Crossing the bridge into 2018

Dec. 29, 2017
by Mark Ollig

We’ve survived another fast-paced year, consumed with technology, political changes, and lots of online social media drama; notably, the presidential tweets.

One of the things many of us do at the end of each year is to look back at our achievements and memorable experiences.

I recall hearing my father say, “It’s nice to look back on your accomplishments, but then you need to turn and look forward, so that you can create new accomplishments.”

What you are reading is the 53rd and final column for 2017, and the 608th column since Dec. 15, 1997; not that I am keeping track of them . . . well, maybe I am.

The complete list of Bits & Bytes columns are on my Facebook page; in case any friends or family members are interested.

I’ll now take Dad’s sage advice and turn myself forward and get back to today’s topic.

A US government census website guesstimates the world’s population at the start of the year was 7.36 billion, and has now risen to 7.44 billion.

It’s a matter of days before 2018; and yet nearly half the world’s population is unable to access the internet due to economic, geographical, or technological reasons.

Visit the US government’s population census website at https://www.census.gov/popclock.

Back in the day, we addressed personal computer memory mostly using terms like megabytes.

Today, computing data storage is spoken using gigabytes and terabytes.

I foresee in the not-too-distant future, when a petabyte (one-thousand terabytes, or one-million gigabytes) worth of computing data will be commonly accessible on personal internal/portable data storage drives, or through externally-hosted cloud storage.

According to Scientific American, the human brain, using all of its neuron connections, can store 2.5 petabytes, which is equivalent to remembering 3 million hours of television, or 2.2 trillion of those cute kitty pictures seen on Instagram and Facebook.

I won’t even guess the year when we will be routinely using exabyte and zettabyte memory capacity.

It’s difficult for us to wrap our minds around such large numbers, but our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will probably be using these virtually limitless, computing-storage terms.

In January, I wrote about the conversion from Frequency Modulated (FM) radio to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) in Norway, which resulted in the shutdown of all their FM radio transmitters.

DAB provides greater regional reception coverage, lower operating costs when compared to FM, and superior listening quality.

Norway’s FM spectrum allowed five national stations to be operating on the air, whereas 22 are currently being supported using DAB technology.

Their conversion reminds me of when all US television broadcast stations were ordered to stop transmitting analog signals over-the-air, and switch to all-digital television signal broadcasting, June 12, 2009.

This past year, we also learned about Emma, the robotic masseuse.

The Expert Manipulative Massage Automation (Emma) is a technologically-advanced robotic arm equipped with a soft silicone, human-mimicking palm and thumb, used for giving massages.

Emma practices the traditional Chinese therapeutic massage called Tuina.

This robotic massaging system uses proprietary cloud software intelligence supported by Microsoft and developed by Albert Zhang, founder of AiTreat and NovaHealth Clinic.

Emma’s advanced electronic sensors and diagnostic functions precisely measure the exact stiffness of a particular muscle or tendon.

The robotic arm’s hand palm and thumb are warmed; so you needn’t worry about any cold hands on your back.

A computer server located inside the internet cloud receives the massage patient’s data. There, an artificial intelligence (AI) software program quickly computes the exact pressure to be delivered by Emma during the massage session.

The AI program continuously tracks and analyzes the progress of the patient’s robotic massage.

Some folks were surprised when I wrote in a May column, that after five years, I was abandoning Apple’s iOS, and returning to the Microsoft Windows operating system, with the purchase of a new HP notebook computer installed with Windows 10.

The one anecdote I recall from the column is talking computers with the youthful-looking computer sales clerk, Robert.

“You talk a lot like my dad did when I was growing up. Many years ago, he worked in the computer department at his office,” Robert smilingly said to me.

I smiled back at him and nodded; feeling a bit unsure of how to reply.

Of course, Robert meant it as a compliment. It was the “many years ago” which caught my attention and gave me pause for thought.

I began the Aug. 25 column with “Greetings from the Coco Moon Coffee Bar, located in the heart of downtown Brainerd.”

Columnists need to write; even while on vacation in the relaxing Brainerd Lakes area.

I enjoyed revisiting the Coco Moon Coffee Bar, where I had written my Oct. 2, 2006, column, while seated in a comfortable wooden booth next to the large window facing 6th Street and Laurel.

It was a satisfying and memorable day in Brainerd; and, for the most part, so was 2017.

Let’s turn and look forward as we cross the bridge, with hope and optimism, into 2018.

Be sure to visit Bits & Bytes online at http://bitscolumn.blogspot.com.

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