Miniaturization

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Miniaturization

We all know about the concept of miniaturization; the process by which technology gets smaller (and faster) with every passing year. There would be no point in talking about how computers use to be the size of a building and now fit in your pocket.

Instead, I'm going to lay out a simple yet fantastic example of how miniaturization affects normal people in real-life businesses. Miniaturization is not simply a matter of convenience or gadgetry. It has extremely powerful implications for normal, everyday people who want to start a business.

Down the street from my house is a small business, run out of a tiny commercial space, that sells cupcakes. It's run by two little old ladies who can barely move, much less operate a computer.

Their cupcakes are super fantastic (they're the stuffed kind) so on days I'm being a bad boy and cheating on my regular eating regimen, I sneak over there for some cupcake goodness. The first time I visited their business I was surprised to see they had:

  • No computers


  • No cash register


  • No point of sale system


  • No receipt printers (or any other printers for that matter)


When you walk in, all you see are cupcakes. That's it. Which is, of course, awesome, both for the customer and for them. When I went to purchase my cupcakes I was curious to see how the little old lady was going to handle it if I gave her a debit card, which I did.

She took my card and bent down to an iPad on a little stand I hadn't seen because it was hidden behind the counter. She swiped the card using the free PayPal USB card swiper attached to the iPad, tapped the screen a few times, and asked me if I wanted an email receipt. I said no, took my cupcakes, and that was it. I asked her if she had any computers in the back. She laughed and said "Computers? Oh dear, no. Just this iPad."

The entire I.T. and point of sale infrastructure of this company was a single iPad. It handled all transactions on the cloud. If someone wanted a receipt, they sent it digitally with an email. Cash transactions and change were done with a calculator app on the iPad. No computers or printers needed.

Smart! Today I still see brick-and-mortar businesses like this open up with expensive point of sale systems and computers costing thousands of dollars, and these two little old ladies were smarter than all of them. A $400 iPad does it all. It's less expensive, physically smaller, and easier to use. Those two old ladies, or whomever set them up get it. They acknowledge the new, miniaturized, cloud-based internet age in which we live.

There's another business a few miles from my house who doesn't get it. They're a small printing company. On their storefront they had a huge sign advertising a deal where you could get 500 business cards for $19.95. They were clearly very proud of this "sale."

Er...apparently they've never heard of VistaPrint.com where you can get the same amount of business cards, custom-made, for as cheap as $9, sometimes $4, and sometimes even free, and without having to get in a car and drive to a store to do it.

If you realize what you have a hold of these days, starting a brick-and-mortar business no longer requires cash outlays of complicated or expensive systems. There are many such businesses that can be run effortlessly and profitably with an iPad or a smartphone.

This article was originally published on March 3, 2015