THE QUESTION: Has a piece of modern technology changed your life?
As I delve into this question I become increasingly aware that technology changes our life in many ways every day. Often we are not even aware of the technology or the way it has transformed us on a personal level and as a society.
As a once medical research scientist I know that the major breakthroughs in medicine have been technological rather than physiological. The biomedical engineers that design and build DNA sequencers, MRI, ultrasound machines, electron microscopes and all those gadgets that exist in laboratories behind closed around the world, have been the seeds that germinate into medical science miracles.
It’s impossible for me to deny the personal gains from technology such as television, cars and the internet. But if I was to choose one technology that fills me with awe it is the power of flight. It blows my mind that we can defy gravity and travel at speeds fast enough to travel across the planet in a few hours and even travel to other planets in a matter of weeks. It is truly amazing.
I don’t own an iron.
Every single article of clothing I have can be made presentable by a nice tumble in the fancy steam dryer I have right in my basement.
One load of laundry on quick wash takes exactly 36 minutes. The washer sings a happy little tune when it’s finished.
And I can squeeze in a quick workout, or read a bit while I wait for it.
Certainly computers, cell phones, keyless entry locks, and GPS systems make life so much easier. But when I think of technology, what sticks in my mind is watching a TV show about doing laundry in the “olden days”.
I believe they said laundry day was Tuesday.
All day Tuesday.
Fetching water. Heavy buckets full of it.
Loading wash into a tub with soap, and then agitating it by hand.
By hand! With some kind of…stick.
Hanging things up with clothespins to dry, followed by ironing, and then – the endless folding…
Here and there I find myself wondering if 100 years from now someone will be out there lamenting the clunky steam dryer, and the washer that took 36 minutes to complete it’s long, long cycle.
But for now – I’ll take it!
Has a piece of modern technology changed my life?
I have been through many technological changes in my life and maintain a special fondness for the convenience of the microwave oven, but the biggest change in my life has come from computers connected to the internet.
I grew up in a family that had the luxury of access to encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases and other reference books. Not to mention a wide selection of literature from the ancient Greeks to the Lost Generation. That amounted to 32 cartons or more when we moved from Chicago to Washington state in 1975.
Now I have access to all that through a cell phone about the size of an index card.
This new fact that good things come in small packages has freed me from the physical burden of maintaining a large library. Useful as a cellphone is, my new favorite technology is my Kindle Fire tablet.
It has more uses than a Swiss army knife, though opening cans and sawing down saplings aren’t among them.
GPS and cameras, clocks and timers. Skyping, games, streaming, Netflix, Wikipedia, Facebook, shopping, banking.
I think we should all have internet in the palm of our hands.
The first audiobooks I borrowed from Urbana Free Library were original recordings of The Shadow radio program, Edgar Allan Poe short stories, and a Somerset Maugham novel. I think it was The Razor’s Edge.
Hooked nearly 30 years now. As a lifelong reader, this discovery of unabridged recordings of an amazing array of books I could enjoy while I walked, worked in my studio, spent hours in my car, it was like magic.
I have listened to literally thousands of books since those early days. I exhausted every library where I lived, from Glasgow to Manhattan, Kansas. Minneapolis to Pakenham, Victoria.
The tools of my trade began with a basic flat cassette recorder. I graduated to a procession of Sony boom boxes played until the motors wore out, and series of Walkmans. I moved with the times, and when CDs came along, my tech moved along.
I can remember roadtrips defined by the books I was playing. The Black Hills and Our of Africa. Tennessee and Ken Follett. I was indiscriminate, though I drew the line at westerns, romances and fluff historical fiction.
The iPod was a revelation. I worked through my classic until it just got sticky to use, and a little faulty. You know you can’t open those things – they don’t even seem to have a seam. I graduated to the Nano; the little slip of metal which magically holds heaps of books. It was just in time to meet the digital audiobook revolution.
Podcasts came along and sealed the deal on my audio-bibliophile tendencies.
They say it’s now curtains for the iPod. I don’t know how I feel about that. I still have my trusty Nano. It sends me to sleep, accompanies me as I trim horses, walk up the road, piping in stories of Africa, crime, adventure, and the elegant fictions of life. My podcasts are now managed by my smartphone, and I devour documentaries and investigative journalism.
The technology of recording a spoken word.
Had it been the 60s, I would have played LP recordings of comedians. I like filling in the stories with images of my own. The devices evolve, but putting a voice out there with a story has been the single biggest effect on my life.
Maybe it’s Edison I should thank. I am just grateful the books are there.