Our look-back stories in 10 key sectors show the only constant of the past quarter century has been tremendous growth and change.

OMG! When you think about how we communicated 25 years ago, you may be tempted to LOL. People actually had to talk to each other!

Now, digital communication is king and ways to access it are expanding exponentially.

Want the latest news? Grab your cell phone, or consult the fancy watch on your wrist.

Need an answer fast? Google it—a now-ubiquitous function two Stanford University students invented in 1998. Or just call out your question and Alexa, Amazon's know-it-all personal assistant introduced in 2014, will respond.

Would you like to share info or a photo quickly with friends? Use one of a growing collection of social media platforms and stick a hashtag on it to ensure your followers will find it on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook and more. No need for words when emoticons say it all.

Twitter, a way of sharing images and messages in 140 characters or less, debuted in March 2006. No less than the president of the United States, currently known by the Twitter handles @POTUS and @realDonaldTrump, uses it to share his thoughts at all hours of the day and night directly with his 38 million followers. Twitter has even become the president's preferred vehicle to announce federal policy changes.

As recently as 1992, the internet was still young and not widely used in business or everyday communications. First-generation mobile phones existed but were large and bulky brick styles using analogue signals. The first text message was sent in December 1992. Then, with second generation, or 2G systems, mobile phones started getting smaller and more powerful.

The first Apple iPhone was released in 2007, and now more than a billion have been sold. Adults and teens use cell phones not just to communicate but to manage activities, make purchases, capture and store images, wake themselves up in the morning and put themselves to sleep at night.

Consumers' attachment to their phones is also good for businesses that provide products and services. They constantly mine big data to ping consumers based on their interests, sending messages to phones as soon as customers walk into a store to promote their favorite items and notify them of sales and special offers. Even toddlers use touch-screen technology as they play with a parent's cell phone to amuse themselves and keep from fidgeting in a store or restaurant.

Digital communications have changed the news media immensely in the past 25 years, creating a 24-hour news cycle and turning newspapers and magazines into much more than ink-on-paper productions. Media outlets in Columbus and around the world provide news on demand on their websites. Former print-only journalists post video reports online and tweet breaking news even before sending their stories to print.

The Columbus Dispatch unveiled its first website in June 1995, with some photos and demographic information but nowhere near today's robust content of breaking news, videos and searchable archives. In December 2000, the Dispatch started running reporters' email addresses at the end of staff-written stories. Now Twitter handles are also noted.

The paper got a new look in February 2013 when the Dispatch pioneered a compact size that speeds production and prints 50 percent more copies while also saving on newsprint. Then in June 2015, the Wolfe family sold the Dispatch and publications including Columbus CEO to GateHouse Media of Pittsford, NY, a Rochester suburb, ending 144 years of local ownership. The new owners committed to continue printing seven-day-a-week, bucking an industry trend to reduce days of publication or revert to all-online distribution.

Columbus was home to the world's first online communications channel for consumers, CompuServe, founded in 1969 as a computer time-sharing service. It was bought by America Online, or AOL, in 1998 and operates now as an internet service provider.

Even the concept of communication is being stretched as the Internet of Things grows, turning more and more everyday devices into smart machines that can help manage human affairs, and central Ohio could well produce the next big communications breakthrough.

Verizon's Innovation Room in Hilliard, opened in 2014, is a lab designed to figure out creative ways for machines to communicate with each other to make life better for humans. Every month the lab hosts 10 to 20 Verizon business customers—large and small companies as well as government agencies—to learn what machines can do with embedded chips and software, says Steve Van Dinter, public relations manager for Verizon's Great Lakes market.

One smart machine demonstrated in the room is a pop machine capable of letting its owner know which cans of soda sell better, when the machine needs to be refilled and whether the temperature is cold enough, Van Dinter says. “The idea is to get our customers thinking about their own needs and then we can sit down and discuss with them some thoughts on solutions for these problems,” he says.

For AT&T, the company that started out as a provider of wired telephone service, the past 25 years has seen its focus change almost 180 degrees.

In late 1992, AT&T was Columbus' primary telephone service provider and had just introduced a new digital voice mail for customers' land lines. Today AT&T's business has flipped to focus on mobile phone, internet and pay TV service as central Ohio provider of DirecTV and U-verse.

In Bexley, Capital University opened its Convergent Media Center in November 2016, which it touts as “a collaborative environment for faculty and students from current areas of study—ranging fromcommunication and music, to electronic media, film, creative writing and more—to organically mingle and positively impact one another.” As Capital President Beth Paul is quoted on the university's website, “Educating future leaders in our rapid-fire, multimedia, constantly connected world is reliant on convergence.”

Mary Yost is the editor.

Our look-back stories in 10 key sectors show the only constant of the past quarter century has been tremendous growth and change.