Archived Story

How far has technology taken us?

Published 12:05am Friday, April 4, 2014

A lot of thinking can be done when you spend time staring at a blank computer monitor, holding your finger down on the “C” key.

Sitting in the solitary confines of a dimly lit computer room was not how I planned to spend my Thursday morning. When one of the office computers stopped working and many attempts to revive it failed, I knew whatever plans I had for the morning would have to be rescheduled or canceled.

In one last effort to resuscitate the machine, the computer technician recommended that I try to reboot the computer while holding down the “C” key until a diagnostic window appeared on the screen.

So that is what I did, waiting for the light gray screen to change. I waited until my finger started to ache and nearly 30 minutes had passed with no hope.

In my childhood, the computer was touted as the next great invention. It would free the working world from hard labor and repetitive tasks. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were heralded as the next Messiahs.

In many ways, the computer did revolutionize the world. Nearly every aspect of our lives is directly affected by a microprocessor. Our lives are easier, more productive and more enjoyable.

But I couldn’t help but wonder as I stared blankly into the insides of the ailing computer Thursday how our lives are in many ways more frustrating, nerve-wracking and confusing as a result of these devices that make life easier when they work but cause great consternation when they don’t.

If my experience is correct, these revolutionary devices don’t work, at least the way we expect them to, a lot of the time.

Each day this week, I encountered someone this week who expressed frustration because a camera wouldn’t work, an email wouldn’t send, a word-processing program wouldn’t print correctly and a phone started playing three songs at once.

All of those problems were relatively minor and easily fixed. So too are most computer problems in the world. In each case, I tried to offer what assistance I could.

Admittedly, I am a bit of a computer nerd. I grew with a personal computer in my bedroom. I pored over magazines filled with computer programming languages and went to the International Science Fair by creating a computer that could see and recognizes shapes and letters.

Minor computer problems don’t faze me. I have learned from experience that the biggest tools to solving most technical problems are patience, a focused mind and the ability to stay calm.

Thursday’s problem was no minor event, yet as the world becomes more dependent on these tiny microprocessors and the Internet — when most of what we use is up in the “cloud” — even bigger problems are becoming increasingly common.

Hackers steal our debit card numbers from the stores in which we shop. The government mines every e-mail message we write and phone call we make. Google, Facebook and other sites track our every move so they can sell information about what we see like and do in cyberspace.

Many psychologists and sociologists wonder how much technology contributes to the increasing rates of depression and suicide.

As much as we celebrate the success of the Internet Age, it has come at a cost. The question is whether the costs outweigh the advantages.

 

Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.

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