An Essay on Technology Adoption

Welcome to the personal homepage of Brian K. Holman. I am a computer scientist by training, an inventor by passion, and a business leader by choice. One of my all-time favorite business books is Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey A. Moore. In the book, Geoffrey suggests that there is a gap or chasm between the early market and the mainstream market for technology adoption. Only organizations that are able to bridge this gap will see success and widespread adoption of their innovations.


“Bleeding Edge means using technology that is new, unproven, and potentially unreliable. It means that you're so far out ahead of the pack that you get to suffer all of the pain of trying things that [very few if any] have done before.” – Jason Ewing on Quora

The Laptop Computer: An orderly ride across the chasm
I have had a passion for computers and technology since I bought and started programming my first computer in 1982 at age 11. I have always been at the bleeding edge of the technology adoption curve. When I was a college freshman in Autumn of 1988, people thought I was from another planet when I ditched the yellow legal pad for an earlier laptop computer during lectures for a world history class. Needless to say, I could type around 100 words a minutes and was able to capture a lot more than I would have with a pen. I think I did fairly well in the class and I had peers soliciting for a copy of my notes. 😀 Today, you would be hard pressed to find a college freshman without a laptop computer. That is a technology that successfully crossed the chasm from the early market to the mainstream market without much fuss.

JavaScript as a full stack web development platform: A slow and bumpy ride across the chasm
In 1996, I co-authored a book called Instant JavaScript for Prentice Hall. My portion of the book focused on server-side JavaScript. Server-side JavaScript was only available with the commercial Netscape Enterprise Server. I loved the simplicity and potential of having one language on both the web client and the server and was a big advocate of the platform. With Netscape’s demise, other server-side languages and platforms became preeminent for web development relegating JavaScript to the web browser only. I saw the potential of the technology but Netscape wasn’t able to cross the chasm.

However, this single language in the web browser and the server would finally get traction 13 years later in 2009 with the introduction of node.js based on Google’s fast V8 JavaScript Engine. Node.js is gaining momentum and displacing other platforms for new web applications. In 2012, the Meteor web application framework took the node.js platform even further for developing web and mobile applications from the same JavaScript-based code base using the NoSQL database MongoDB as the preferred backend datastore. Meteor is one of the most exciting software development platforms to emerge recently. It has the potential to open up the development of high-quality rapidly developed websites and mobile applications to a broader range of developer skill levels. JavaScript as a robust full stack web development platform looks like it is crossing the chasm with the wide-scale adoption of node.js and the emerging adoption of Meteor. Netscape’s vision is finally realized but it took others to make it a reality.

The Smartwatch and Wearables: Will they cross the chasm?
I am an early adopter in the emerging wearables technology segment having received a Kickstarter Edition of the Pebble Smartwatch in May 2013. I couldn’t find a watchface that I liked so I wrote the Moontiles watchface. For the moon phase, an icon for one of 14 phases of the moon is displayed with a different representation for waxing and waning moons. I wanted to do the actual calculations on the Pebble to determine the moon phase but without a floating point math library in the Pebble API, I chose to dynamically generate 5 years of data and store it in the app.

For me, the most exciting part of the Pebble smartwatch was its integration with the notifications on my iPhone. Most of us receive a flood of emails and other notifications and it can be overwhelming trying to keep up with it all. The Pebble actually relieved some of my information overload stress because it helped me be able to determine if a notification was urgent with a quick glance at the wrist rather than whipping out my iPhone. The low resolution e-ink display isn’t the best but its outstanding multi-day battery life is a direct result of this design tradeoff. The Pebble folks definitely catered to the early adopter crowd but are hoping to broaden their appeal and cross the chasm into the mainstream market with their upcoming Pebble Time. They now have some pretty stiff competition as Apple has now thrown their hat in the wearables ring.

Predictability, I am now also an early adopter of the Apple Watch. There is no question the build quality and screen are a step above the Pebble. However, I am already finding the watchfaces offered by Apple to be limiting with no third-party access yet to develop new watchfaces. I still haven’t quite figured out when to touch the screen, use the crown, or the side button. The interface doesn’t seem to be as intuitive as iPhone with its much larger screen real estate. After waving my hand unsuccessfully at the self-checkout at Home Depot a couple times, I finally had to resort to reading the manual and learning that I have to double tab the button to launch Apple Pay. If anyone has a chance to move wearables into the mainstream it is Apple. I still love being on the bleeding edge of technology adoption but the verdict is still out on whether smartwatches and other wearables with cross the chasm…

Created: May 13, 1999
Last Updated: May 2, 2015
Copyright © 1999-2016 Brian K. Holman. Any opinions expressed on this site are solely my own and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer, my church, or any other referenced organization.