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Glazer: Changing technology turns fiction into reality

POSTED: April 30, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Even when I was living in a cave back on Crete in 1973, I was always trying to find a better way to do things. I built a door of bamboo to keep the weather out. I devised an indoor fireplace that wouldn’t fill my cave with smoke. Over the course of a week I dragged a huge rock across the beach because it had a large flat surface that would become my table. Who knew then, when I was making bamboo wind chimes, that I would emerge from my cave and 30 years later become a computer technician? I may not invent the next best mousetrap, but I will certainly know how to fix it.

Before I had my first computer, a 386-SX Packard Bell almost 20 years ago, I had a Smith Corona Word Processor. Before I fixed computers, I was a writer. So naturally my tool of the trade would be a word processor. Early computers were emerging, but I thought it overkill to own one. I was a writer; what would I need with a computer?

There wasn’t an awful lot to do with one back then. The Information Super Highway was a dirt road and e-mail was in its infancy. Most people didn’t have a PC and besides they were expensive. So I processed words on my Smith Corona, printed hard copies of my columns and submitted them by mail. How archaic. That lasted a couple of years until I gave in and got what I thought to be futuristic then — my 386.

I was thrilled, waiting for those pages to load; images line by line. I was connected to the world, able to print in color and submit electronically. There weren’t many places to go, but one day I ended up in an AOL chat room for writers and met my wife-to-be. She assisted me with my new endeavor explaining why the chat room was quiet although full. They were in IM land I was told. Huh? So she sent me an Instant Message. One led to another and soon after, I moved from Florida to Georgia with my new 486-DX and married both Tess and technology.

Things are always changing. Here I am now, on my dual core Pentium 4 laptop with over a gigabyte of RAM. High tech you think? Hardly. It’s almost two years old. There are quad cores out there with 4 gigs of memory. But still, compared to my initial PC it’s hundreds of times faster.

Even the Internet is a work in progress. There is talk of a new one: an Internet for us and one for the folks who started it — the military and universities.

Technology has always amazed me. I look back at the past 50 years and see the changes from three-channel black and white television to the 300 channel satellite hi-definition color of today. We’ve gone from plain, black-corded telephones to wireless, cellular and VOIP. And the phones get smaller and more high-tech all the time.

We’ve gone from processing film in the darkroom to the computer and we have instant video — anywhere. LPs have become CDs as the sound quality has increased. The exciting launching of space capsules has turned into the mundane addition of space station inhabitants — often so common that we barely notice.

We can now use our computers to send messages, images and videos. We can travel the world virtually or buy tickets for the real thing. Products can be purchased and bills can be paid. You can trades stocks or baseball cards online. Thanks to computers and the Internet, encyclopedias have become obsolete. You can research anything from homework to why the sky is blue. And I once thought I didn’t need one.

Is it so far-fetched to think my girls will be watching holographic movies by the time they are my age? I often wonder what the next 50 years will bring. Will they be beaming themselves to places across town or to infinity and beyond? So much science fiction has become science fact.

As I watch Col. Carter travel across galaxies via the Stargate on TV, it makes me wonder, if NASA is secretly working on a real chapahai. Remember when we thought Dick Tracy’s communicator watch was fantasy? That isn’t even state-of-the-art anymore.

So to those of you who think you still don’t need a computer, I say phooey. The possibilities are limitless as to what you can do with one. I have 80-year-old clients tell me they couldn’t live without theirs. For the rest of you, beam yourselves aboard the bandwagon.

You won’t regret it.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician from Gainesville.



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