer in the use of Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) within a film environment. However, photorealistic CGI did not win over the motion picture industry until 1989, when James Cameron’s The Abyss won the Academy Award for visual effects. Meanwhile, a key turning point in sound technology was the introduction of Digital Recording and Sony’s Digital Audio Tape in 1987, which was much like the cassettes we have been familiar with since the 60’s but recorded digital audio at 16-bits instead of analogue audio. This allowed for far more consistent playback quality and a potential for wider dynamic range, as well as making it easier to integrate audio into multimedia platforms such as websites and DVD.

Now

Digital Technology has quickly become a cornerstone of international business and commerce. Every organisation has some form of web and digital presence, and many titans of the digital industry, such as Amazon and Google, were founded solely online. ‘Digital Marketing’ is a term that first started to be used in the 1990s, defining the means by which an organisation markets itself and its products or services through digital platforms. It’s just one example of a vital area of business that simply did not exist just a few decades ago.

Film and television has also been transformed by modern Digital Technology. 1995 saw the premiere of Pixar’s Toy Story in California – the world’s first entirely computer-animated feature film. It paved the way for visual effects and animation, spawning huge corporations such as DreamWorks and Blue Sky Studios, who, along with Pixar and Disney, have gone on to produce some of the most critically and financially successful films of all time. Nowadays, visual effects are a pivotal component of every film, regardless of whether the films are animated or live action. Avatar (2009) is a classic example of this at its best, with jaw-dropping visuals and sophisticated 3D modelling. The film is nearly 60% computer generated and is rumoured to have cost £190m and taken over four years to complete. If you’d like to delve more into the use of technology in filmmaking, take a look at our Film Production Technology or Visual Effects courses.

Stunning visual effects and cinematography are the result of perfect harmony between bespoke software and state-of-the-art camera equipment. Cameras such as the Blackmagic and Milo Motion Control Rig are among the most innovative and ground-breaking filming apparatus used by Hollywood today – the latter of which is available for BCU students to use in the on-campus Parkside studios.

The future

If you told someone 50 years ago that it would become common to carry tiny devices in our pockets allowing us to socialise, play games and record high-definition videos, would they believe you? The rate of technological development is incredibly fast and exciting that the future may be hard to imagine.

One thing is for sure, though: the only way is up. It’s no surprise that tech companies are amongst the most valuable in the stock market globally. Advancements in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Quantum Computing mean that in the next few decades we could once again be flipped on our heads, with new ways to connect, build relationships and experience our world through digital means.

Being part of the technological movement is one of the most valuable things you can do, and studying a course related to it will only become more beneficial as time goes on and the industry progresses.

Digital Technology Courses

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