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Gabe's Gripes: March of progress



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May 02, 2012 - Many of you may have already guessed this, but technology is a fascination of mine.

I'm all over the tech journals during doctors visits, I stay up-to-date on the newest innovations and I certainly have a weakness for useful new devices. I move on to new stuff so often that I often forget how far we've come in the last ten years.

For example, in 2000 HD televisions were still far too expensive for widespread use, were often bulky CRT versions that looked like tube televisions with flat screens and weighed enough to cause small people (like me) serious injury when dropped. They were built solidly of course, but compared to the inch-thin screens of today they might as well have weighed a literal ton. In ten years we've gone from that to a paper thin screen that can fit into a three square inch telephone that also has room for plethora of other functions, among them the ability to communicate with satellites.

Satellites. Those are in space remember?

Another subject of fascination is our ability to store and transfer massive amounts of information. When I was young, the primary medium for digital data transfer were 3.5" floppy disks, though this quickly transitioned into CD's. I remember true awe at the idea of a DVD player: "You mean I don't have to rewind this?" Yet even CD's are becoming somewhat unused.

Streaming data from the world-changing phenomenon that is the internet has become the norm while installing new programs on anything has become a short download. The process of moving a file from one computer to another has become either a quick upload over a wireless network (wires are even blase anymore) or a quick transfer on a USB flash drive. On top of it, the space allotted to these flash drives has become astoundingly large - we've gone from a five gigabyte optical disc to 64 gigabyte stick that's smaller than my thumbnail in 10 years.

I had a computer in 2000 that had a 40 gigabyte hard drive and now I have a stick in my phone that is thinner than a dime that holds 16.

I could go on - the world of technological advancement seems to have no borders, but one of the biggest revelations I had about this rapid progress is the effect on the young people in our community. I was visiting a school the other day for your average journalism work when I noticed an old box of floppy disks on a desk. A student, maybe 10 or 11 years-old came into the office and took notice of the disks. Turning to a nearby teacher he asked "why are there save buttons on the table?"

Cassettes, audio or video, are completely unrecognized. The time to connect to the internet (something that we had to do every single time, sucking up a phone line in the process) is now mere seconds, yet I've heard people complain about their crap phone that's taking forever (30 seconds) to load a webpage. Even I've gotten very frustrated that tunes I've uploaded to Google Music take 10 seconds to start streaming on my phone in my car in the middle of nowhere.

We're spoiled and it all happened with 10 years of innovation and invention. We've forgotten what we used to have and how much better it is now. Even the internet has transformed into something nearly everyone not only uses but relies on.

I'm not saying we should start expecting less - demand is one of the many fuels behind invention and refining. What I am saying is every time you boot up a computer or verbally ask your car to navigate to the closest McDonalds, think about the infrastructure that made that possible and how truly amazing it is.

Then think about how helpless we feel when it all comes crashing down during a power outage.

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