What Tech is Indispensable for You?

Tess Kovach had a lovely piece today, with lots of people yelling at each other.  I’m fond of one of the fundamental questions inherent in her piece, at least in my mind: What tech was deployed in your lifetime that would be at the top of the list of things you won’t give up?  My Mom might say electricity generally, since she (at age 88) remembers when electricity came to her small Iowa town and lit the tree lights on Christmas Eve.  Mine is processors capable of a billion ops per second cheap enough to put on almost everyone’s desktop.  What’s yours?

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44 thoughts on “What Tech is Indispensable for You?

  1. I can’t imagine living without a connection.

    Going by my gaming choices, I could probably go back to a 12-inch CRT and crappy graphics… but I don’t think that I could ever go back to meatspace permanently.

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    • I have the same answer for opposite reasons. Connecticity has allowed me greater access to meatspace. I can more easily plan get togethers or reconnect with old friends and re-establish meatspace relationships. And when meatspace isn’t available, it offers a decent enough proxy.

      Some wring their hands about how connectivity has left us isolated but for some it does the exact opposite.

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  2. Dudes,
    Half of you didn’t even answer the question. It was TECH DEPLOYED IN YOUR LIFETIME. Electricity was deployed much earlier, unless I’m talking to a bunch of folks over 100 years old.

    For me: Storage capacity. The amount of stuff I could save electronically has increased dramatically since the 80s. I got several terabytes on the new pc. Zomg.

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    • You’re right; I glossed over that conditional. In that case I would say the Internet. (Yes, I’m that old.) Inextricably related would be integrated chips and microprocessors.

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        • Depends on how you date it. If you go back to the original IP specifications and ARPANET, then early ’70’s. As a thing in the lives of ordinary folks more like 1990 or so.

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      • When most people say “internet” today, they’re talking about a synergy of three different things: TCP/IP, broadband access, and “always on”. A global data network based on X.25 and ATM (asynchronous transfer mode, not the teller machines) would behave quite differently than TCP/IP does. There are real reasons why I was a TCP/IP advocate at a giant telco whose traditional approach pushed it towards X.25. I’m old enough to have done TCP/IP over dial-up, in a household with four computers (my Linux box acting as the household router/gateway). The boy’s connected game time was limited to hours outside of “homework time”. He was disappointed that he had the dad who added software to the router process to enforce those limits. Broadband (which I define as at least a megabit upstream, multiple megabits downstream) really changed the kinds of media that could be implemented. Our company’s cable branch had a couple of anthropologists who did field studies on how cable modems affected people. Their work led directly to one of our most successful early sales brochures. On the front was a family gathered around a computer in the kitchen. The text said, “High speed is why you’ll try it. Always-on is why you’ll bring the computer out of the back room.” Getting rid of the 30-45 second start-up time dial-up required made it worth using the internet for lots of little things, so people wanted a browser in the places in the house where they lived.

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  3. There are three really important things that got their start in my lifetime. The first is the polio vaccine. The second is the wide spread availability of birth control. The third is the drugs that make aids a non life threatening disease. All three are giant fear reducing inventions.
    The internet is fun and I glad it is here but to think it is indispensable is a huge fall out of my chair laughing with tears running down my cheeks funny.

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    • If it weren’t for the ‘in your lifetime’ provision, reliable birth control would have been right up there. I’d pick birth control before electricity.

      It’s scary to think I only made it by just more than a decade. 1960 is really not that long ago.

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    • The third is the drugs that make aids a non life threatening disease.

      Why is this one of the top three? Is getting AIDS really that much less scary for the average person now? I guess that a life sentence is better than a death sentence, but marginally. The drugs are certainly a big deal for the people who get HIV, but I would think that the recognition of how the disease works and the behavioral changes it brought (ie condoms) are probably more of a factor to the overall epidemiology of the disease.

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        • Yeah, I get that. Maybe my comment isn’t clear. There’s two reasons to put AIDS drugs towards the top of the list: they saved a lot of lives or they reduced a lot of fear.

          According to the interwebs, about 15 million people are currently on AIDS drugs. That’s a lot, but oral rehydration therapy has saved about 54 million lives.

          If fear is the thing, I’m just wondering how much fear has been reduced because of the drugs as opposed to the initial reduction in fear that happened once the initial AIDS scare of the mid-80s subsided and people started getting educated about the disease. Like I said, a life sentence is better than a death sentence, but I don’t want either. My fear of AIDS is pretty much at the same level it was in the early 90s before the AIDS cocktail was a thing.

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  4. REINER: In the 2,000 years you’ve lived, you’ve seen a lot of changes.
    » BROOKS: Certainly.
    » REINER: What is the biggest change you’ve seen?
    » BROOKS: In 2,000 years, the greatest thing mankind ever devised, I think, in my humble opinion, is Saran Wrap. You can put a sandwich in it. You can look through it. You can touch it. You can put it over your face and you can fool around and everything. It’s so good and cute. You can wrap it up. I love it. You can put three olives in it and make a little one. You can put 10 sandwiches in it and make a big Saran Wrap. Whatever you want. It clings and sticks. It’s great. You can look right through it.”
    » REINER: You equate this with man’s discovery of space?
    » BROOKS: That was good.

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  5. For me, it’s the personal computer. Much less of a meta answer than everyone else is giving, I know. But more than anything else, I can’t imagine having lived the life that I have if the personal computer had never been a thing.

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  6. I’m struggling to think of something that actually came about after I was born…

    Internet? Nope.
    Personal computer? Nope.
    Thyroid meds? Nope.

    *ponders*

    There’s a lot of stuff I like – GUIs, high-capacity data storage, featherlight plastic lenses, mp3s … but nothing I consider indispensable.

    I’m probably overlooking the obvious though.

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    • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming.

      This may seem trivial, but it has changed my everyday life pretty dramatically. One, I watch almost no appointment television whatsoever (and when I do, it’s usually because my son wants to watch The Flash as it happens), which is a a pretty big change (particularly from my late-night, insomniac habit of watching syndicated shows in the middle of the night). Two, I am able to watch shows (from basic or premium cable, e.g.) that I was never able to watch before, because I didn’t have cable. Third, I binge watch, which is a time suck to be sure, but also a really unique experience, particularly with contemporary serials. Fourth, I can watch movies without having to buy or rent them, with no worrying about late fees. Fifth, I can rewatch comfort shows as often as I like all the way through (I’ve done this with Psych and Burn Notice). Sixth, I can watch old shows with friends, almost like the book clubs y’all do here with Babylon 5 and the other stuff. Seventh, no commercials, except the few I see with Hulu or when I watch EPL games on NBC Sports Extra. And there are probably more.

      Aside from reading, if I’m at home relaxing, I’m probably watching streaming media.

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  7. Not indispensable to me personally but I like how tech in my lifetime has moved the fatality rate of HIV from 80% to 15%.

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  8. Parallel processing. Coupled with numerical simulation it’s allowed us to find the bleeding age of existing so much faster & cheaper than working it by hand.

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  9. Connectivity is everything for me. It delivered my husband, my community and (indirectly) my job. The internet would be one of those “cold dead hands” things for me.

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  10. Internet access (which presupposes the existence of computers capable of acessing the internet). It’s replaced the newspaper, television, most paper mail, and pretty well all other communications tech, as well as encyclopedias and a lot of other information resources, and it can replace cell phones if necessary (via Skype).

    It’s also the foundation of about 95% of what I do at work.

    So that’s my pick, depending on whether we’re considering the Internet as having been developed prior to 1986.

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  11. 1. Excel Spreadsheet.
    2. Elevated production levels/consumption of THC.
    3. Better coffee.
    4. Cordless drill/driver.
    5. Inexpensive welding machines.

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