Technology Thoughts

Learning new technologies has always been a challenge. When I was a child, such challenges came rarely. I recall trying to assemble a crystal radio when I was 10 years old. I failed. Several years later I tried again and found my mistake. Such challenges were rare in those days.

Now, so much that we do requires technical knowledge that has nothing to do with our daily life. This burden comes mostly from computers: setting up routers, configuring printers, establishing Internet connectivity, monitoring modem performance, applying upgrades to software and then applying many of those same challenges to our phones.

Remember when a TV had a simple on/off switch? And you changed channels by turning a knob? Remember when a phone was just for talking? Neither item required a user manual or hours of studying how to operate.

As recently as 1980, offices were filled with typewriters, people corresponded via postal mail, using a phone away from home required locating a phone booth and paying a fee, and long-distance phone calls were normally just for emergencies. The default framework for life was privacy: if you were away from a phone you were unavailable. People focused on life, not on mastering the tools of communication. A business traveler could relax with a magazine while in transit without interruption, an employee on vacation was free from being contacted to work on business problems, people had time for their personal pursuits. If you needed to do research on a topic, you went to your local library, talked with the librarian and located books appropriate to the topic. When people went home after finishing a day's work, they had the rest of the day to their own pursuits. Think on that. Do you have pursuits?

Jumping ahead to 1995, email was limited to proprietary intra-company communications or simple bulletin boards and the majority of people had neither. Desktop computers were available, but only for the use of the individual with no sharing of access or data. Computers were automating the manual tasks, such as adding a column of numbers or checking and correcting spelling errors on documents. People were in control and could shut down their computers at the end of the workday.

So, where are we today? People pride themselves on their knowledge of Windows and Internet and other technologies for communications; many spend hours each day on Internet forums to display their knowledge of obscure computer skills or baseball scores; others spend weekends seeking answers on issues of HTML, CSS, RSS, PHP and more. We no longer discuss how to improve our ability to communicate; our new focus is on building the tools to communicate because that frees us from accepting the responsibility to communicate. We have nothing to say but the HTML we use is error-free. We accomplish nothing. Yes, we still have time for personal pursuits, but our pursuits now are adding more friends to our social networking sites, to updating our blogs, to addressing our fear of not being contacted every few minutes to confirm our value in life.

Our technology is robbing us of many hours every week we live. Let's keep that in in mind as we happily upgrade and keep buying more technology toys. Our lives are at stake.