The first photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826. It’s a rather fuzzy and unimpressive image, but what can you expect from the first of its kind? It wasn’t until 13 years later in 1839 that the first photograph of a human being was produced, and not until 1861 did we have the power to endow photographs with color. Even then, more than three decades after the birth of photography, it was still a relatively unrefined art. Exposure times were excruciatingly long. So long, in fact, that special clamps and stands were used to hold subjects still. Thankfully, that wouldn’t be the case forever, and by 1878, photography had come far enough along to allow for almost instantaneous photography. Even then, it was not until the 1940s with stroboscopic photography that we were able to photograph objects at high-speed. As a prelude to the modern age, Nikon introduced the first commercial DSLR camera in 1991.

The point of this is that although photography seems like a rather simple technology, it took many, many decades for it to develop and evolve. Indeed, the story of technology as a whole is one which has traditionally been written slowly and intermittently; one invention here, a breakthrough and an advancement there. Some chapters have taken many years to write. However, over the last few decades, that trend has reversed. Instead of having to sit patiently, head locked in a metal vice and waiting for technology to idle forward, we’re witnessing it evolve furiously in the palm of our hand.

In the smartphone market, the advancement of technology is quite apparent. Simply by looking at the specifications from last year’s batch are we able to count our strides. In 2010, the high end smartphone market generally consisted of phones that shared these specs: WVGA (800×480) resolution, 512MB RAM, and 1GHz processors. In just one year, we’ve seen a tremendous leap from what we once considered extraordinary. After briefly toying with qHD, 720p displays are beginning to define the high end. Phones with 1GB of memory and dual-cores are commonplace, and quad-core handsets are just around next year’s bend. All of these steps taken in a year. The change of pace is almost frustrating.

One year ago, I found the Nexus S highly intriguing. Today, I have trouble giving it a second thought. The Galaxy Nexus is just such a gigantic leap forward that I can hardly believe that the S is one generation behind it. Another way to illustrate our situation would be through display technology.For those of you who read my articles, I have made it apparent that I don’t like the screen on the Droid Razr. Despite it being a 720p qHD screen, it’s still a PenTile display, and a considerably poor one at that. I think it looks pixelated, and the color reproduction bothers me. But that’s purely contextual. Exposed to all the other wonderful displays that we have access to today,  I can’t help but make comparisons. However, if I had been introduced to the Razr’s display one year ago, I probably would have fallen in love.

It’s an impossibility to predict precisely what we’ll have 5 years from now, and perhaps even tenuous to forecast the next full year. Technology, as I see it, is a race that we’ll never win. Thankfully, I don’t mind running it.

Here’s to the future.