Imagine you're writing an alternate history or parallel universe set at present day or possible sometime a little before present day. Being an alternate history technology and society would have developed a bit different. I'm wondering how far I can take that idea. How drastically different could technology be in this alternate world while still being a realistic progression?
I'm not looking for anything unrealistic. No creating anti-gravity before we discover the wheel, to reference an actual story I've heard of. The technological development must be plausible. I assume most technologies will still be invented, but some technologies may get discovered faster. For instance computers and the internet seem the obvious progression our technology has gone, what if market forces kept us from developing computers as soon, or some sort of distrust made us refuse to create and reliably use the internet, what technology would have developed instead? Alternatively what if people were quicker to realize the power of computers and leap to developing them sooner? For that matter are there any technologies of our past that we seemed to stumble on to by Eureka moments, rather then slow steady learning, that realistically could have been missed for generations?
The alternate world can be present day, near future, or past time, so long as there is clear difference in technological advancement. I think it would be easiest to do a 'near history' time frame, so you don't need to have technology significantly more advanced then ours (which is hard to predict), and can instead focus on what is missing and the odd order of technology gain.
How would the make and feel of the technology be affected by the way it changed. For instance perhaps if our smartphones developed out of laptops shrinking down instead of phones growing larger they would still have the same basic technological power, they would look more like miniature computers with less emphasis on the 'phone' look and ability?
Any suggestions for how culture or social factors may cause this change in technological growth, or how a change in growth would affect culture and society, is not required but is very interesting if added.
This of course assumes that radically different technological tree is possible. If your opinion is that technology would likely develop in roughly the same progression no matter what because it is the natural or easiest way to develop it that is a valid opinion as well, though I would like to hear why you feel that's the case.