Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Web Secret #170: 9/11/01 - 9/11/11

Sunday we will be acknowledging the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

If you were over 5 years old on that day, it is very likely that you know exactly where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing when you realized the magnitude of the disaster.

Television coverage of the attacks, and their aftermath was the longest uninterrupted news event in the history of U.S. television. The major broadcast and cable networks were on the air for days with constant coverage, from the moment the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City.

The around-the-clock coverage lasted for 93 hours. That equals 24 hours of coverage for nearly four full days. Many Americans watched for a large percentage of that time, huddled around sets with friends and family, colleagues at work, even complete strangers in other public venues.

Most of the technology we use today didn’t exist in 2001 or had so little market penetration as to have an insignificant impact on our daily lives. So in 2001, if you wanted to know what was happening in real time – you had to watch TV.

This is what has happened since then:

2001 – 32% of Americans used cell phones.
2011 – more than 90% use them.

2001 – less than 60% of US households owned a personal computer.
2011 – more than 80% own them.

2001 – 34% of Americans had a wireless connection to the Internet in their homes.
2011 – 93% have a wireless connection.

2001 – Google, what’s that? It was just founded in 1998.
2011 – Google processes over one billion search requests every day.

2001 – Facebook, what's that? It was not founded until 2004.
2011 – Facebook has more than 600 million active users.

2001 – Twitter, what's that? It was not launched until 2006.
2011 – Twitter has over 190 million account holders, generating 65 million tweets a day.

And so on, and so forth. I could have used dozens of additional examples.

I am aware of two other national tragedies that have served as historical markers during my lifetime:

• President John F Kennedy’s assassination: Nov. 22, 1963.
• Space shuttle Challenger blows up: Jan. 28, 1986.

Neither of these events was followed by a technological revolution of the magnitude we have experienced since 9/11. Take a moment, and compare the decades: 1963-1973 and 1986-1996, to 2001-2011. See what I mean?

As I write this, there is a catastrophic
earthquake/war/famine/economic meltdown
somewhere in the world

I can watch it unfold on Google News, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Oh, and I get texted about it, too.

I still watch some TV news – but only for about a dozen minutes, as I get ready in the morning, and just before bedtime.

Have we lost a sense of community, because we are not huddled together around a TV set?

Or have we actually enhanced our world community because there are so many new ways to communicate our thoughts and follow news events live?

All I know is, when it comes to technology, September 11, 2001, is a lifetime ago.

We now live in exponential times.

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