Before photography was invented, people could only see that in front of their eyes. To experience the rest of the world, people had to physically travel, or, if they couldn’t afford it, to use other’s interpretation of remote places via narrative or painting.
That’s why the invention of photography was so huge for the human race. It removed a limit that most people didn’t even thought was there, and it opened the possibility of exploring the physical world beyond our reach.
Today we don’t believe anymore that everything important was already invented, but we have an attitude of cynicism to every new thing that comes along. In 2017 we even have cars that drive themselves, and we aren’t excited at all.
These are two (now) very basic inventions that occurred during my lifetime and changed me forever:
One of the first things that blew my mind when I first experienced the internet back in the 1990s wasn’t the web, or email, but the possibility of connecting with random people all around the world.
I remember chatting with people from Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Philippines, Malaysia, Spain. At the time I hadn’t traveled more than 500km from my hometown, so these conversations always left me in awe, even when they usually went on superficial subjects from “how’s your house/street/city” to “what kind of music do you listen to?”.
The first time I used Google Earth, I felt a mix of excitement with something very similar to fear. It was awe again. I moused all around the sphere on my screen, watching aerial views of famous locations, then known cities, then my house, my relatives houses, my school. In every single step I took, I expected the experience to fail, but every single time, the experience delivered.
When photos were invented, we still needed somebody going places and taking pictures. With the internet chatrooms, we could only talk to people logged in to the same chat room we were in, but with Google Earth, everything was there. Not the necessary stuff, not the important stuff, everything.
Months after that, Google started adding maps, street photos and directions on top of Google Earth. This kind of stuff made the tool practical for everyday use. But at first, Google Earth simply removed a limit we didn’t knew we had. And that was, again, awesome.