I started using computers around 1980. I actually owned an original Pong and I even bought one of the first Radio Shack 16k computers. Yes. That's correct. 16k. Then I moved on to the PCs and kept on moving along the PC food chain up to the present.
The Internet is an old, old friend. Again started surfing around 1980. E-mail, multi-player games, news groups, chats, are things I used long before they became indispensable to the rest of the world. Still remember sitting in a PLATO computer lab at Truman College around 1982 and talking with a bunch of friends about how wouldn't it be cool if more people knew about what we knew and how someone should build a commercial business around this. We all laughed at the absurdity of the idea since computers weren't exactly user friendly and confined to the world of geeks and nerds. A few years later, Compuserve, Prodigy, AOL, Windows, Netscape and cheap PCs changed the world. Not ignoring the contributions of Apple computers, but they were always a bit out of my price range and since my main use of computers was for gaming I never left the PC zone.
I love movies so the moment I could afford one I bought a VCR. I skipped the laser disc fad and only joined at the tail end of the DVD era, but the moment plasma screens came down in price a bit I got myself a big screen TV.
Once the Walkmen hit the market I got myself one. Same for the Discmen. Was a little late to the IPod and digital music party, but once I got one I haven't looked back. Digitized my entire LP, CD and Cassette library and haven't bought any music other than in the digital format since.
There is one area, however, that I just never ever took part in. The cellphone revolution just kept on passing me by. Part of it I guess is that I am not one of the most sociable people out there. I have and love my friends, but unless we have something to do and say I am not one for just talking for the sake of talking. Part of it is that I am of a generation and history where the phone wasn't really all that integral part of my life. We never had a phone at home until we moved to the US and I was 15 by then. To me the phone is something you use in case of emergencies or to call someone to say you are running late or to set up a face to face. Looking on the bright side, my phone bills are always very, very low.
But some things are unavoidable. My mother will soon be 79. My father soon to be 90. All three of us are in different parts of the world, so when I found out about my six week Malaysia assignment I decided to get a cellphone so that in case of an emergency I could always be reached no matter where or when.
I wouldn't know a good cellphone from a good rutabaga, but since I loved the IPod and I always admired Apple for its design, technology and innovation I settled on the IPhone. I didn't realize that I was buying into the top of the cellphone food chain, but oh my. I won't bother with a review of the IPhone (plenty of those around) nor is this meant as a plug for the brand (there are other smart phones out there that probably deliver pretty much the same) or an overview of the various features like actually using it to communicate with other humans, but as a piece of media its nothing short of incredible. Here's just a few of my IPhone Adventures:
- Driving around the suburbs of Chicago I get slightly lost. Being a typical male I will not ask for directions. Out comes the IPhone. Click on the Compass icon, get my bearings and point the car in the general direction I need to go. Minutes later click on the Maps icon, click on the location icon, GPS gives me the exact location of where I am, type in the location I am trying to find, and up come step by step driving directions. My masculine pride is in no danger of being compromised.
- Walking around Putrajaya, Malaysia. Same as above.
- In Tioman Island, Malaysia, just for the heck of it use GPS to locate the island and then zoom out to settle a minor argument about how far we are from the peninsula.
- In the middle of KLCC while trying to figure out if they will or will not have fireworks for Hari Merdeka, click on the Safari icon, go to Google and type in "hari merdeka fireworks Kuala Lumpur 2009" and surf a few forums to see if we can find any information about when and where they might have fireworks.
- Watching TV shows on airplanes and during long layovers. Never have to worry about how to fill the time.
- I step out to the hotel balcony to take some photos with the IPhone of the Putrajaya cityscape. Since its hot outside and the AC is running full blast inside I close the sliding door. Point, click, photo. Point, click, photo. Turn around, pull sliding door open. Ooopps. Sliding door will not open. Try again. Nope. Looks like the security bar at the bottom of the sliding door must have fallen down into the secure position when I closed it. Good to know it works as designed. Unfortunately I am on the wrong side of the security. I am on the fourth floor on the garden side in the middle of the afternoon in the heat when most other sane people are indoors. Luckily I spot a gardener walking across. I shout. I wave. He looks up. I explain my predicament. He shrugs. As luck would have it I have come across one of the few in Malaysia who do not speak English. I shrug back. Plan B. I wait a few minutes hoping that another soul will brave the heat. I briefly consider climbing down, but I am not in my 20s anymore. I consider shouting louder until someone answers, but there's that masculine pride again. And then I glance at the IPhone in my hand. Call for help. This way I can keep my voice down and salvage what pride I still have. Problem 1: I do not know the phone number for the hotel. I could try dialing information but being overseas I am not sure if its as simple as dialing 0. IPhone Solution: Click on the Safari icon, go to google, type in Putrajaya Shangri La and find number. Problem 2: For some reason Safari doesn't want to work properly and no matter what I do I can't launch google. Wait a few minutes. Consider climbing down, but I am not even in my 30s anymore. Consider shouting again, but there's still that shred of pride. Glance at the IPhone. IPhone Solution: Click on the Maps icon, locate myself, type in Putrajaya Shangri La in the directions box, up pops a box with Putrajaya Shangri La as the legend, click on it and I have the phone number and location, homepage, etc. Briefly consider memorizing the number then remembering the wonderful world of technology I now live in just click on the phone number itself and the phone dials the front desk. 5 minutes later housekeeping to the rescue.
What will they think of next?