COMPUTERS – WHO NEEDS ‘EM? #RRBC

“I think it’s fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we’ve ever created. They’re tools of communication, they’re tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user.”

~ Bill Gates

Bill Gates (1955 – ) is an American entrepreneur who co-founded Microsoft in 1975. The company took off and became the world’s largest personal computer software company, netting him a tidy personal fortune. The overwhelming majority of computer users throughout the world are using or have used software applications created by Microsoft. A significant number of his software engineers and writers were recruited, by Gates himself, from my Alma Mater, the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

I began my teaching career in 1973 and the best tools I had at my disposal were an electronic typewriter (capable of typo corrections… wow!) for creating learning materials and tests/exams, a basic, four-function calculator for the calculation of averages for report cards, and the school duplicator. Every time I needed to revise documents used in class, it meant retyping the entire document; so that quickly became a deterring factor since I never learned the skill of touch-typing. As well, mark calculations for report cards were a nightmare on my simple calculator. Often I’d come home with purple ink stains on my hands and clothing from that beloved duplicator.

The advent of the personal computer ignited my imagination like no other technological development of the Twentieth Century! My first one was an IBM dual disk drive with 64 K memory and a monitor with 64 shades of gray. Drive A handled all the program disks (apps) and information was saved to disks in Drive B. The system was primitive, but at the time it was a mind-blowing experience. Microsoft Word took care of all of my word processing needs, while Excel helped me organize and calculate report card marks – until specialized apps were developed for teachers needing help with student marks.

The personal computer and the software programs/apps being developed revolutionized what I was doing in the classroom. It quickly became the most important tool at my disposal. It allowed me to review and revise all the documents I used in the classroom quickly and efficiently. This marvelous tool paved the way to the writing and publication of my first book “Getting It Right in History Class”. And that publication led me to begin thinking about a writing career.

Bill Gates mentions the role played by personal computers as “… tools of creativity.” Actually, just about any artistic endeavor we can imagine can be created to some degree by software apps on our own computers or on Internet sites. I can write a book, hire someone online to edit the manuscript, create my own book cover, convert the finished product into the files that can be uploaded to produce an ebook, a paperback edition, or even a hardcover edition. From the first draft to finished product can be done on my computer, in addition to the self-publishing process via the Internet. For someone my age, this is nothing short of miraculous!

Thanks to personal computers and the Internet we can shop for goods (even our groceries!), manage our bank accounts and invest in the stock market. Millions of people worldwide depend on this tool for their business, commerce and banking, hobbies, and entertainment. As well, social media on the Internet allows us to make virtual friends and business associates and communicate easily and regularly. Social media is even playing a role in social change through organized protests and even revolutions.

Gates concludes by stating that these tools “…can be shaped by their user.”  Not only can computer users apply software apps in different ways for their own purposes, but the hardware itself can be modified to perform in ways unique to the user.

The question that nags at me, is not whether or not we need personal computers, but rather, what would happen if the Internet went down? What if the power grid went down for a long period of time? I realize how dependent we are for all the reasons named above, but how dependent are we psychologically? To what extent do our computer and Internet dependencies harm our personal relationships and our societal relationships? Have we become electronic recluses? Now we can take our computer activities with us outside of the home by way of smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Are the benefits worth the costs of the drawbacks?

Have you ever watched a couple in a restaurant who aren’t talking to each other, but are busy texting or sending and receiving email on their phones? Is this just their addiction to their devices or do they have a serious problem in their relationship? How can I be truly present to my companion if I have my nose buried in my smartphone? The honest answer is, I cannot. The personal computer and all of our digital devices are technological blessings, but they are also truly a threat to our interpersonal relationships when we allow our usage of these devices to go unchecked.

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Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

12 thoughts on “COMPUTERS – WHO NEEDS ‘EM? #RRBC”

  1. I am in agreement with your assessment of computers. People are not developing their social skills anymore. I hate watching a young mother holding her toddlers hand and talking on her phone with the other, completely ignoring the child. Its scary. I appreciate your thoughts on this topic.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Shirley. Yes, there are irresponsible parents out there – and I’m sure they’d be the same way even without their devices. Many people are developing their social skills online. What I find very frightening are the number of people who allow their devices to distract them while driving a car. I wonder if the carnage on the roadways will significantly drop once humans stop driving cars and robotic cars do the driving.

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  2. My friend,
    You have asked some important questions that we all need to think about. I personally don’t think we have. I believe we would have a chaos outbreak which would destroy many. When I think back on the year 1929 when money played a big role in the world. People were so busy concentrating on getting rich that when Black Friday came, dread and fear drove people to commit suicide. They had lost all their money, and this took place in all parts of the world on that fateful day. But, let me also point out a most recent example from today’s time. The computers in Delta Airline went down around the world about three weeks ago. I don’t know about your part of the world but here in Frankfurt, people filled the airline terminal as Delta worked frantically to find out what the problem was. People were flipping out.

    What happens when an adult or a child can no longer calculate 2+2 or 9X2 without putting it into his or her smartphone or even asking Siri, how much are these two values? What are the chances that people will forget how to drive their own cars once the kinks have been ironed out of cars that are able to drive themselves?

    I enjoy the privileges that we have, but I also see the danger. We are becoming lazy, mentally. We don’t think for ourselves. Instead, we say one minute when asked a question, and we google Google to see what Google thinks and regurgitate it as our thoughts.

    Excellent article, John. It tickled my gray cells.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat

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    1. Again, many thanks Pat, for your thoughtful commentary. It’s been my experience that intellectually lazy people will be that way no matter what technology is available to them. So, I don’t think that our devices are creating the problem of which you speak.

      I have been retired from education for just over 8 years now, and I have never been busier in my life! Most of my waking hours are spent in front of my Mac working on tasks I would never have dreamed of ten years ago. It seems that my brain is in overdrive and I find that sometimes it gets in the way of getting to sleep at night.

      Whether a person is intellectually lazy or very active, he or she must strive to find balance in their day-to-day living – between their digital and online activity and their personal relationships and duties in the “real world” for lack of a better term.

      Thanks for your support and Peace be to you as well!

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  3. John; I have been away for about a month traveling with the wife in Scotland, England & Ireland so have been incommunicado. That being said I am reminded of what our mothers told us; everything in moderation! In my mind social skills have gone down the tubes & younger people today don’t even have basic math skills. Went to a concert last night & the beer sign read $5 each or 4 for $20! Such a deal. Glad to be back & look forward to more of your postings my friend. rick wasso

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  4. There’s no question that computers/the internet have revolutionised the way we work and communicate – mostly for the good I believe, but there’s always a downside and the negative inroads into our personal relationships is worrying. I’d include cyber-crime and identity theft as one of the big offenders on that count, but the danger of leeching away at personal investment in our closest relationships shouldn’t be underplayed.
    I’ve lost and benefitted equally on the personal investment front, gaining wonderful online friends who’ve crossed the border into my physical world and having my cyber-life gain more importance over my marital relationship for a time. It’s a play-off in the end.
    What is most important to you always win the priority game and, for me, is ‘personified’ in my relationship with eBooks and traditional printed paper ones. The ones I really love are all in hard or paperback – there has to be a real physical connection which includes words staying where they’re put… a bit like people too – social media is never as good as looking someone in the eye and being able to touch them! 😉

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Jan. I’m sure that most people can identify with your online experience. There certainly are mixed blessings involved, but in the final analysis, this issue underlines the need to achieve and maintain balance in all that we do. Thanks for your support!

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