The Changing Landscape of the Commuter

The Changing Landscape of the Commuter

I have been a commuter for the past 20 years and I have had a lot of time to observe the small train eco-system. Over the years, it has been an incredible platform (excuse the pun!) to witness the general public's shifts in mentality and how technology has reached all areas of their lives.

When I first started to commute all you had was 'huffers and puffers' (men in pin-stripped suits with broadsheets shifting for positional superiority, and using their elbow to establish a cordon around them), the ‘nodders’ (nearly, but not quite falling over), guys reviewing stacks of paperwork with a big fluorescent marker looking all self important, and the rest were just lost in books (each trying to ‘out-book’ each other with the latest bestseller).

Then the mobile phone landed and we had to put up with the ‘Dom Joly’ character. All you could hear was "I'm on the TRAIN!” being shouted down brick-sized phones by blokes saying"'look at me, look at me!"

But we moved on from that eventually and went on to witness the guys with the first laptops. They were the size of a dinner tray, thick as bricks, and had the annoying habit of dropping power just at the wrong moment.

The Sony Walkman was the first to delight us with annoying headphone noises. Today, it’s a cacophony of ringtones, beeps, clicks and ticks, as texting becomes the norm.

You can’t stop the march of evolution, and my commute continues to provide endless opportunities to observe people. What I see today are white Apple headphones through out the carriage, their users’ heads pointing down at a small device. What on earth are they all doing? Playing a small bird game perhaps? Listening to music, texting, feeding their Facebook addiction… take your pick! As for books, they have been replaced with Kindles.

And of course, there are more and more tablet users, all doing much of the same: reading, watching movies, playing games, writing emails etc. Looks like reading newspapers actually made out of paper is a thing of the past now, and I hardly ever see anyone doing that anymore. After all, it seems a little daft to buy one since we all have a chance to get a free one the minute you get on the tube.

Having been through all these changes, I reckon that Kindles are the clear winners though. They seem to outweigh the number of physical books, and with battery technology being as good as it is, they are a very compelling alternative to paper.

You still get the laptop brigade doing "serious" work on ever-smaller machines, but the rest are using smart phones, iPods or Blackberries.

I guess what I am getting to with this little rant is that over the last 20 years, the train has transformed itself into a mobile office. I've seen people doing CAD work, Maya work, coding, editing and sound manipulation on laptops, tablets and all sorts of other technology. And don't think it's just a few odd people... even our own Escape Studios' team is at it, as you will know if you read Simon's recent post about learning NUKE 'on the go'. My question to you all is: how long has the paper book got?

1 Comments Lee Danskin

Posted by
Lee Danskin
Wed 14 Dec 2011: 10:30am

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  • Alex:

    There will always be print (I think) but, clearly, in smaller ratios to present day.
    There will always be a hard core contingent who (as my missus puts it) "love the smell, look and feel of set type on quality paper".
    It reminds me in some ways of the death of vinyl- part of the record buying process wasn't just the great music, but also the framing of said music by the illustration of the album cover and the tactility of holding the product in your hand and placing it in your collection. Same could be said for books I suppose. Anyway...

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