The way in which we go about our working lives has changed almost beyond recognition in the past few decades, and the computer has arguably been central to that change. Technological progress in recent years has been little short of astonishing, with desktop PCs becoming ever more powerful, smart devices making work more mobile and the internet offering the kind of connectivity that would have seemed like pure science fiction not so long ago.

This rapid evolution has brought with it many benefits, such as being able to instantly communicate with someone on the other side of the world, or store files and data online so that it can be accessed instantly no matter where you happen to be. Tech is enriching our working lives by pulling down barriers and supporting us in ways we never dreamed of, and with Windows 10, the next step of the evolution is already well underway - where it will take us is a truly exciting thought.

What could the next two decades of progress hold for us, and how will it change the way we work? To see how modern computing tech has impacted the average person, we spoke to three individuals from different professional backgrounds.

The Music Producer

JB Pilon is a freelance music producer who co-owns a recording studio where he works with solo artists and groups across a wide spectrum of musical genres, as well as composing his own music for television commercials. He’s worked incredibly hard to get to his current position in what is a very competitive industry, and finds inspiration in the people he works with - their own personal stories, their diverse backgrounds and of course the sounds they bring to his studio. At the centre of this music melting pot there’s the technology that makes it all possible.

“Inspiration and creatively usually come in phases when it comes to creating something from scratch with no constraint,” Pilon says. “When it’s about creating sounds for clients or being creative with ways of recording, it usually comes naturally and quickly.” Professional recording often requires the exchange of large, high-quality audio files and Pilon - who also plays in the band Grace Moon & the Jaguar - explains that cloud storage has changed the way in which he and his bandmates share tracks, bouncing them between one another instantly and without having to physically mail CDs to each other. He’s now considering applying the same technology to his day job. “A lot of my clients are not that technology-orientated, so email and USB sticks are still the most efficient way of sharing private content with them,” he explains. “But cloud storage has improved the way I share files with my band, so I guess I could apply it to my clients, too.”

The internet arguably represents the biggest shift in Pilon’s industry. “It has impacted the music industry a lot and changed the way people consume music,” he explains. Albums and songs can now be purchased instantly and listened to in a matter of seconds, and recording artists can create a shopfront for themselves online at literally zero cost. However, from a business perspective, Pilon states that he has also felt the benefit of the web when it comes to attracting new customers. “It just made it easier to be seen and heard on the internet in order to get clients.”


Selling music online is one thing, but thanks to faster broadband and mobile connection speeds we’ve seen a rise in the number of subscription-based streaming services which offer a wide selection of popular music without the need to download any files. To be blessed with such incredible access to music is remarkable, but Pilon is unsure about whether or not such services are a help or a hindrance to the modern recording artist. “I think it has changed the way people consume music,” he says. “With access to such a quantity of music at very low cost, people give less attention to what they are listening to - after 30 seconds of one song they might skip it if it’s not grabbing them, or they might make compilations of their favourites songs rather than listening to entire albums. I feel like people are not exploring albums or artist’s discography as much as before. For the artists themselves, these services have only made it easier to be discovered - it’s perhaps harder than ever to secure an audience and more difficult to get any reward out of it.”

Because there’s so much competition and music lovers are becoming pickier as time goes on, musicians are finding that they have to think outside the box in order to stimulate interest in their albums. Podcasts, video interviews and other media cross-over campaigns are being harnessed by the world’s biggest bands in order to ensure that fans remain engaged through tours and album sales are buoyant in the months following launch. Artists are becoming increasingly adept at harnessing the power of technology to promote their work - gone are the days when a music video and some radio airplay are enough to give you a hit record.

Live music is likely to feel the impact of modern tech in the next few years as well, as contactless mobile payments become the norm. Festival organisers will adopt such tech to suit the people who visit such events, where carrying cash is a pain but you always have your phone in your pocket. Furthermore, Bluetooth low-energy tech can allow festival operators to track audience movement via their mobile phones, improve the way their events are organised and hit them with post-gig promotional activity. Smartphones are also being used more and more for ticket purchases, making the whole process faster and more convenient for the consumer. The way music fans are engaging with music is clearly evolving and that means the entire industry has to adapt. With Windows 10 there’s a true mobility of experience across all platforms, and that means a smoother, more fluid experience no matter which platform you favour.

Just as high definition images have changed the way we watch films and TV, HD audio is slowly but surely making its presence felt in the world of music, and is another way in which technology is dramatically changing things up behind the scenes. “Improving the quality of the audio people stream or buy online wouldn’t hurt - it can only be a good thing,” says Pilon. “It won’t change my role as a producer, but it might eventually end up changing the format in which I’m recording and eventually the audio interface I’m using.” Technology is also subtly altering the way in which we broadcast the music we listen to. Apps are now available which allow users to connect several mobile devices together to create an incredible multi-speaker setup, with each device playing the same song perfectly in sync, creating a 360-degree wall of sound which envelops the listener. “I like the idea,” says Pilon. “It’s pretty smart, and good for small parties and sharing music.”

Such apps also point to a period where music stops being something that we simply lean back and listen to, and becomes something that we actively participate in. Online services such as Soundcloud already allow fans to download source elements of a band’s music, which they are then encouraged to use to create their own tracks - all of which gives additional emphasis to the original work. Apps are arriving on the market which allow listeners to tamper with the audio they purchase, making the whole listening experience more creative and interactive. We can now remix elements of songs or alter the way they sound based on environmental elements - such as the pace of your walk to background noise. Such products are changing the way we connect with the music we listen to; it’s no longer a passive relationship but one which mirrors the work done by professionals such as Pilon.

Despite all of this rapid progress, Pilon maintains some old-school ethos. He’s resistant to elements of change, but has an eye on the future and what it can bring to his profession - he craves a time when musicians aren’t confined to just screens and keyboards and instead have another way of interacting with - and creating - innovative and existing music. “I do think that it will become easier and easier to generate music without any knowledge of sound, engineering or even musicality.” With modern computers now accepting voice commands as a viable way of control and interaction, perhaps his dream will come true in the not-too-distant future.

The Photographer

Laura Crouchley is a UK-based photographer who specialises in wedding, event and lifestyle photography. Her route into her chosen career was a case of following her heart and embracing her creative side. “I studied Fine Art at University in Bristol and was told I had an eye for photography,” she explains. “After my final degree show, I was selected to exhibit work in a local restaurant, took part in community art events displaying work and then put on my own exhibition with fellow graduates. After this, I then left the country and went travelling for just over a year returning to try the London living experience. Here I began to assist a university friend, who was shooting for the Daily Mail and photographing various London based events. Through this work I met more photographers and assisted with several weddings which I loved. In 2011 I registered as self-employed and began building up my business.”

Photography is a very modern medium when compared to other forms of art, but as the decades have rolled by it has become easier and easier for people to capture moments in time. Film-based cameras emerged at the start of the 20th century and made it more affordable than ever to become a photographer, and more recently we’ve seen compact cameras, Polaroids, digital cameras and the now-ubiquitous smartphone camera, which ensures we have a snapper with us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Such progression has put pressure on professionals such as Crouchley, making it more important than ever to remain on the cutting edge.

For Crouchley, modern computing tech has made it easier for her to work with clients and achieve the kind of results they seek. She can use the web to create private galleries which only her clients can access, removing the need to develop snaps and mail out physical copies - a time-consuming process which, not so long ago, would have been the norm. “The web is essential to my business and makes it quicker and easier to get my images online and sent to clients,” she explains. Even the process of getting the images online has been streamlined. “I can now send out images direct from my editing software to my website, which is great.” The software Crouchley refers to is another huge advancement in the field of image capture; applications like Photoshop mean that a perfect shot can be achieved not only at the point of capture, but in post-production - something that a few decades ago would have been totally unthinkable.

Automation is also making the work of photographers like Crouchley easier than ever. Apps are now able to use facial recognition technology to connect people to the images they appear in, while cloud-based storage services can pull together collections of snaps from years ago and offer them up automatically, reminding you of good times past and prompting you to print off forgotten but newly-treasured images. Apps will also apply automatic filters and correction to hastily-taken snaps, improving the work of even the most inexperienced amateur photographer. Massive reserves of cloud storage - combined with clever apps which make sifting through your snaps much easier than dusting off ancient and battered photo albums - will allow the budding photographers of the future to have an entire pictorial history of their life at their fingertips. Crouchley even foresees a time when images won’t be stored on removable media but uploaded from every camera the moment it connects to a Wi-Fi hotspot - something that smartphones and certain cameras already offer. “Being able to upload shots wirelessly means I can instantly send images to clients, losing the need for card readers completely,” she explains.

Crouchley has also witnessed the rise of the smartphone in modern business, and relies on hers for all kinds of daily tasks. “My phone is very important,” she says. “For example, I use images saved in the cloud to post on my Instagram business page, which is done via my phone. Also, I use it to send files to clients when I’m travelling and away from the computer. This saves me time and also enables me to promote myself on the go.” The expansion of the web to smartphones has freed professionals like Crouchley from the constraints of the traditional office environment, allowing them to connect with clients and organise their workload even when they’re miles away from the comfort of their desk. Social connectivity online - which is so much easier on your phone - can also be harnessed to drum up fresh trade.

“Capturing people, families and couples memories gives me a buzz, makes me smile and their love of the images I capture make it all worthwhile,” continues Crouchley. “I admire a lot of other photographers work and like challenging myself to create new, different and striking images with every shoot I do.” She acknowledges that technological advancements in the world of personal computing, the internet and mobile communication have reduced the barrier to entry for her chosen profession, and this in itself creates a challenge as well as a welcome motivation. “Thanks to modern tech my job has become more accessible to others, especially amateurs who can afford to try out being a photographer. This constantly creates more competition for me and means I must keep up to date with new technology and products. I’m sure technology will make my business easier in 20 years in many different ways, such as processing images more efficiently and providing them to clients even quicker. I am aware how important it is for me to keep up to date with technology so I am able to continue the growth of my business.”

Staying up to date with tech means always keeping on eye on the next big advances in the field of photography, and one such innovation is mirrorless cameras. Smaller than your traditional DSLR but retaining the ability to swap lenses - something that most compact cameras don’t allow - this new breed of snapper is slowly but surely making its presence felt in the realm of professional photography. Being able to use different lenses for different shoots is a huge bonus which gives mirrorless cameras performance parity with DSLRs, but the removal of the mirror system can be much smaller in size - closer to the dimensions of your typical pocket-sized “point and shoot” offering.

Since the move to digital cameras we’ve been given a yardstick against which all devices can be judged: the megapixel count of their image sensor. Early digital snappers offered pitiful resolutions but more recently we’ve seen these figures balloon to astonishing numbers, and - with the rise of 4k video recording on cameras and smartphones - the images and footage we capture is now sharper and more detailed than ever. The upside is that photos can be cropped and edited, meaning that a single shot can potentially offer several different scenes. It doesn’t end there, however - digital cameras such as Lytro’s Illum can capture several different points of focus in a single shot and allows you to select which part of a photo is in focus during post production. One snap can therefore generate several different-looking images.

While multi-focus cameras are giving photographers more control than ever over the images they take, other technological advances could help professionals like Crouchley reach places they simply couldn’t before. The cost of remote-control drones has plummeted in recent years and these versatile devices can now be operated by practically anyone. In the realm of image capture the benefits are obvious; aerial shots are possible, as are images from locations which were previously difficult to reach or would require expensive equipment to access. “I actually attended a wedding recently and the couple as well as two photographers and a videographer had a drone which circled around the ceremony and reception venues,” Crouchley says. “I’m looking forward to seeing the footage but for me this is a whole league of its own and an add-on to the existing coverage of the day.”

“I am aware how important it is for me to keep up to date with technology so I am able to continue the growth of my business”

Such advancements won’t remove the need for talented individuals like Crouchley - after all, a human craft is still required to imagine, frame and capture that perfect shot - but such technology is not only allowing photographers to add new skills to their repertoire, but also streamline their workflow and improve the quality of the images they produce.


The Games Journalist

Video gaming is an entertainment sector which has been at the vanguard of technology almost since day one, and unsurprisingly has embraced advances in computing and the web in a big way. Gaming sites have supplanted traditional magazines by offering instant news and opinion, but the competition for the attention of readers is fierce. That means using the power of the web - and the tools needed to work effectively - is more important than ever.

“I began as a volunteer writer while studying a postgraduate degree and became very active that way,” explains Thomas Whitehead, a video game journalist whose entry into the world of gaming was quite accidental, but not totally untypical of the industry. “The website grew and, as I graduated, a full-time opportunity emerged in 2013. I had never planned to move into game journalism, it just naturally evolved that way.”

Given that he works remotely to the rest of the team - which is spread all over the globe - it is perhaps unsurprising that Whitehead makes full use of the tools his PC offers to him. “My responsibilities revolve around writing and curating daily content for the website, while managing a writing team and liaising with external parties such as PR agencies, developers and other gaming journalists,” he explains. Whitehead’s device is an essential tool in his work, allowing him to chat with co-workers via instant messaging, conduct interviews using Skype, store and access work files direct from the cloud and download official assets from publishers and developers.

“Cloud storage is vital for guaranteeing access when away from the office. Speed and accessibility are essential in my work, and cloud storage is vital for that - as long as I have a web connection I can access shared files of various types, meaning that limitations on work when on the move are far less punishing.”

When he does leave his home office to visit developers or attend events, he relies heavily on the power of the cloud to ensure he can keep the site ticking over. “Cloud storage is vital for guaranteeing access when away from the office,” he continues. “Speed and accessibility are essential in my work, and cloud storage is vital for that - as long as I have a web connection I can access shared files of various types, meaning that limitations on work when on the move are far less punishing.”

Being connected to the web all day long can often be a tiring experience as well as a stimulating one, and Whitehead wants to see the tech we use get better at filtering out the noise so he can focus on what’s really important. “After a few years in the job my email and social accounts should know which content never gets any focus from me, so it could just keep them away from me unless I choose to check manually,” he explains. “I’m aware there are lots of filtering tools out there, but I’m lazy and want it automated.” This is where Whitehead has felt the benefit of voice-controlled assistants such as Cortana, which allow him to get a heads-up view of his schedule without having to lift a finger.

In terms of the industry he works in, Whitehead is excited about forthcoming developments in Virtual Reality which could change the way in which we play games forever. Despite the interest shown by the industry - at this year’s E3 Expo, VR was everywhere you looked - Whitehead isn’t convinced that VR will take over from traditional gaming interfaces, and will instead be a sector which develops in tandem. “In its current form I think it’ll be relatively niche,” he says. “That doesn’t mean that the gaming impact won’t be regarded a success by the companies concerned, but I doubt they’ll go mainstream in the way that motion controls did a few years ago. The units are still large and isolating, and considering the fact that consumers weren’t keen - in big enough numbers to meet expectations - to wear 3D glasses, I doubt these headsets will be embraced by a huge number of gamers, especially as you can’t share the experience with others. I think augmented reality and technology like the HoloLens will have a greater impact in living rooms in years to come.”

While VR is given a lukewarm assessment from Whitehead, he’s rather more excited about the way in which online gaming is bringing people together and creating a desire for legitimate competition. “We’re already well into the online revolution, in that the majority of games seem to either be driven by online play or have such features implemented,” explains Whitehead. “Metal Gear Solid V is an example - a single player franchise with online aspects now thrown in. We’ll see more online community-driven gaming, I suspect, and procedurally generated content will likely become even more prominent.”

An offshoot of this is the rise of eSports, with some games attracting online audiences which dwarf those of all but the most popular traditional sports. Whitehead feels that this is just the beginning, and we could see video gaming accepted as a proper sport in the next two decades. “If darts and snooker are sports then, in theory, gaming can get there,” he says. “Ultimately there’s still an image problem that isn’t helped by media footage of teenage boys screaming obscenities in cracking voices, and that strips away and sadly obscures a lot of the skill and more positive examples of eSports. If eSports tournament organisers, those generating this enormously successful industry, want to be taken seriously then they need to start acting more like regulators and less like fan clubs. Drug problems - recently highlighted in the press - need to be cracked down upon, competitors need to be incentivised to behave more like professionals; if that happens then yes, we could see the status of eSports grow more with the mainstream public.”

All these three industry professionals can attest, tech has changed the way they work and will continue to have a dramatic impact in the near future. In fact, tech is going to change the way we do practically everything, from sending an email to locating a recipe online or ordering your shopping. Operating systems like Windows 10 are being created with expansion in mind - logging into your PC with a password will soon be as old-fashioned as storing all of your phone numbers in a book, or taking photos with film. You’ll talk to your computer and it will recognise your voice or your face - this isn’t science fiction, as such features are already making their way into your home via voice assistants like Cortana and facial recognition security. We’re all going to feel the benefit of the drastic strides being made in the world of computing technology, and the next 20 years will bring developments that we probably can’t even conceive today.