Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fast Lane Blues

The world seems to be changing fast these days. Or maybe it's just me getting old.

This planet has always seen bursts of rapid development, from hunter-gatherer to agrarian--okay, maybe not that, but aviation between 1914 and 1919, for instance. So many things have happened since World War II. Television has gone from limited availability analog black-and-white broadcast to unlimited high definition digital satellite-direct, interactive. Computers have gone from massive mechanical devices, to analog vacuum tube monstrosities, to analog transistor monstrosities, to digital microchip handheld devices. One iPhone now has more computing power than all of the computers in existence in 1968 combined.

Sadly, human space travel hasn't gone very far in the last forty years, but unmanned exploration has discovered amazing things--few answers, but lots of new questions.

Many "advancements" in chemistry and biology have been ill-advised and potentially disastrous, but the world of physics has made great new discoveries--few answers, but lots of new questions.

Now here is what really put a burr under my saddle. It started with home computers. Every time I got the latest, fastest model with the biggest hard drive and the most ram, software developers came out with a new version of their program, which my computer was only marginally fast enough to run, which took up most of my hard drive, and which required a ram upgrade to run. Fine. When I could, I bought the latest, fastest new computer with an exponential increase in ram. Bingo. The new programs made my computer seem like a snail.

Then came the internet and the problem was modems. Each time I got the fastest modem, websites became more graphics intensive and I had to have a newer computer to run a faster modem. WiFi came along and modems seemed to become irrelevant, but I needed a newer computer with a faster graphics board, or whatever. Every time I upgraded my computer, web developers added more video to their sites, higher definition and anything else that would exclude my computer from full participation. Fine.

So computers get faster, with more ram and higher definition video capabilities and what happens? Internet providers limit my data usage to a maximum twenty gigabytes. If I'm lucky my internet works for a week out of every month. Not fair.

Most of the time when one advancement is made it makes something else obsolete. Now we have a technology that throws a big wrench into the usefulness of all these other technologies. One of these days maybe everything will work together, but for now I'll avoid watching videos, Facebooking or downloading music. My favorite technological advancement is having a massive library of information and imagination at my fingertips. From my point of view, that's a great change.

Stephen P.

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