Sliding rulers always cause me to pause, if not for them where would we be? USB technology is like that.
There was a time, when pocket protectors were like badges. Mostly worn by those with above average intelligence, who felt comfortable with numbers. People who owned a lot of pens, that wrote in multiple colors. People who didn’t use a calculator to figure out the circumference of a circle, or how much to tip the waiter. But who used a calculator to confirm answers that they already reached in their heads.
Life was simple and a pop quiz, was meant to gauge how much we knew, and what more we needed to learn. It wasn’t quantum physics and the classroom wasn’t a prison. The library, public and private were sanctuaries, where books evoked our imagination and inspired our adventures.
We believed in the world’s potential and we believed in ourselves. We freely admitted limited knowledge of cyber kinetics, robotics and transportation, but were excited by the possibility! Technology then, as it is now was exciting, it fueled innovation without teaching itself.
But something happened. It may have always been there, nestled in the corners but when technology mixed into our daily lives, something went awry. At first it was subtle, we interacted with automated teller machines (ATMs), we had always struggled with balancing the checking book, never enough money so nothing new there. But then we pretended as if we knew and feign a smile as if we fully understood what we had only partially comprehended.
Our approach to life changed, people with the pocket protectors, became revered techies. We eagerly numbered one or two among our friends and casually coaxed them out of basements and away from garages. Hoping to invite them into our homes to take a look at our new personal computer that was just sitting there… unattached. We quickly understood that geeks as we had called them, had a natural ability to delve into computer processing, and they easily interacted with connector pins, parallel ports, ROM and RAM. They knew the jargon and could install drivers that made it go!
Where we had cursed a cursor that blinked and got hung up, the techie patiently typed and the computer responded. Again, technology was exciting! So we pretended we understood his instructions as we waved goodbye at the door, but deep down inside we felt hopelessness. And then, before we got to admit that we didn’t get it, technology changed again.
It just went on about its business without the masses. Rather than dumb down, tech developers just reversed the process and called a CPU a black box. Convinced us that we didn’t need to know what was inside, that it would work and we humans would be very efficient when we used it, and so we did and they were right. Hello World!
The Universal Serial Bus was a game changer, literally connecting us to our devices. The thumb drive to the universal Plug-n-Play opened up vistas and we all became proficient at the same time. We didn’t have to learn anything, no instructions, no lessons and no quizzes. And we all started to relax, new technology has that affect on us. Lulled into a false sense of security. We created new words by simply adding an adjective to a noun– SmartTech: Smartphone, Smarthome, Smartwatch and Smartcities. But where would we be without the power of USB Plug-N-Play?
Next week, there’ll be a Pop quiz… hope we’re prepared.