Back in the early 1980s, I owned a MacPlus computer. I showed this computer at the time to my brother Dan (terrific musician, thinker, and author of the blog TheWheel), who back then was not a computer user. Mostly we focused on a second-generation version of the 1970s classic video game Pong. This Mac version was in primitive 3D, and at its more challenging settings it would crush either me or my brother.

At one point, Dan laughed and said, “I think we’ve seen the future. The computer is just much better than we are.”

Last week, Dan called to wish me happy birthday. We were speaking on cell phones, but Dan had long wanted to set up Skype so that we could videoconference for free. So we switched from one communication technology that was not available back in the MacPlus age (cell phones) to another. It took us less than five minutes to do that. And then we paused.

Every new Skype user has a moment at which they realize that this technology changes the game. Dan and I laughed at the ease with which our laptops could enable simultaneous voice and video conversation between Virginia and Michigan. I mentioned that while my young son was in Beijing, Skype allowed me to keep in touch with him and his mother every day, with virtually no voice latency, for free. I could receive a virtual tour of their apartment. My boy could hold up his drawings for me to see. I could comment on his haircut or his Mandarin characters. After visiting them, I could remain in contact with them and their host family (who spoke almost no English), allowing expression and gesture (visible on Skype) to supplement and turn into communication what would otherwise have been a frustrating series of verbal stabs in the dark.

Dan then recalled our conversation years before about the MacPlus. His question: “Skype is to what technology as that Pong game is to Skype?”  It’s a staggering concept. It’s very exciting.

Have any of you had similar recent confrontations with the pace of change?  How are you handling it?