Digital Technology in the 21st Century

Digital Technology in the 21st Century

Troy J. Strader (Drake University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-877-3.ch015
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Have digital technologies reached their full potential? It seems pretty clear that the answer is no. ?All aspects of digital technology continue to evolve as scientists make discoveries, managers incorporate these discoveries into their products and services, government agencies utilize new technologies to improve service provision and information management, and social scientists investigate the impact these new technologies may have on social interaction, the global economy, and society as a whole. This chapter describes recent developments in a range of digital technology areas including input devices, output methods, storage technology, process technology, and various applications including enhancement of the sensory rich environment enabled by digital technology, deep Web search, online language translation, improved security methods, automated payment systems, and interplanetary Internet. Impacts on broader societal institutions such as healthcare, government services, higher education, political campaigns, cybercrime law enforcement, and life at home are also identified. Digital technology trends and implications for digital product managers are discussed as well as directions for future research.
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Most digital technologies fall into one of the following categories: input technology, process technology, output technology, storage technology, telecommunications technology, multimedia protocols, software applications, and Internet/Web protocols and applications. Figure 1 describes the relationship between these digital technologies and lists some common examples available at the end of the previous century.

Figure 1.

Common digital technologies in the late 20th century


Each of these examples is a big improvement over the earliest digital technologies available in the 1940s and 1950s (Turban & Volonino, 2010). Early input and storage methods involved punch cards and magnetic tapes. They were slow, took a lot of space, and only supported the simplest forms of sequential file processing. Early processors used vacuum tubes that were large, hot, unreliable, and used a lot of electricity. Output may have used a slow teletype-like printout. And in this earliest digital age, there was no Internet so there were no applications such as e-mail or the Web. Networking of individual computers was very rare and involved costly, slow, unreliable connections. Given the explosion of individual computing activities that occurred after the commercialization of the Internet in the early to mid 1990s, most people understand the basic capabilities and limitations of current digital technology as shown in Figure 1. People use digital technologies not only in computers, but also televisions, cameras, phones, music players, and many other devices. What is not as well known is that many exciting new technologies are currently being developed which will impact our lives in the early part of the 21st century.

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