Technology is my friend, or a fiend

Chris from Off the Shore of Orion, whose been off her blog, but on other social media, wonders:
What piece of technology would you hate the most to lose? Which piece of technology do you wish would just disappear?

The former is quite easy; the latter, not so much.

I am a lousy typist. I used to use tons of Wite Out and those weird little strips that would take up a letter from the already-typed page. But it was tedious and exhausting. Clearly, my favorite technology that has been developed in my lifetime is the word processor. It has made the creative process INCREDIBLY easier. Oops, I typed an n when I meant an m; no problem. Backspace and correct.

I remember having this Sears typewriter back in the 1980s that had about a page worth of memory, so you could write before it typed about a line of text, and there was this narrow screen on it, so you could see a little bit of what you had written. It was an improvement, but not like the chance to view, save, and change a large document.

If I were dependent on the old technology, I wouldn’t be a librarian, for I would still be working on my graduate school paper from 20 years ago, which ran about 50 pages long (and wasn’t very good). When I first composed it, the sections were structured 1a, 1b, 1c, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a, 3b, 3c. But once the first draft was completed, I realized I had it all wrong; it should have been arranged 1a, 2a, 3a, 1b, 2b, 3b, 1c, 2c, 3c. So I cut and pasted over 2/3s of the document. If I had had to RETYPE it…

I don’t know what kind of typist Jaquandor is, but I’m sure that he is appreciating editing the text of his book or two, including Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title), on a word processor, rather than retyping every draft. BTW, I think is rather awesome that he’s doing that. You should read what he says about writing, with a wife and a kid and a job, in response to this column, which I sent him.

And of course, the word processing mode eventually made this whole blogging thing possible, which means, theoretically, that we could have a whole bunch of Thomas Paines out there, speaking truth to power. We don’t, of course, and people write all sorts of garbage, but that’s not the fault of the technology.

This is why I get extremely nervous about those sneaky draconian bills such as ACTA, designed presumably to protect against copyright infringement, but which would have a chilling effect on free speech.

On the other side of the original question, it’s more difficult to say. I could pick getting rid of the drones we fire into Pakistan. But the technology itself is neutral; a similar methodology might be used to blow up that asteroid that’s going to hit the planet, or to play video games.

The same technology that might infect thousands of people with some terrible virus might also be used to save them.

Somewhat off topic, but Mark McGuire noted that “Facebook announced it has hit one billion users. Do you think *you* will still be using FB in 5 years? What social media platform do you think you will be using the most by then?” My answer is that I haven’t a clue. I didn’t know, 10 years ago, I’d be blogging; three years ago, I ignored Facebook altogether. I might have said three years ago, Twitter was pointless (I didn’t, but I could have), yet here I am tweeting daily, mostly things that I blog, to be sure. And I would not have thought you could so easily link them.

I WILL say that planned obsolescence is a terribly trait in manufacturing, but that’s more a methodology than a technology.

Oh, you know what technology I wish would disappear? The eight-track. A stupid technology that would make a lot of noise in the middle of a song. That’s something that should go. Wait: it did. Lots of bad technology goes away on its own.

0 thoughts on “Technology is my friend, or a fiend”

  1. Great post! I agree that being able to modify documents easily is great.

    Two things: first, being able to modify documents easily might lead to the carelessness we’ve seen. Second, there are a lot of would-be Thomas Paines. I think blogging and whatnot has made it more difficult to turn theory into action. Because everyone is educated and can communicate widely, no one is actually in charge. During the American revolution, the Russian Communist revolution, etc., only a few had access to the means to communicate; those became the leaders.

    I thought of exactly the same thing when it came to things like weapons. How should we evaluate the A-bomb? It’s a destructive abomination, but the associated technology is central to so much science and even medicine.

    Like your choice of 8-track. Eliminating “annoying” technology: any program that suddenly grabs my machine and says “We’re doing this NOW…” A reboot, an update, etc. Drives me bonkers.


  2. oh…lets see there are so many things that I think that I need to survive, my computer, my tv, blogging, twittering…but all I really need is my camera and some way to see my pictures.

    as for what techy thing I wish could be gone…hmmmmm…things are moving so fast by the time I learn how to work one of them it is replaced!


  3. People have constructed buildings and other structures since prehistory , including bridges, amphitheatres, dams, electricity pylons, roads and canals. Building materials in present use have a long history and some of the structures built thousands of years ago can still be regarded as remarkable. The history of construction overlaps that of structural engineering . To understand why things were constructed the way they were, we also need to rely on archaeology to record the form of the parts that survive and the tools used, and other branches of history and architecture to investigate how the builders lived and recorded their accomplishments.


    1. There was a piece on CBS Sunday Morning a year or two ago about leaf blowers. A stupid technology, so said Julie Newmar, the original Catwoman on the Batman TV series.


  4. Thanks for the link! As for my typing ability — I’m pretty good, actually; I haven’t tested my speed lately, but I can go at a pretty good clip. I never took any kind of ‘official’ keyboarding or typing class in school; I’ve always thought the ‘official’ way to do it kind of silly. It’s something that you get decent at if you do it a lot, and I see people who obviously use the ‘official’ way but they’re just as slow as a two-finger typist, because they don’t type much.

    I’ve only been ‘seriously’ writing since word processors came along. Back in the day, I used to write longhand and then file it away; that was in my ‘fanfic’ days, so it wasn’t like I was trying to produce saleable copy. But I’ve often wondered about that process, and how it all worked back then. I remember an anecdote that Isaac Asimov wrote: he always wrote prolifically, as long as he could remember, even as a kid when paper was an expense, so he didn’t use margins. At all. He’d type from edge to edge, top to bottom. Over the years, editors got him to give them SOME kind of margin, but he never got to the ‘official’ margin that editors ‘require’. As he wrote, “My sense of economy had gone so far and would budge no farther.”

    As for what technology could I live without — I could live without the tablet I bought a few months ago, I suppose. But it really does make certain things a lot more convenient, so…I don’t know! It amazes me how technology makes itself a part of things, once we finally take the plunge.


  5. Seems like technology is always met with resistance by most people. I remember manual and electric typewriters and am thrilled they are gone! Getting my strat comm students to use Twitter 4 years ago was like pulling teeth, and now the all have accounts. FB? Who knows. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Like most things……..


  6. I suppose there is technology I could easily do without, though as someone mentioned, once you have it, it sort of becomes ingrained in your life and you *think* you couldn’t live without it. But something that I’d actually like to see go away? hmmm. As you mentioned, there are very few things that are just inherently bad, so that’s a really hard question. I know I am generally annoyed by automated phone calls and IVR systems at customer care centers, so I’d easily vote to have them done away with. Though, I’m sure that the technology that allows those annoyances to exist probably does some good in some other field.


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