Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How Did We Learn Before Laptops?

I'm not much into computers myself although my first wife bought one of the first Radio Shack Color Computers years before Microsoft created Windows. It used to save programs on cassette tapes and it took hours to get a program onto the tape by spending hours typing in ones and zeros. Stephanie and I had different mindsets and at that point I found computers a bore. She also loved playng the computer game "Pong", whether at home or on one of the machines that were in bars and restaurants. You could play for 25 cents a game back when gas was about 30 cents a gallon. On the screen you had a ball moving back and forth on a black and white TV screen, nothing else! Essentially video ping-pong. How exciting!

She also bought one of the first electronic calculators I'd ever seen. She said that she needed it for school and it was only $425, about the price of a used Volkswagen that a lot of the students were driving back then. And a cup of coffee was fifteen cents!

Electronics have sure gotten cheaper and more sophisticated in the past thirty or so years. A simple pocket calculator is just a few bucks if you don't get one for free as an advertizing promotion from your insurance agent. Personal computers load programs off of discs, but come preprogrammed with a bunch of stuff we couldn't even imagine just a few years ago.

Now the must-have is a laptop, but nobody seems to use them on their lap. Pencils, ballpoints, note pads, pocket calculators, all that stuff is obsolete in the twenty-first century. Nobody seems to do homework at home either, and there's no longer a need to visit the library. You can look up about anything you want via the wireless web, and places like Starbucks have tiny tables barely big enough to hold a laptop and a coffee cup. Rows of students from morning 'til night tapping and staring.

Now the city of North Miami is talking about equipping the entire city with wireless web, which numerous other cities have already done. You'll be able to use your laptop anyplace! Can Starbucks survive in the brave new world?

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