From Flip Phone to Smart Phone

This week my husband and I traded in our flip phones for a smart phone.  I have resisted doing this for some time.  It’s not that I am not computer savvy – but I must confess as I age and as the technology keeps making leaps and bounds, I fear that I will never keep up with it all

I learned to type on a Remington manual typewriter.  The only place you will see one of those now is in an antique shop.

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Excitement ran high when we found out we would get electric typewriters to use in our senior year of school.

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During my senior year they also offered a course on computers.  That class consisted of reading about the history and concept of computers.  We heard about the mathematics professor Charles Babbage who designed the Analytical Engine.  This became the basis of today’s computers.  But there were no computers for us to use.  At that time the only ones with computers were banks and large commercial firms.  The idea that someone might have a personal computer at home sounded like science fiction to the average American.

The last week of the class we visited a local bank to see their computer.  It was a huge machine in a room that had to be kept at a certain temperature.

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Data was fed into the computer inserting punch cards into the machine.

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Every time I remember that big computer and realize the smart phone my daughter holds in her hand can do so much more than that huge machine could do, I am still amazed at the progress in technology made in my lifetime.

After graduating my first job was as a bookkeeper at a local bank.  Checking accounts were divided between three bookkeepers.  I was responsible for all customers whose last names started J to P.  Every check and every deposit these customers made was posted by me using the Burroughs data processor.  Each customer had a statement that we posted debits and credits on throughout the month.  At the end of the month we printed out the statements, gathered all the checks and deposit slips and mailed them to the customers.   We had to memorize the signature of our customers and before posting any check we examined it to make sure it was signed by our customer.  If we had any doubt we would pull out their signature card and make a comparison.  If still in doubt we would give the customer a call to confirm they had written the check.

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Finally, at age 36 I used my first computer.  Starting a job as a legal secretary for a junior partner in a law firm, I was told the firm had just switched out their electric typewriters to word processors about six months before.  Having no experience with word processors I came in on a Saturday morning and spent about 30 minutes with the secretary I was replacing to learn how to use the processor.  Monday morning I was off – secretary to a very busy upcoming lawyer using a word processor with no experience as either a legal secretary or with a word processor.  Needless to say, it was a BIG learning experience.  Thankfully I am a fast learner and the job became my favorite in my work career.

Since that time there has continued to be new and exciting milestones for me in this rapidly changing technology world.

  • The day the law firm got email on their computers.  We could only email one another within the firm.
  • The day we got email that could go beyond our own personal system and we could communicate with other law firms and businesses.
  • The day I got my own personal computer at home.  It was just a word processing machine.
  • The day I got a computer that could handle all kinds of programs like Publisher, Excel and I could go on the internet.

While I struggle to stay on top of all these changes – and I think I do pretty good for a woman in her 70’s – I fear the day it all gets more than I can do.

But, if and when that happens, I have my own little computer expert, my granddaughter Zoe.  When she was only four years old she sat by her Papa as he opened up children’s songs on YouTube and showed her the videos.  She kept trying to reach over and touch the keyboard and he kept telling her to stop.  Finally, she managed to get around his hands and reach the keyboard.  To his surprise she touched a key that opened up the tiny window showing the song to a full screen picture!  Then and there he realized this four-year-old was probably much more computer savvy than he was.

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Some Scary Thoughts During This Cold Snap

We Americans like to think how great and advanced our nation is – and we are.

But during this cold snap I had a few scary thoughts on just how dependent we are on our great advanced technologies – and what would we do if something happened to them.

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The energy company that supplies our heat sent an emergency text to all its customers asking them to turn down their heat to 65 degrees so that they would not run out of gas this week.

“Due to extreme temps, Consumers asks everyone to lower their heat to 65 or less through Fri.”

 

The cold temperatures meant everyone’s furnace was running more and the demand for gas was much higher than normal.  Of course, the company has reserves for times like this.  But, a fire at a compressor station in southeast Michigan had caused them to shut down the plants there.

Even the governor posted a video on her Facebook page asking customers to lower the heat in their homes as much as possible,

“so that we can deliver enough gas for everyone to have some heat, and to protect our most critical facilities like hospitals and senior citizens’ homes.”

General Motors shut down eleven facilities in Flint, Lansing, and Orion Township and asked thousands of workers at the Warren Tech Center to work from home through at least Friday.

Ford Motor Company lowered the temperature in its Livonia Transmission Plant and Van Dyke Transmission Plant to minimum levels and stopped heat treatment processes at Sterling Axle Plant, as well as the paint process at Michigan Assembly.  Many other big commercial users closed their plants or reduced their natural gas usage.

Normally in a shortage like this the utility could buy gas from other utilities in neighboring states.  But this cold snap covered all the midwest and there was probably little extra gas to buy.

Of course, the cold snap moved on and we are back to normal.

But some scary thoughts I had:

  • What if the cold snap had lasted longer?
  • What if another processing plant had a fire or other malfunctions?

Unlike Grandma and Grandpa who had a wood stove, we would have nothing to keep us warm.

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Since our power company also uses natural gas to produce electricity, that would probably mean no lights and even my electric stove would not work.  So how would I cook any food?

And our water plant would not be able to provide water and sewer.  Unlike Grandma and Grandpa we had no well and no outhouse.

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My thoughts went on and on.

I realized just how dependent we are on all the advanced technology we have.  I’m thankful for how much easier to makes our lives than our grandparents, but I also realized how quickly we could be brought to our knees.

I also thought how much we take for granted on things many in the world still do not have.

  • Clean, hot water by just turning on a handle on the sink.
  • Comfortable temperatures in the bitter cold of winter or the sweltering heat of summer.
  • Lights so that we can stay up late at night or rise early in the morning and not have to work by candlelight.
  • Refrigerators so we can keep enough food for weeks or months and not have to go to market every day for fresh meat.

I could go on and on about all the blessings we have today – but this episode of possible gas shortage has once again made me realize how thankful I should be for the life we Americans live.

And how dependent we really are on technology.