Friday, February 8, 2008

Dan, Technology, and Me

Since about 1972, Dan has worked with computers. He has had his hand in many different aspects of computer technology, including programming, networking, systems analysis, and who knows what else. As a result, he has always been the one leading me or, sometimes, pushing me into new frontiers of technology.

For example, I remember the day, sometime in the early-nineties, when he took me to the library at the small university, in Oregon, where I worked, and sat me down in front of a computer. He opened up a program called Mosaic and keyed in a string of letters. After a brief pause, something resembling a research paper on some (now-forgotten) topic appeared on the screen.

"Uh-huh," I said. I just didn't understand what was so exciting about this, although Dan seemed totally jazzed. He moved the cursor to a couple of words that were underlined, clicked on them, and up came another report on a topic related to those words. He skipped from report to report by clicking on words. I was both confused and unimpressed.

This was my introduction to the World Wide Web, although it had a very different appearance then - no graphics, no photos, just text.

"Well," I said, "I guess this might be useful. But where's the index or card catalog, so I can find something about a specific topic?" It was a logical question, but the answer was that there wasn't one; neither Google nor Yahoo, nor any other search engine, existed back then.

Dan, who none the less was enthused about this technology, tried to tell me that it was sort of like walking through a huge warehouse, stacked to the ceiling with merchandise. As you looked into box after box for a pair of tennis shoes, you might, eventually find a note that said, "Tennis shoes are located in the northeast corner of the building, on the second shelf." If you never found the note, you'd probably never find the shoes, but you'd have a great time snooping in all the boxes and digging through the piles anyway. I guess this was his way of explaining what we now refer to as "surfing."

Although I saw no use, that day (not so long ago), for what I perceived as a hodge-podge of unindexed information, I now wonder what I'd do without the Internet. I use it EVERY day - for doing research at work; for looking up addresses and driving directions; for reading articles about photography and blogs about my friends and family; for ordering birthday gifts; for looking up medical information or definitions of words; for making hotel reservations; for paying my bills and doing my banking; and on and on it goes.

Dan is often amused at how, after he initially drags me into some new area of technology, and I finally become a convert, I immerse myself in it and turn into its new most zealous proponent.

No comments: