Monday, April 28, 2014

Personal observations on a high-tech world

In the late 1970s, just before we were married, my wife and I purchased our first home. At that point in my life, I didn’t have a lot of household items to bring to the marriage. In fact, I didn’t even own a single piece of furniture.

To the best of my recollection, my entire contribution to the new home all fit into my small car. One trip across town was all I needed to move. You could say the house was vintage. It had a built-in milk chute and a large, gas-gravity furnace that used to burn coal. With its large, octopus-like arms reaching out in all directions, it dominated the basement.

Upstairs, the thermostat was very simplistic. If you wanted more heat, you turned the knob to the right; if you wanted less, you turned it to the left. Our television had a rabbit-ear antenna for controlling the reception and we changed channels manually, not remotely. The VCR? Well, we were still saving to buy one.

As our family grew, so did the houses and the technology within them. Today, with all the boys grown up and on their own, we decided to move again. With just the two of us, it just made sense to get smaller and simpler. Well, the new place is definitely smaller, but I’d hardly call it simpler.

I remember when telephones were just for talking. Today, they’re essentially mini computers. I’m still amazed that I can control the volume on my television with my phone. And instead of having speakers and audio equipment around the house, we have a remarkable device called a sound bar. It not only provides incredible sound on the television, it can also play all the music on my wife’s phone.

Our high-efficiency furnace takes up only a small portion of the basement compared to the old octopus. My new thermostat looks like something from NASA. It tells the outdoor temperature, the indoor temperature and humidity and even gives a seven-day forecast. And, of course, I can control it with my phone.

Throughout my lifetime, technological advances have amazed me. To an extent, they’ve also confused me. That’s why I had “technicians” tutor me on how to use the television, sound system and thermostat. Yes, it was a little embarrassing to have to contact a technician in order to adjust the household humidity.

Now, when I buy a new computer or software program, I educate myself. In today’s high-tech world, almost everyone needs some sort of help or self-education to understand these incredible new products. I believe the days of just selling a product like a television without tech service and ongoing education are numbered. People are making careers out of servicing high-tech equipment and educating the users.

The world is certainly more complex, but the benefits are well worth the time to learn how to operate a television, furnace or, for that matter, any other household item.

It’s easy to overlook how fast technology is changing our personal lives. I noticed how it improved things at the office and in the financial world. But my recent move really made me aware how much it has changed our day-to-day living at home. We’ve come a long way from milkman delivery and newspapers on the porch.

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