I’ve been on vacation for the last few weeks on Cape Cod. Beautiful location, incredible weather, serious quality time with my family. But it’s not like vacation used to be. This may because I’ve run my own company for 19 years and an entrepreneur’s job never stops, but a big portion is due to the way that communications technology has evolved over the last 20 years. I thought it would be fun to take a stroll down the vacation memory lane.
I had bought my first cell phone in 1995 and you could make calls on it in many places (even back then Verizon had the best coverage). Laptops were rare. The English company I was working for had a handful of German “laptops” that looked like suitcases and weighed 15 pounds, which were doled out to salespeople when they hit the road and were certainly not something you were expected to have with you on vacation.
My company had recently launched this newfangled thing called a website and we were not provided with email addresses. My boss and I (early adopters that we were) had our own email addresses, and they weren’t AOL addresses. We were hardcore and had direct to the “Internet” access and didn’t have to go through a gated community like AOL or Compuserv. I didn’t check my email while I was on vacation…I couldn’t. I may have called into the office once or twice. I did however, get a great tan and read a lot of books.
Blackberry anyone? Things moved quick and I had email on my phone! My laptop weighed 6 pounds, Windows XP was out and solid, but my laptop still didn’t make it on vacation because the place we rented didn’t have Wifi…really most people didn’t if you can believe it. I turned on my “out of office” response, but still checked my work emails all the time (it was still somewhat novel at the time….you couldn’t do it on flip phones). Email had quickly become a dominant form of business communications and cell coverage was better. Web conferencing was available, but still rare. Texting was starting to explode, but not easy (who wanted to click the number 2 three times to write ‘C’).
You were always available for calls, but on the upside you could play Breakout, Tetris and Solitaire on your phone. I still read a lot of books. Made out of paper.
The devices made the trip. My wife and I both had iPhones and I brought my first generation iPad and my laptop. The first thing we did was connect everything to Wifi. Unpacking could wait.
Vacation sort of started seeming like ‘work lite’. Still checked email all the time (on multiple devices) and responded to important ones. Key team members would text me in an emergency. Important sales calls or customer meetings were easy to pull off with mutliple web conferencing systems (WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc.) that required downloads, but worked well. You still had to call into them though…VoIP calling was often a jitter-fest on web conferencing platforms.
Video was nowhere to be found, except maybe Facetime, but that wasn’t a business thing (and still isn’t). I still read books, but did it on the iPad. Unfortunately, that kept me one click away from being connected to work.
The family packed 4 iPhones, 2 ipads, 2 Chromebooks and a couple of Kindles (so we can read books in the sun without being distracted by work). Unified Communications and web conferencing is ubiquitous. Collaboration solutions still mostly require a download, but WebRTC is sniffing at the door and the friction associated with collaboration is disappearing. Presence, IM, Texting, email, VoIP connectivity, a myriad of apps for every situation are available on every device (like my meditation app to help me stay centered in a world of non-stop communications). Cloud has changed everything. There is no difference between working at the office and working on the road. I didn’t even turn my ‘out of office’ reply on my email. Why bother?
Video is right on the edge of being a part of most meetings, but in my experience participants hesitate because of inconsistent performance, bandwidth issues, not wanting to, etc.. I’m confident the next entry in this timeline will say that video is part of every meeting we want it to be part of.
You have to make an effort to compartamentalize work. I try to arrange all meetings before noon, so I can carve aside time for fun. I still brought a paper book with me. A biography on Einstein. When I have a chance to sit with it for an hour or two, it makes me feel like I’m on vacation.
What about you. What are the memories you have around communications tech and vacations. Let me know in the comments section.