Dr John Cuthell of MIrandanet likes to ask people what was their 'wow' moment, that nanosecond in which they realised that technology had something truly transformative to offer.
For me, that moment came in 1976. Interestingly, I had already been using technology, but at one remove. I was teaching Economics at the time, and in order to familiarise my students with the vagaries of the stock market, I enrolled them in a game called Stockpiler. The idea was that you were 'given' a certain amount of money, and the students' job was to use that to maximise their profit through the buying and selling of shares.
Each week they would pore over the share prices and, having spent their 'spare' time (I didn't believe in such concepts) in the previous week reading periodicals like The Economist and the newspapers (I'd made sure these were amply available) and then make their decisions.
I would then collect in the forms on which they'd detailed their instructions, and send it off to some central processing place. Around a week later we'd find out how we did.
That was interesting, but it's hard to become excited by the technology when the time between input and output is so high.
About a year after I'd joined the school, a student brought in his computer. He had taught himself to program it, so I asked him to knock up a quick program to emulate a concept called 'the multiplier'. He did so, and the rest of us crowded around the screen. When we saw the numbers responding instantly to the suggestions we threw at him ('Make the interest rate 12%'; 'Lower income tax to zero'), I knew things could never be the same. With this technology it would be possible to model the behaviour of systems and show instantly the effect of changes in inputs on the outcomes.
That was my 'wow' moment. What was yours?
I forgot to say, the reason this blog post came about was that Sandra Crapper and I were discussing this topic, the 'wow' moment, at the BETT Show.