What has changed in the Bay Area over the last 20 years?
The other day, when i was driving with my in laws home from dinner, my father-in-law asked a question that got me thinking. He asked what changes stand out in the Bay Area since I arrived here in 1992. Honestly, there was very little i could think of at that moment that I thought were worth mentioning, especially, given the extent of changes he had seen in India over the last decade. I decided to give it some more thought and came up with 5 things that have changed (or not) for better or worse in the last 20 years.
I remember at my first job at Oracle, I could dial-in and connect to the unix server, compile code, check-in files and check emails. Besides that, most of the communication was over conference calls and emails. A lot has changed since. Communication has become more instantaneous and ubiquitous - thanks to smart phones. If you use Google talk, hangout etc. there are multiple ways to communicate with your co-workers - something that we never imagined back in the earlier 90s. It is still debatable whether we are more productive, but it is a whole lot easier and quicker in terms of responsiveness.
While folks in developing countries complain about inflation, there has been significant increases in housing prices (rent & cost of ownership), starting salaries, and even cost of necessities such as milk and bread in the Bay Area. Starting salaries have clearly doubled over the last 20 years. The same goes for rent and college fees. In the next 20 years, I guess its not too far fetched for a simple single bedroom apartment to cost $4000 and for a fresh grad with a CS degree to make $160K a year. While this pales in comparison to inflation in developing countries, its still a substantial increase that will impact us in the future.
3) Corporate Landscape
I still remember, it was cool to work for Cisco, Apple, HP, Oracle and Sun back in the early 90s. Now, its a completely new breed of companies that are cool to work for. Apple is the only company that has withstood the test of time and consistently ranks at the top with Facebook and Google. Oracle and Cisco have become mature companies - something I could have never imagined back in the 90s. Its hard to imagine a mature Google or Facebook, but in 20 years the corporate landscape will look very different as the old guard makes way for a new generation of companies.
There is no doubt the newer cars are much more comfortable, loaded with technology, economical and fun to drive. However, traffic isn’t much better than it was 20 years ago. Traffic seems to get worse everyday, even as new lanes are added and existing highways are twisted and turned to ease congestion. I think with all the brainpower and capital in the valley, this is one aspect of our lives in the bay area that needs to improve. Perhaps, self driving cars such as those from Google will pave the way to ease traffic congestion and make roads much safer.
5) Media & Entertainment
While this is not a Bay Area specific phenomenon, it is worth noting that the profound impact technology is having in the way we search, access, consume information, movies, music, video games is worth noting. None of this existed 20 years ago,
but now its here to stay as it continues to evolve with time. I recall attending a seminar at Stanford where Lewis Platt, the then CEO of HP, displayed a device which looked like what became the iPaQ, and spoke about how one day handheld devices could communicate with home appliances etc. Thanks to the iPhone and Android devices, that is now a reality. I see my son playing real time collaborative video games on his console - the picture quality and sophistication of these games continue to amaze me everytime i see them.
I think the next 10 years will be very different. The contributors to change are now a much larger community. Back in the 90s, the world wasn't as connected. Now with the velocity of information and a global pool of contributors, the rate of change will the much faster over the next couple of decades. Things which we take for granted will disappear. It may sound a little far fetched, but can you imagine paying $120K for a year of college in 2032?