Digital age is a term that refers to the period of time in which computer technology became part and parcel of everyday life. This time period began with the popularization of the personal computer during the late 1970s. In 1991, the World Wide Web was launched, making the information highway available to all. A decade later, the digital age exploded as companies vied to create smaller computers and to market newer and better smart phones.
Computers and computer technology have entered the daily lives of people all over the world. The digital age has had an impact on every facet of human life. Computer technology affects commerce, education, socialization and communication.
The arrival of the digital age meant that by the beginning of the 21st century, most people had become conversant with technology and had made it a part of daily life. By the year 2000, the majority of people could send a fax, leave a voice message, send electronic mail, use a machine to deposit a check or could create a document or spreadsheet. Portable cell phones were in use by almost everyone.
The digital age revolutionized home life. Technology meant that people everywhere possessed push-button phones, microwaves, washing machines, and home entertainment systems. Getting instant results became as easy as pushing a button. Bank transactions could be made without ever leaving the house. Almost every home now had a computer. Computers also became portable enough in the form of laptop computers and net books, so that people could and did begin to carry computers everywhere.
Keeping house and raising children changed in a radical fashion with the advent of the digital age. Housewives could now program a microwave to defrost or cook a meal. Children were adept at picking up computer skills and could use computers to research and carry out school work. Children also learned to use computers for gaming and socialization.
The ability to access online information meant that private citizens could shop, read the news, get a weather report, review stock reports, receive travel information, access sports scores, and read movie reviews without leaving their home offices. Music buffs could download music. Budding film makers were able to upload movies that could be seen by anyone anywhere in the world. The immediacy of what could be accessed and shared was stunning.
The digital age had a major impact on educational institutions. In the United States alone, 96 percent of schools were using computers as teaching tools by the end of the 1990s. Having computers in the classroom meant that schools could offer a greater variety of media to enhance student stimulation and participation.
Office automation, as a way to improve the way people use and manage business information, is one of the major benefits of the digital age. Every office worker could now have a personal computer as well as computer peripherals such as copiers that double as fax machines and telecommunications equipment that allows global communication, free of charge.
Offices are able to use much less paper in the digital age, since data can be transmitted through email and over the World Wide Web. Companies have been able to expand their workforces on a global level, hiring workers in other countries, since communication is easy and inexpensive or free of charge. Less office space is needed, since many workers can now work from home, and this is also a cost-saving benefit of the digital age.
In spite of all these benefits, the digital age is not without challenges. Lawmakers are working on a way to govern Internet copyright laws and to protect the rights of private citizens in terms of the information they share intentionally or inadvertently. Credit card and other private information can be stolen, and the work of musicians easily pirated. Newspaper sales have withered away now that the news can be accessed online for free. Viruses and other malware have been a constant challenge as well as an asset that has obstructed at least one country from reaching the position to engage in nuclear warfare.
Many bemoan the limiting effect that the digital age has had on interpersonal relationships. Children would rather chat and socialize online than meet friends in person. Couples spend less time talking to each other as they engage in social networking and addictively check their email. Parents and children spend less time together and more time on their computers.
The stunning impact of the digital age has changed life as it was, probably forever. As technological know-how increases, humans continue to struggle to keep up with the newest trends in data and in gadgetry. Families are learning to place limits on computer use in order to preserve a way of life that is too precious to sacrifice on the altar of technology.