Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Just a quick note on modern life. Here is a slightly updated view of our electronic world. This was first published in Granite Grumblings, Life in the Live Free or Die State,( Snap Screen Press, 2011). I hope you have some fun with it.

Glenn K. Currie


Multi-tasking may have saved civilization as we now know it. Given all the wonderful new electronic toys that have been developed over the last thirty years, it doesn’t seem like it would be possible to fit their full usage into a twenty-four hour day without our citizens’ remarkable ability to become skilled at multi-tasking.

Think of how difficult it would be to devote proper attention to all our computers, IPhones, televisions, video games, and IPads, if our inventiveness hadn’t made many of these electronic wonders capable of performing many tasks simultaneously and at the press of a button.

Our modern society has essentially ended the need for stereos, VCR’s, CD players, DVD’s, pagers, paper notebooks, calculators, calendars, cameras, typewriters, fax machines, copiers, compasses, telephones (landlines), encyclopedias, books, newspapers and games requiring other people in the same room. All of these can now be easily replaced by a portable computer, an up-to-date smartphone, and/or an IPad. And each of them is gradually doing more of the work of the others. You can talk for hours, practically free, on computers, stream shows on smartphones and IPads, and do your word processing by just talking to Siri.

People have learned to use these simultaneously. Now they can check email, stay current on the latest soaps and reality TV, commute on the turnpike, dictate reports to the office while receiving a fax from overseas, scream at the guy cutting them off at the exit and write, text, tweet a friend,(although, please, not when the car is moving). In previous eras, it would have taken hours to get all that done.

Things actually began to change with the proliferation of fast food places and the invention of the microwave. Once the need to cook dinner on a real stove was eliminated, it opened up all sorts of additional time for families. Everyone could get home later, eat faster, and waste less time actually communicating with each other. Then we got remote controls on the TV’s so guys could watch three different sporting events at once. This in turn forced wives and kids to get their own TV’s, which further cut down on face time.

The arrivals of all the new electronic toys were initially a challenge, but with the reduced need to communicate with real people, we began to see evolution take hold. Our fingers became more dexterous as we learned to use them for video games, channel flipping and text messaging. 

Our Blackberries became smartphones which then became cameras and pagers, our automobiles became portable offices and movie theaters, our computers and smartphones became capable of video conference calls, “Skyping”, and “face time”, and they all talked to each other. Pretty soon we didn’t even need to get involved in some of the conversations.

For many, there was almost no reason for real life to intrude on these virtual worlds. Messy issues such as meeting people face-to-face, having real conversations with our children and meeting our neighbors needed to never occur. Even the survival of the species was assured without the need for face-to-face meetings.

But if you are still of the old school that favors some contact in this last critical objective, our inventive geniuses have developed easy ways to multi-task this as well. This was clearly pointed out in a television commercial a while ago. Modern man was busy playing with his remote control and waiting for a big game when his wife signaled that it might be time for a little face to face contact. What to do! Then he remembered the opportunities provided by multi-tasking. He could record the big game, take a Viagra and spend some quality time with his wife without missing anything important, or getting too emotionally involved. Heck, a lot of the ads now emphasize people taking Viagra or some similar pill and having sex in separate but adjoining bathtubs. (I’m still not sure how that works, but I’m old). Lots of folks also seem to turn their IPhones on and tape the actual act to share with a whole bunch of other people whom they don’t know.

Some of you out there may think this is the beginning of the end of our civilization. But most of us in New Hampshire don’t get too caught up in this stuff. We may use many of these new marvels, but we still find plenty of time to spend with our families, watch a sunset, count the stars and get to know our neighbors, right?

And if not, it’s not really that big a deal. I know some web sites that have great pictures of the galaxies and sunsets, and there are several that will send greetings to friends and relatives free of charge. As for the neighbors, most of them are too busy to want to meet you anyway.  And that gives you more time to pour a cool drink, go out to the screened –in porch and update your Facebook page. I now have over 150 friends and I honestly don’t know who half of them are. Once you start going down the friends-of-friends route it gets pretty confusing. I can’t wait for a new app to come out that will automatically update my Facebook page so I don’t have to deal with any of these people. I need more time to figure out how to play Madden Football.

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