- Cullman, Alabama


October 28, 2013

SOUTHERN STYLE: Computer technology

Although I am old enough to remember the senate hearings when people were talking about the new-fangled “world wide web” and I’ve seen the advancement from computers as big as a house to ones you can hide in your ear, I’m still amazed.

When they had those hearings, they were afraid of too much information getting out, which is understandable in some cases, such as the ingredients for making bombs, which did get out to the public, and military secrets, which also got out, and of course, personal information on everyone from the president to the guy who delivers your newspaper.

Along with that information, though, comes a lot of disinformation. And what are we supposed to believe? Common sense plays a big part in that, so it also amazes me how people take some of this stuff and run with it…anything from lost and sick children to the second coming of Christ, and everything in between. Most people have at least heard, if not read for themselves in the Bible, that no man knows when Christ will come again….so if you get that email, you can almost certainly disregard it, unless of course, it’s signed by Jesus, and there you go again….some people would believe it. Personally, I just don’t see Jesus communicating with us via the Internet.

But the good things seem to outweigh the bad in this age of electronics. Like tonight, when I needed to know how in the world to get stains out of my stainless steel pots and pans.

You can Google absolutely anything and something will come up, usually the right answer, or something close. Tonight, I entered “how to remove rings from stainless steel and porcelain pans” and good ol’ Heloise popped right up.

I have received instant answers to things that used to drive me crazy and keep me up all night… like who sang the song, “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” (which was Loudon Wainwright III, in case anyone out there needs to know that little bit of trivia). You can even go further and Google the song, get the lyrics or have it set as the ringtone on your iPhone, which just carries the technology even further in that you have all the world at your fingertips. You can even leave home and stay connected, well, mostly, there’s a place in Battleground where you are in no-man’s-land for a while. I guess you’d be in big trouble if you needed to know the name of a song in the middle of the night while stuck on the side of the road in Battleground.

All of this is galaxies away from the time when the cord of the olive green wall phone would barely stretch from the kitchen to the bathroom. I’ve sat many an hour with my head tilted toward the hall while trying to carry on a conversation in private and massaging a crick in my neck.

The information highway has brought us out of the dark ages and into enlightenment in many ways. Think how long it would have taken to find out information on the price of eggs in China when we were kids. If it wasn’t in the World Book of Encyclopedias or you didn’t know any Chinese kids with relatives in the homeland to ask, you were out of luck. Now, not only can you find out the price of eggs in China, or tea or what have you, you can order some online with your credit card and have it shipped to your address without even leaving home.

 Of course, the availability to acquire information so easily also makes targets of older people, leaves teens very vulnerable, and is downright dangerous to children. Who would have ever thought that you could “Google Earth” and find a child playing alone in a sandbox half a block or half a continent away, or lift someone’s picture and photoshop it onto another person’s body? Or steal someone’s information and use it for personal gain?

Bank robbers never had it so good…

These are exactly the sorts of things that those senate hearings brought out all those years ago. Those men could see the web getting too big to be contained. I am almost certain that they didn’t have a clue as to the extent it would revolutionize the world.

It’s the first place people go when they are diagnosed with any illness or disease, it’s our way of communicating with friends, relatives and even strangers. It’s also home to the “cyber stalker” who can watch when no one knows. People need to be very aware of hackers and others who exploit the Internet for their own gain or personal gratification.

It’s brought out the best and the worst in humankind. It’s changed our very language from words to abbreviations, like lol, rolf, and brb (ask any texter what that means).

It’s amazing what the mind of man can achieve. I can’t wait to see what’s next — and its up to us to use it for good or evil. In some ways, life was much simpler when all we had was that wall phone with the stretchy cord.

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