By Joe Rector
I’m not about to enter an argument about the benefits of technology in our lives. That argument would be voided by the fact that I’m using the thing about which I rail to write my rant. So, instead of downing these wonders of modern life, I’ll recall how we managed to live without them for so many years.
I took typing in high school. Everyone told me I’d need the skill for completing papers in college. What proved to be my downfall was the inability to type fast. My manual dexterity was limited, and I fumbled with the keys on the typewriter. It felt as if I were pounding the keys instead of skillfully striking them.
At the same time, I panicked whenever the class took a timed test. Typewriters on either side of me sang as students zipped words across pages. On the other hand, the sound from my machine was more of an uneven series of “clacks,” followed by backspacing to type over mistakes or insert omitted letters.
These days, I spend hours on a keyboard to complete columns. Yes, I still struggle with my “typing skills,” but corrections are much easier to make now. Striking the keys is also much easier, and corrections are much completed with little trouble; no need for whiteout is needed, and programmed layouts give us much better-looking documents. Many documents of today are printed out to paper for submission. We could have produced the same information we need back then, but in much smaller amounts and much larger time frames.
In a different lifetime, the search for information was often cumbersome. If our families fell prey to door-to-door salesmen, we owned a set of encyclopedias. The smell of the new, slick pages of those volumes filled the air as we spent hours thumbing through pages. The photos were wonderful, and we took in plenty of unnecessary bits about unimportant topics.
Other ways of gathering information also kept us busy. All students in college owned a dictionary. Correct spelling sometimes proved to be a chore when a person tried to find an oddly spelled word. At other times, research papers required students to travel to libraries. There, they searched the card catalog or the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature for things that helped develop research topics. Copies of pages were a nickel each, but they were necessary in order to work at home.
The Internet drowns us with information. We can find the facts on almost any topic that comes to mind by simply typing in a couple of words. The most difficult task we face is limiting a search to the exact information we need.
Most families owned a camera. Some were compact, while others were Polaroids that produced instant photos or more advanced ones that required picture takers to set f-stops and other things. Then rolls of film were taken to a store for developing. Folks paid for all those photos, whether they were masterpieces or goofs.
Our cell phones take photos now. People whip them out and capture images of events, faces, and even plates of food. They are saved on the phone or stored on the cloud. People have thousands of pictures, many of which contain images nothing of significance.
Yes, technology has improved our lives. For many, it frees up time to do more important things, such as surfing the web, playing video games, or texting. For some of us, the overload of information, entertainment, and trivia is more than we ever expected… or wanted. Our heads are spinning.