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Are companies working on brand-new technologies anymore?

Diane Hall


music cassette next to an iPhone with EarPods on top of it

They say that the shelf life of a mobile phone or laptop is roughly two years. After this time, the operating systems become noticeably slower.

Some people believe that this slowing down is programmed into the device by the manufacturer, so that you’ll get so fed up with waiting for things to load/work, you’ll upgrade your tech to the latest version.

Think over the many versions of the iPhone Apple has released. On some models, there have been noticeable introductions of new technology, but it has to be said that some models have been mere upgrades to their predecessors, i.e. a slightly better camera, a slightly faster internal processor, etc. Whilst consumers still appreciate these things, they’re not ground-breaking new inventions; most new iPhones simply seem to benefit Apple’s profits than make an impact on the lives of the people who shell out yet another grand to purchase them.

Since the turn of the century, we haven’t had as many technological breakthroughs as we did in the twenty years prior, which saw:

  • The recording of television via VHS/Betamax machines

  • The introduction of mobile music, via the Sony Walkman

  • The ability to pause live TV via Sky, then being able to record programmes directly from its menu without the need for a video recording machine

  • The introduction of cable channels and programmes from other countries

  • PDAs and pagers help people stay in touch on the move, before the mobile phone revolutionised communications all over again

  • The introduction of dial-up internet

  • The first computers being introduced; this included the launch of the Apple Mac and the Windows operating system

  • Gaming introduced as a pastime, via the Atari and Commodore machines, before Sony and Nintendo improved on these with the Playstation and the GameBoy

  • The introduction of compact discs; this then led to the introduction of DVDs

  • E-commerce introduced to the general public, with Amazon and eBay leading the way

  • Adobe launch their Photoshop application

A collection of old and modern storage devices technology

A collection of old and modern storage devices technology

Though, in the last twenty years, some new technologies have been introduced—such as social media, the smartphone, the electric car and broadband—much of the innovation we’ve seen has centred on the advancement of technology already in existence. Companies seem more focused on making things smaller, faster, sleeker, and with greater capacity/functions, than inventing anything new. When you compare these developments against the list above, today’s tech is not as revolutionary in nature. 

I can remember all of the above, and just being able to pause live TV to go to the loo or put the kettle on brought such an impact to our daily lives. How the world changed from 1980 – 2000 was like a whirlwind…as soon as we got used to the ‘next big thing’, the ‘next, next big thing’ was on our doorstep waiting to be used. 

You could be forgiven for thinking that there’s nothing left to invent, but how do you know what could be the next amazing technological breakthrough until it’s been invented? How do you know what you don’t know?! 

The wheel of true innovation does seem to have slowed in recent years—is this because companies are putting profit ahead of creating brand-new technologies?

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