How has technology shaped our lives... what changes did it bring that we never had.. and how did it change the way we live compared to 60 years ago?.....
When I think of technology, I first think about my current students and then I think of my 70-year old mother. With my students, I wonder if they know what a collect call is/was. I know they don't know what it was like to actually get up and turn the channel on the TV or have only 10 channels to choose from. I wonder if they know what it is like to write a letter on paper and send it in the mail; or do they know what it feels like to receive a paper letter. I wonder if they really know what it is like to talk on the phone for hours rather than texting. I know they'll never have the experience of talking on the phone with a boy only to be embarrassed when Dad or Grandpa picks up another phone in another room and starts asking the boy embarrassing questions. I guess their embarrassments come in different forms, such as facebook and texting. My students will also never know what it's like to be completely in the dark about grades until a paper print-out of a report card was handed out in class and a student had to hand it to a parent. Now, students just check their grades whenever they want to online. Remember when faxing was cool and the newest technology? That made my father's law office respond to the court and other lawyers more quickly. He hated that because he felt the pressure of having to work faster in order to keep up. Life is faster and demands much more from my mother and father than when they were younger. In their view, life didn't get better, it just got more complicated.
Technology has brought both convenience and complication into people's lives. For instance, television was invented in 1927 or so, but it did not appear with any regularity in American homes until the early fifties. There were only two major networks, CBS and NBC and very few stations; so, children patiently watched the test screen in anticipation of their favorite shows. However, with satellites, televisions now present hundreds of stations, and shows can be recorded to watch later. This convenience allows people to be away and yet still watch their favorite programs. Likewise, the convenience of cell phones has been a boon to the stranded motorist, the parents trying to locate their teens, the quick note to an associate of loved one who is unavailable to speak with anyone. Computers in cars alert drivers to engine dangers, etc., and the GPS keeps them from getting lost.
On the downside, technology steals privacy from people since they can almost always be contacted in some way; it can also be the source of stress because of this lack of private time. Of course, when technology malfunctions, there is much stress to the person desiring information, etc. More than anything else, technology has removed privacy from people's lives. And, it seems to have accelerated life, somehow.
Communications and information technology, which are quickly becoming one and the same, have changed things even since I was in high school, which wasn't that long ago. The accessibility of information, including on sites like this one, has revolutionized the way we do research, the range of interests that we can pursue, and so on. In terms of communication, while I absolutely detest cell phones, I will freely admit that I couldn't imagine living without one- I can think of five or six things I did today that would have been considerably more difficult without a cell phone. On the other hand, I don't think there is any doubt that technology has in many ways sped up our lives, and sometimes I wonder if our minds and our bodies can keep pace.
I would say the most obvious change since 1952, would be the advances in computer and telecommunications technology. In 1952 people got their information from newspapers, and today newspapers are becoming obsolete. Most people use computer technology to run businesses vs. a pen and paper model.
Probably less obvious, but not to be overlooked, is the changes in our nation's infrastructure. Before the interstate highway system a trip across the United States took over fifty days by car. Today it can be done in less than four. The ability to transport people and goods across the nation has changed dramatically in sixty years.
The invention of computers around 60 years ago led directly and indirectly to a lot of other inventions and societal changes. It is a cultural shift on the scale of the invention of fire, language, and steam power. It changed almost everything about modern society.
Some of the biggest changes are yet to come. For example, education and knowledge is changing much more slowly, but there will be a greater influence lately. For example, they are just starting to find cures and preventions for serious medical problems, inventing cars that drive themselves, and glasses that give you heads-up-display directions to the coffee shop.
Technology has brought any number of changes in the past 60 years that humans could never have imagined at the time. Space travel for one, which led to instantaneous satellite news coverage, a plethora of TV networks and cell phone communications, to name but a few benefits. In the 1980s, HIV was a quick death sentence for anyone who contracted it, while now, with the right combination of treatments, a person can live almost indefinitely. Medical technology has brought us successful heart transplants, cancer treatments and same day surgeries that used to lay us up for a week.
To me, the biggest change is in how convenient everything is today. I'm not old enough to have been around 60 years ago, but I know just from comparing things with 40 years ago that everything is more convenient. There's the internet and cell phones that make it so we don't ever have to wait to look something up, order something, etc. There's microwaves so we don't have to wait for something to thaw before we can cook it. There's all these TV channels so we can watch what we want. We have essentially everything and we can get it very easily and quickly.
The incredible speed with which communication can take place over great distances is a huge change that has numerous ramifications. We are much more aware of events occurring in distant parts of the world as they are happening, but it is becoming much harder to understand when an event is being portrayed accurately because of the ease with which varied opinions and interpretations can flood the media.
We can definitely do things a lot fast now than we ever could before, with microwaves, computers, cellphones etc. But, and this is the irony involved, our lives are now busier than they were before. I think we've given ourselves a lot more to do because we can, so we really haven't gained that much in terms of time.