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Another slow revolution

A quiz question: which of the following means of communication have disappeared since computers started replacing everything: fax, telegram, telex, written letter, direct mail, telegraph, telephone, printed press, analogue radio, black-and-white television or typewriters? Here’s a clue: at least ten of them still exist.

Okay, perhaps the telegraph has disappeared, but even that might still be used occasionally for reporting international cash-transfers. All the others are still used and bought every day. A new electronic typewriter costs about 100 dollars on Amazon, and you can get a new black-and-white television for 40 dollars.

When the car emerged as a mode of transport, the train was going to disappear; when television arrived on the scene, cinemas were going to disappear; when the Internet arrived, newspapers were going to disappear; when social media got here, traditional websites were going to disappear (by the way, nowadays you can use WordPress to very conveniently make a traditional website). And so on. Why do these hip trend-watchers always get it wrong?

Perhaps they aren’t looking very closely at the reality. Google.com was registered in 1997 and the company was founded shortly thereafter. Four years later in 2001, for example, the first article about the emergence of Google appeared in De Gazet van Antwerpen. According to Alexa, Google.com only caught up with Yahoo.com last year as the most visited website in the world, only to then be caught up by Facebook for a while and Twitter is making a strong appearance on the scene now. If one of the strongest brands in the world needs twelve years to completely break through, what does that say about other innovations?

Perhaps the trend-watchers don’t know their classics. Years of research all over the world has shown over and over again that more than 98% of people don’t care much for rapid innovation. It has to be a very attractive offer to buy something completely new, and it has to be a very serious issue to completely get rid of something old. This is why there are only slow revolutions.

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