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How Coronavirus lockdown made a 'Zoom boom' generation

BBC Technology 24 May 2020 11:25
By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter, BBC News
Zoom callImage copyright Getty Images

I first realised just how quickly attitudes towards technology were changing when my mum told me, two days after lockdown began, that she had downloaded Skype.

She's not exactly an early adopter - in fact, she has resolutely refused to video call anybody, ever, until now.

Lockdown has removed the luxury of choice for many of us. If you want to see your relatives, it has to be on screen.

As we get over the social awkwardness of the "Zoom boom" - when to mute that mic, when to stop talking - we're realising that, for the most part, video chat works.

Whether it's family reunions, pub quizzes, office meetings or even pet appointments with the vet, we can get together quickly without being in the same room - and there's a good chance that is going to stick.

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This week Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that up to 50% of the workforce could be working from home in the next 5-10 years.

Broadly speaking the internet infrastructure has coped pretty well with everyone piling onto it - at least for those with access to more robust services.

John Graham-Cumming, from internet security firm Cloudflare, said the company is now seeing three daily peaks for internet traffic around the world - first thing in the morning, lunchtime and early evening - and they are bigger than ever.

"The net has been a reliable sidekick through all this."

Microsoft's Satya Nadella says digital transformation has advanced two years in two months, as we seek to be entertained, to be connected and to keep track of what is happening during the pandemic.

We can already see investment and goodwill getting behind tech alternatives in the hunt for new ways of doing things: could this be the moment drone deliveries finally take off (pardon the pun), e-scooters get an easier ride, and virtual gyms put our post-lockdown bodies through their paces, via a headset, in the comfort of our own homes?

For tech to truly prove itself as a game-changer, it has to become part of the furniture: consistent, reliable and, therefore, totally unremarkable.

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