NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, February 2012
Dick’s Clicks
By Dick Ramette,
President, Computer Club of Green Valley, AZ
February 2011 issue, Green Bytes
Rwramette (at) mindspring.com (click to email author)

"Sam" likes being technophobic. He grew up happily without PCs, cell phones, and credit cards, and is amused by those who flaunt their myriad electronic devices. He quotes Clifford Stoll: "Why is it drug addicts and computer aficionados are both called users?" But, in reality, there is no such thing as a "nonuser," because of how computers permeate most aspects of modern society.

Sam's not impressed with how stores use computers to scan price codes, manage inventories, and arrange for shipping. He's uninformed about how modern medicine is highly digitized, from storing personal records to advanced diagnostic tools, as are all bank accounts. newspapers, magazine subscriptions, telephones and public library accounts. Travel relies on the computers of hotels, restaurants, cruise ships and airlines, and all newer cars are governed by built-in computers. The USPS and the phone system could not function well without computers, nor could law enforcement and fire fighters. Even the aerobics machines in GVR fitness rooms are computerized.

At the other extreme from Sam are the true technophiles, like the few elites in CCGV, whose computer expertise dwarfs that of the typical user. Nothing will do except the latest version of hardware and software. Some golfers are even using GPS devices to plot strategy during a round.

I'm more in the common mainstream, I guess. My two computers do enrich my life on a daily basis. My son in Wisconsin sent me an email with a video of wild turkeys near his property, and I was able to inform him, thanks to Google, that a group of turkeys is called a gang, a posse, or a rafter. See: http://www.thealmightyguru.com/Pointless/AnimalGroups.html.

I enjoy the Astronomy Picture of the Day, my favorite comics (those not included in the AZ Star, like Judge Parker), opinions on NYTimes and Huffington Post, and I sample the thousands of reader comments. I play Wordscraper with a daughter and a grandson, but do nothing else with Facebook. I download the NYT crossword, check movie reviews on http://www.imdb.com, look at political cartoons on http://www.washingtonpost.com, and note obituaries on http://www.gvnews.com. All my Pima Library reserves are by computer. I have links to the menus of my favorite restaurants.

I use Open Office spreadsheet to keep statistics for the GVR Shuffleboard Club, and I manage my photo collection with Windows Explorer and Photoshop Elements. I'd hate to do without email.

I'm content with Wordpad for writing things, including this column. I still write useful little programs using the antiquated QBasic. I measure my walks by GPS. But I ignore Skype, Picasa, Windows 7 and online banking, though I do order stuff from http://www.amazon.com.

With my new BFF, the iPod touch, I play the Scramble word game, listen to music, take photos and go online. I marvel that such technology can be bundled in such a small package: it holds my lifetime music collection and my lifetime photo collection. And, as we heard at the CCGV meeting in January, the Apple iPad is even more amazing, now with 300,000 apps.

This month I bought a Blu-Ray DVD player and a 50" plasma TV, and I'm astonished by all the functions that were not available on my 22-year-old Sony, including wireless access to all the photos on my computer, and free streaming of Netflix movies. The old Sony still works, so make an offer.

And yet—and yet—I know that many among us, like Sam, are living happy and rich, productive lives at a more leisurely pace, without the comfort of a personal computer. Recently an AP story told of a NY mother who "unplugged" her kids for six months, with clearly beneficial effects on grades and use of spare time. Kinda like the way we all were three or four decades ago. I imagine them having coffee with friends, hanging out at the library, reading books, writing hand-written letters, enjoying family phone calls, pursuing all sorts of personal hobbies, blissfully unaware of all the richness of living in a computer-dominated world. And they don't send $600/year to an ISP. Should I pity them in their technical austerity? Or should they pity me, for embracing the Church of Google?

Quotes of the month:
"Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don't need to be done." Andy Rooney

"There is a computer disease that anybody who works with computers knows about. It's a very serious disease and it interferes completely with the work. The trouble with computers is that you 'play' with them!" Richard P. Feynman

"No one ever said on their deathbed, 'Gee, I wish I had spent more time alone with my computer'." Danielle Berry

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