Friday is the last official day of International CES, the giant technology trade show in Las Vegas. It is also, as it happens, the eighth anniversary of the introduction of the original iPhone.
These two facts stand in interesting contrast - one is a loud and flashy expression of what the future may hold, and the other is a life-changing technology we hardly saw coming.
This year's CES had the feel of a World's Fair. There were futuristic BMWs zipping around the streets surrounding the Las Vegas Convention Center, drones buzzing through the air inside and outside the convention centre, and just about everywhere you looked a vision of roboticised homes that take perfect, synchronized care of their inhabitants. There was even 3D-printed food.
It made for an exciting show, to be sure. There was an energy in the air in Las Vegas that had been lacking in previous years, helped by an influx of interesting start-ups, good conversations about a variety of technology and yes, even some really impressive TVs. It wasn't, thank goodness, the same old thing.
And yet, in some ways, it was. The biggest trends of the year were actually technological concepts that have been around for decades, if not centuries.
Autonomous cars had their conceptual debut at an actual World's Fair in 1939, where General Motors imagined a world of cars that were propelled along an automated highway system.
Similarly, attendees of the 1934 World's Fair in Chicago saw a prototype of a home automation system that would later show up in science fiction stories like Ray Bradbury's The Veldt and of course in The Jetsons.
(Also see: Remembered: CES Founder 'Analog Jack' Wayman)
As for virtual reality, cinematographers and scientists were actually building virtual reality devices at least as early as the 1960s. In 1962, Morton Heilig, the so-called father of virtual reality, patented the Sensorama - an immersive viewing system with a moving chair, a head-mounted display, stereo speakers and odour emitters. So 2015.
An attendee trying out Altspace Virtual Reality gear at the CES show in Las Vegas. Cinematographers and scientists were building virtual reality devices at least as early as the 1960s.Credit Michael Nelson/ European Pressphoto Agency
You could argue that wearable technology started with glasses, which were first mentioned in 1268 but had probably been around long before then. By the 1600s, the English physicist Robert Hooke suggested that humans could augment our senses with medicine and external technologies.
The technology to print physical objects from digital information is far newer, developed in 1984.
So even though this year's CES was arguably more about innovation than iteration, it was still grounded in the "big ideas" that have been floating around for a long time: for life to be easier, for experiences to be richer and more immersive, to be smarter and more productive and to have machines take better care of us.
But the smart money says a lot of these trends won't be fulfilled in the next five or 10 years - or maybe even 50 years.
What's really interesting in technology is the stuff we didn't see coming and moves into the mainstream. Sure, the idea for the mobile phone was conceived in 1908. And portable phones were in wide use in 2007, when Steve Jobs took the stage to introduce the iPhone, eight years ago today.
But it was the meeting of a device made for storing your personal media (in this case, the iPod) with a portable phone with the connecting power of the Internet that ultimately made the iPhone, and all the smartphones to follow, the powerhouse that changed the way billions of people lived their lives.
The Internet was the special sauce: A platform that let inventors improve the usefulness of connected devices in ways absolutely no one foresaw. As my colleague Farhad Manjoo recently wrote, the magic of the smartphone is not about the gadget, it's the services and the constant connection that make the smartphone a life tool, not just a tech tool. Those are the features that answer the question of why, and not just what.
Great ideas happen every day in technology, big and small. But the idea alone isn't always enough, as our decades-long march to the autonomous car has shown. The chief economist for the Consumer Electronics Association, Shawn DuBravac, told conference attendees this week that much of the big trade show was about companies "digitizing some space." But he said the ones that succeed will be "technologically meaningful."
The smartphone showed that truly meaningful technology is connected, but also personal - it changes lives one person at a time, rather than rebuilding cities, roads and homes from the ground up. And it wouldn't have happened without the Internet, the real game-changer.
So the next idea to change the world might not have shown up on a trade show floor just yet. Or if it has, it's still waiting for one last component: The part that makes it matter.
© 2015, The New York Times News Service