My pager bleeped the other day, and a message came through: it was talking about the popularity of the NES Classic, which sold out in (null) seconds before Christmas. And how Stranger Things was the biggest TV event last year, dragging Dungeons & Dragons with it (from the Upside Down) as a thing that people actually did outside of the IT Crowd. Is it any wonder, the next thing I find out cassette tapes sales are up 140%?
By their very nature, digital/tech/media events are mostly in a race to be the most future-gazing. Having worked on a number over the years, I tried to imagine something a little different.
We do a lot of looking forward these days, but not so much looking back. Maybe we feel there's no time to trawl through the past? Or perhaps it’s just another symptom of an industry, or even a wider culture fixated on the new. Anyone who's found the term ‘millenials’ grating (or even misguided) might know what I'm on about.
We’ve heard lots of speculation about the latest crop of unicorns, but where are the stories about previous waves of growth (and shake downs) in tech to put them into context?
Occasionally, they pop through: like last year’s demise of UK fintech firm Powa, provoking some discussion around its CEO’s activities at the time of the last bubble. But generally in terms of what we talk about, you'd be forgiven for thinking we're living in a kind of future filter bubble.
All of which leads me to the idea for this event: instead of asking speakers and delegates to look to the future, we point the beam back to how we got to where we are: the past, where personal computing, gaming and mobile technologies all began.
To take one example, just look at some of very obvious parallels between the mid-90s and now. Like in the re-emergence of virtual reality, whose first wave was a massive flop (anyone remember the Nintendo's entry into VR?)
It’s my belief that looking into the reasons behind past failures not only helps us see how we’ve changed since, but also how the future tech landscape might look – and by extension, whether the current crop of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive etc. will themselves make a splash, or go the way of the Virtual Boy (not to mention the QR code).
Just to be clear... Future Past is just an event concept at this stage... But I think the idea could also lend itself to a wide range of other uses.