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Technology

Technology. That’s the topic of the day in the next issue of PT. Is it a good or bad thing? When I can get to London in nine hours, talk to friends in Australia on a moment’s notice, heat my oatmeal in seconds, then one might say it’s a good thing.

However when the kids spend hours texting, the skies are filled with smog, we sit in traffic for hours getting to places that took half the time yesterday, it might give one pause.

My concern is that when technology gives on one hand, it takes away on another. There is no possible way I could fix my car if it breaks down. However half a century ago, I knew enough about what went on under the hood that I could keep old Bessie running with bailing wire and duct tape.

Remember when we used to take vacuum tubes to the hardware store and test them, and replace the burned out ones and keep the radio or TV running? Try it today. Of course the TV today is solid state, will probably run 10 years without service, and has a 60 inch full color screen. So…

But do we even know how things work. Internal combustion engines aren’t particularly mysterious but if you add air conditioning, fuel injection, sensors, computerized this and that, do we consumers have a clue?

I and folks my age, are fortunate to have grown up when things were simpler, but also when more complex technology was in its infancy. The first computer I saw was when I was in college. It was housed in a room roughly 40 by 40 feet, had flashing lights, huge tape drives, and punch card readers. We would go to the school of business administration and watch through huge windows as the lights flashed and the tape ran. (Today I probably have 100 times the computing power in my smart phone than in that 40 by 40 room.)

But when we grew up with computers and integrated circuits we sort of understood how they worked. We knew that data was stored on tape or disks, that the computer was a very fast calculator that processed the data, and we were a bit in awe.

The young today take all that as ancient history. The smart phone in their hand just works. If it doesn’t you get a new one. The tiny tablet or laptop allows them to communicate with the world without a second thought.

Do math? Why. My phone can do it for me. Have the discipline to actually go to a library and research for information to be used in a report or term paper? Why – Google has it in an instant.

Chat with the clerk in a check out line – Never, there is no clerk any more. Have a filling station pump your gas or clean your windows – are you crazy?

I’m afraid the young of today are missing so much human interaction that they are changing in ways that could be frightening.

Enough of this – gotta go – have to check for the latest Tweet, be sure the web site is current, and oh yes, see if the email is back up and running.

JVH

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