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A Very Brief History of the Digital Revolution - Also Known as the Digital Shift

Lovelli has a bachelor’s in the humanities. She, too, wants to apply her computational skills & ponder on the implications of her choices.


The Digital Revolution: Snap! Crackle! Pop!

Between the late 1950s and late 1970s, society began shifting focus from the analog to digital electronics. Computers entered our homes, bringing along with them the video game consoles and the thrill of arcade video games. Why would anyone want to go back to the noisy and fragile analog electronics when there’s the more developed and reliable digital?

A digital system is more precise and immune to noise. By using a scalable system and utilizing redundancy, the same hardware can handle data without degradation. No hardware changes were required to store information.

Analog vs. Digital Filter

Note: every digital circuit is also an analog circuit.



less adaptable

more adaptable


continuous range of amplitude values

finite set of discrete values at uniform spaced points

Type of data



Wave types



Medium of transmission



Type of values










not flexible

flexible in implementation

Data storage

wave signals

binary bits

Data transmission

signal deteriorates due to noise

noise immune, no deterioration

Power consumption

large amount of power

very small amount of power

Recording data

records sound wave as they are

converts into binary waveform

Rate of data transmission


much faster


human voice in air, video, radio/TV transmission waves

text, integers, images, computer format files




The first IBM smartphone, Simon, already had an email feature.

The first IBM smartphone, Simon, already had an email feature.

When you think of the digital revolution, do you immediately think of the increasing number of social media users?

When you think of the digital revolution, do you immediately think of the increasing number of social media users?

A Timeline of the Revolution

Who started it?

The digital revolution was led by big brands and innovators. We witnessed innovators and “the poor man’s” races to patent registrations; scientists making scientific claims; the connected consumers demanding for affordable digital goods and services, and so forth. The digital shift is not just a technological one, it is cultural.

April 3, 1973 - mobile phone

On April 3, 1973 a researcher, Martin Cooper, made the first call from a mobile device. The company he was working for, Motorola, introduced the first mobile phone to the public in 1984 for a cost of $4,000. The charge time for that gadget was 10 hours for every 30-minute use.

The 1980s

  • In the early 1980s, the laptop computer was born.
  • Months later in 1982, the Swedish pop band ABBA produced the first compact disc album to be sold commercially in the stores, titled “The Visitors.” Till this very day the question about whether the ABBA were married to each other remain, but let’s leave that interesting discussion for another time, shall we?
  • The first cell phone was released in the US in 1984.
  • In 1988 the first fully digital camera was released at the Photokina trade fair in Germany. Built by Fujifilm, it was the FUJIX DS-1P, capable of saving up to 10 photos to a semiconductor memory card.
  • Sir Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web while he was working at CERN in 1989. He developed the pre-www hypertext with Robert Cailliau.
ABBA is the first group of artists to have an album released as a compact disc.

ABBA is the first group of artists to have an album released as a compact disc.

The 1990s

  • Only 0.05% of people were using the internet in 1990.
  • In 1992, commercial dial-up internet was made available, and on April 30, 1993, CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) released the World Wide Web software to the public.
  • August 16, 1994, the first smartphone was on sale. The piece was big and unnecessarily expensive. IBM named it Simon. It sold for $1,100 and loaded with the following “apps” and features: address book, calculator, calendar, fax, filer, mail, note pad, sketch pad, time, to-do, and predictive typing.
  • In 1997, the first modern social media site, Six Degrees, was launched.
  • In 1999, the first bluetooth technology (Bluetooth 1.0 specification), was released.

First YouTube Video Upload

The 2000s

  • In 2000, Broadband launches in the United Kingdom. The offer: a much faster internet speed of 512 kbps max using cable broadband.
  • Skype launches in August, 2003, aiming to connect people around the world via video chats and voice calls.
  • A year later, Facebook is born. It is the start of a new age of social media. The name "the facebook" is snatched from flyers distributed by colleges to first-year students.
  • In 2005, YouTube launches with a video at the zoo. The co-founder, Jawed Karim, uploads a clip titled “Me at the zoo” on April 23. The video sharing website gets sold to Google a year later.
  • The iPhone is introduced to the media on January 9, 2007. The smartphone is released to the public a few months later on June 29. It supports third-party applications using the Safari and Web 2.0 applications accessible via the web
  • In 2009, the fused deposition modelling (FDM) printing process patents, owned by Stratasys, expires. The 3D printing technologies themselves have been around since 1980s.
  • Apple launches the iPad in 2010. Tablet computers starts picking up in popularity since then.
  • In 2011, Bitcoin becomes the first fully digital currency to be accepted widely on the internet. Organizations, such as WikiLeaks and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, begins accepting bitcoin donations.
  • Google starts testing driverless cars on public roads in 2012.
  • In 2016, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is made available to consumers. Facebook purchases the design in March 2014, and the design is developed and then manufactured by Oculus VR, a division of the social media company.

The information age

The digital revolution is the beginning of a historic period known as the information age, and this is where we are right now. New jobs and better standards in business were introduced. Our organizational behaviours are now dependent upon digital technologies. And this is just the beginning of our digital transformation.

A few years back, research studies were making predictions about the future of organizations beyond 2015. By 2018, half of all business process jobs (that's 50%) will disappear, while digital jobs will see a 500% increase. The total cost of ownership for business operations will go down 30%, thanks to smart machines and industrialized services.

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If you need more information on business goals and the digital channels, these hubs are for you:

Despite the dramatic increases in access and usage, our organic reach and engagement continues to fall by more than 10 percent year over year.

Now and Then: What's Changed

Yet here we are, and we are unprepared. Workers are not getting hired, because they lack the digital skills. Millions of people are shut out of jobs due to this. In addition to the digital transformation journey, we are also left with menacing issues that did not exist even a decade ago.

A few pressing issues:

  • Out of those that do make it into the digital economy, "many" are staying off the radar, forming a new layer of the hidden economy of online knowledge workers.
  • Our view of education is slowly shifting. The digital revolution demands a culture of learning: lifelong learning, sharing, a sense of community.
  • The threat of automation.
  • A growing workforce now must meet the demands for hybrid jobs, the gig economy, and remote work.
  • Our creatives are relearning how to express themselves digitally and navigate the digital environment to resolve issues related to fair use and fair pay.

The explosion of our online usage

  • There are 4.021 billion internet users in 2018, a 7% increase year over year. The number was 3.385 billion in 2017, and 2.424 in 2012.
  • 55.1% of the world’s population has internet access as of June 2018.
  • The number of social media users in 2018 is 3.19 billion. In 2017 the number was 2.789 billion.
  • The number of mobile phone users is 5.135 billion in 2018, 4.917 billion in 2017, and 3.790 billion in 2016.

Easy As 1-2-3

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. ________ and trademark issues also found new life in the digital revolution.
    • Copyright
    • Public domain
    • Intellectual property
    • Copyright on typefaces
  2. The ________, especially the WWW in the 1990s, opened whole new avenues for communication and information sharing.
    • Email
    • Internet
    • Internet chat
    • World Wide Web
  3. Digital technology, breaks the signal into binary format, where data is represented by a series of 1s & 0s.
    • True
    • False

Answer Key

  1. Copyright
  2. Internet
  3. True

Sources and further reading

© 2018 Lovelli Fuad


Angel Harper on October 05, 2018:

Very interesting!

RsotoService on October 04, 2018:

I would like to thank you for your information and I wish you a good day.

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