It’s amazing how times have changed. A couple of decades ago, that was the joke. For those of you reading this who are too young to know or remember, a VCR, or Video Cassette Recorder, was what we had to use back then to record our favorite TV Show if we couldn’t watch it live. This was before TIVO, Youtube or Netflix. Viewers had to look up the schedule in a weekly publication of when their favorite shows were playing, and program the VCR to record the live TV show, so they could watch at a later time.
The process typically required clicking a few buttons to update the date and time setting reflected on a small LCD screen on the front of the VCR. It wasn’t too different from updating the time on a digital wrist watch. The thing is, most people didn’t know how to do it. It was considered very complex at the time. People would say “I can’t program my VCR” to imply they didn’t know much about technology, or some would make that statement to imply someone was not technical at all.
Skip two plus decades to today and it’s amazing how many of us are performing much more complex tasks daily on our smartphones. Anyone today can schedule reminders on their calendars, send emails with attachments, respond to text messages with pics, perform online banking, change phone settings, download and delete apps and many more activities. User interfaces have evolved considerably over the years and they are much more intuitive. But it is also true that people are much more comfortable with technology today, and less afraid to try new things.
In addition, there is a shift towards doing things ourselves rather than relying on others. Almost every service is available for us to do today on our own, without any help from experts, which many people relied on back then to program their VCRs, like tech support, banking, sharing information, publishing content, researching topics, going through airport customs, checking in for flights, and on and on. We can even print our own products now with 3D printers. Outside of a few remaining government controlled services (printing our own passport for example) there aren’t many services that we as consumers/business users have not been empowered to perform on our own, or that there isn’t already a startup working on a way to enable us to do it.
In fact, business app development, which was once a frontier that was thought to be too complex for the average person to attempt, and reserved only for programmers, is now available for everyone. With the advent of low-code and no-code software platforms, anyone can learn to build business and mobile apps, and many companies have purchased platforms to empower their “citizen developers,” as they are referred to today, to create business apps that automate and digitize internal processes. Business users are now building apps to manage their business workflows, regulatory compliance processes, forms, workflows, and data.
A great question today would be, “how many of us would be able to program a VCR 20 years ago?”