Thankful for technology, too
Nov. 25, 2013
by Mark Ollig

During this week of Thanksgiving, many of us will be among family and friends.

We take time to pause and think of the people and things in our lives we are thankful for.

Being this is a technology column (with a sprinkling of self-deprecating humor yours truly likes to throw in), I thought it would be fitting to reflect upon some of the technology we can be thankful for.

When one pauses to think, it is surprising how immersed we have become with using technology in our daily lives during the last 20 years.

These days, the number of high-tech devices might seem overwhelming; however, here is an interesting perspective I would like to share with you.

Not long ago, I saw two photographs; one displaying high-tech devices used in 1993, and another showing what we regularly use today in 2013.

The first photograph showed eight devices sitting on a table we commonly used in 1993.

It displayed an OmniBook 300 laptop computer, a portable (although somewhat clunky) VCR recorder, a Motorola cellphone (otherwise known as “the brick”), an LCD watch, Walkman cassette AM-FM radio, Apple’s Newton Message Pad (or Notepad), a belt-worn pocket pager, and what appeared to be a Polaroid Vision Instamatic camera.

Those of us who used these devices usually had one concern in the back of our minds: did we have an ample supply of batteries on hand?

The second photograph displayed only one device: an Apple iPhone.

Of course, the two photographs deliver a message which makes perfect sense.

It causes one to realize just how far technology has come in the last 20 years; with the point being the small hand-held iPhone (and similar smartphones) has made things much easier in our lives by performing all the functions those eight separate devices provided for us in 1993.

Here’s a list of various technologies and popular devices we’ve seen during the last 20 years that some of us may be thankful for:

Talkboy cassette recorder, 1993

Sony Walkman WM-EX606 (cassette model), 1993

Internet search engine: ALIWEB, 1993

DirecTV Satellite TV, 1994

Google Blogger, 1994

Facebook, 1994

Bluetooth wireless, 1994

Sony PlayStation 1, 1995

GPS devices (public use), 1996

Motorola Flip-Phone, 1996

Pioneer DVD-R disc, 1997

MPMan F10 Portable MP3 player, 1998

Panasonic portable DVD player, 1998

HP optical computer mouse, 1998

TiVo Digital Video Recorder, 1999

IBM USB flash or “thumb” drive, 2000

IBM multi-core processors, 2001

Apple iPod, 2001

Mozilla Firefox Web browser, 2002

Blackberry smartphone, 2002

Microsoft Pocket PC , 2003

Samsung OLED TV, 2004

Microsoft Xbox 360, 2005

Twitter , 2006

Apple iPhone, 2007

Kindle e-book reader, 2007

Roku Internet video-streaming receiver box , 2008

Apple iPad, 2010

Trakdot Luggage Tracker , 2013

Sony Smartwatch 2, 2013

Google Glass , 2013

Let’s also not forget the technology which allows us to navigate over the network-of-networks: The Internet.

Many think of the Internet more as a place, rather than a complex arrangement of physical technological devices; however, the operation of the Internet is made possible in part because of the technology contained inside these devices.

Gateway devices such as routers send data messages through the network connections inside the Internet.

Fiber optic cables provide the physical transport layers and signaling pathways needed for us to access the Internet’s many interconnected networks.

We need to be thankful to Sir Tim Berners-Lee for his creation of the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) software code, which brought the World Wide Web onto the Internet.

Vinton Cerf and Robert Khan can be thanked for designing the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) communication software code. TCP/IP ensures data is not lost while being transmitted between networking devices and computers over the Internet.

In March 1976, the telecommunications industry was thankful as it celebrated the centennial of Alexander Graham Bell’s contribution of a technology called the telephone – which, of course, changed how the world communicated.

Bell’s invention was also responsible for the founding of many locally-owned rural telephone companies all across the country.

Thirty-seven years ago, in March 1976, when my hometown’s telephone company was owned and operated by our family, my father was asked by the local paper to make a comment about Bells’ invention.

“I am thankful he [Bell] invented the telephone. If he hadn’t, I would have probably ended up in the Pony Express business; and that would have presented a problem for me because I can’t ride a horse,” I recall my father jokingly saying as the reporter smiled.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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