Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Electronic Things

As a child, I remember the basement of Williamson Hall at the University of Florida being cram-packed with huge computer components - mainframes from IBM.  I was fascinated by them, and I remember Dad telling me that computers were the way of the future - that the computers would give humans more time to relax and be with their families.  I remember hearing the same thing in the news reports on television, and being taught that maxim in school.  I grew up thinking that, as computers grew more sophisticated and smaller in size, they would "take over" doing mundane human tasks and that people would have more time to spend with their families, doing fun things.
  Now I'm 58 and am using my personal computer to blog on the wide wide web.Times have changed, computers have changed, but I don't see people relaxing and spending more time with friends and family.  What has happened to the utopia that was promised back in the early 1960s?  Of course I realize that computers can only do what they are programmed to do - and that takes human programmers.  With cell phones, cameras built into cell phones, SmartPhones, i-phones, i-Pads, i-Pods, and all of the other new miniaturized gadgets (Dick Tracey and Star Trek come to life), it seems that humans are more tightly attached to their electronic gadgets than they are to each other.
  I thoroughly enjoy watching a few programs on my television, and I usually have the local news on in both the morning and evening to be certain I'm aware of local events; but I am not sitting directly in front of the monitor, staring at it, and it alone.  Currently, I'm at my desk, with the television turned on - I've watched the local news and 30 minutes of the national news, while checking my e-mail and my usual electronic news.  I usually check the local newspaper two or three times a day, to see if there is any "breaking" news that affects me.  I use my personal computer to do research, to blog, and to stay in contact with distant friends.  I use my land line telephone to speak with friends at a distance.  I do own a cell phone, but it is only for business use - for people who need to contact me while I'm caring for their houses and pets.  The cell phone can take and make telephone calls, and take and make text calls - nothing else.
  The other day, while a friend was visiting, my home phone rang; I glanced at the caller ID, saw it was an 800 number, and ignored it.  My friend was almost literally twitching with each ring, and was amazed that I didn't answer it.  I told him that I paid for the phone service, and I owned the instrument itself; since I owned it, I was not a slave to it - the same with my cell phone.  I have the choice of answering, or not answering, the device.  It is NOT alive; I do not "owe" it an answer; it is a tool to be used, as I desire.
  Some people have declared that I am against technology and against using technology.  I don't think that I am against technology at all - but I refuse to make myself a slave to electronic gadgets.  Being able to look something up on the internet in minutes is fantastic- instead of having to go to the library and look up the information in an encyclopedia.  Being able to watch a movie from a DVD on my television is much superior than having to pay to see the movie in a theater, with loud obnoxious people that I don't know kicking the back of my seat.  Listening to my favorite music, whether it's recorded on vinyl, tape, or CD, is marvelous.
-  But I am the master and owner of these devices.  They do NOT own me, nor do they govern my actions.

No comments: